You could make a lot of assumptions about Sasha Frolova. You could assume, based on her offbeat eclecticism, cool cadre of friends, and artistic prowess (she’s not only an actress, but a model and photographer), that she’d live in a hip New York neighborhood, like the East Village or Red Hook. But when the native New Yorker isn’t in Los Angeles with her musician boyfriend, she lives in her childhood apartment in midtown Manhattan.

“I’m a family girl,” Frolova admits. “I’m the person who feels the need to bring up my mother constantly, like, ‘Oh, my mom told a funny joke today,’ or ‘You’ll never believe what my mom did.’ There’s something pretty special about the people who knew you from the first moment of life.”

DEREK LAM

You could also assume, based on Frolova’s quiet beauty and penchant for playing traumatized characters, that she’s as serious as the roles she adopts on screen. But spend a few hours with the 21-year-old ingenue, and you’ll fall for her affable wit and raw honesty in looking at the world and herself.

“Acting teachers always told me I had a quick mind, and I spoke well and interacted well, but that my body wasn’t occupying any kind of space,” Frolova says. “I took acting to become self-aware, and it gives you the greatest sense of empathy.”

Yet for all the assumptions you can make about Frolova, the truth is that her star is on the
rise. With a few major films on her resume, like Red Sparrow and Little Women, and cult television shows like The OA, Frolova’s moment has never been riper for the taking. She embodies everything about someone who truly loves art, in whatever form. When she’s not shooting a film, she’s photographing on her own, or modeling for fashion houses like Hermès and Mansur Gavriel and acting in short films for Prada and Kenzo. She lives to be on a set, no matter how big or small. Now, she’s stepping in to claim a spotlight that’s entirely hers.

GIOVANNI BEDIN / GIANVITO ROSSI / CVC STONES

Frolova didn’t take the typical path of many young film stars. The actress was born to a family of literary agents on East 57th Street. She studied at a prestigious New York private school and had the city at her fingertips. She discovered a passion for photography by taking a class at the International Center of Photography. She then studied at the Oxbow School in Napa and enrolled at Cornell University before realizing it wasn’t a fit. Yet despite her tremendous access to education, Frolova felt stagnated by her privilege.

“I had been at the same school since I was in Pre-K, and it always felt like change was not encouraged, that it was threatening,” Frolova says. “I wasn’t confident and I didn’t think my eccentricities were interesting. It wasn’t until I got out of that atmosphere that I finally felt free.”

After transferring out of Cornell, Frolova had an “Aha” moment. She was going to be an actress. Though she had never read a script, she enrolled in an improv class and started going out for auditions. She eventually landed herself a Chase bank commercial starring John McEnroe and Andy Roddick.

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With one commercial came another, and then an Amazon television pilot called The Interestings. It didn’t get picked up, but it led to a role in the film Empty Man, which led to Red Sparrow. “It was the first set I had been on that was transportive, where everyone was so talented that you had to occupy it,” she says. She recently played a heroin addict in From a Son, an independent film by Gilbert Trejo that chronicles both his and his father’s battle with addiction. When Frolova isn’t acting, she returns to her first passion of photography. She recently traveled to Texas with trunks full of Marc Jacobs clothing to shoot people she found off Instagram and Craigslist, including a local snake breeder.

When asked if she gets overwhelmed by her passions, and whether she self-identifies as an actress, model or photographer, Frolova says she chooses not to brand herself. For now she’s going to stay focused, go out for great parts and shoot on her own when time allows. For all the roles she plays, she says she can’t possibly be anyone other than her.

“There are so many facades I could put on that could give me a greater following, but the idea of becoming successful off a lie is hell on earth,” Frolova says. “I just want to continue to make important work, the kind that when you look up at moon, you think how wonderful the world is and how beautiful life can be.”