SARAH SUTHERLAND IN NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 2017. DRESS: JIL SANDER. EARRINGS: JENNIFER FISHER. BRACELET: ANA KHOURI. STYLING: JESSICA DOS REMEDIOS. HAIR: DAVID VON CANNON/THE WALL GROUP. MAKEUP: BRIGITTE REISS-ANDERSEN/THE WALL GROUP. MANICURE: ERI HANDA FOR DIOR VERNIS/MAM-NYC.
"I feel like she functions on her own tempo and in her own reality," 29-year-old actress Sarah Sutherland says of her droll character Catherine Meyer on HBO's wildly popular political satire Veep. As the daughter of Julia Louis-Dreyfus's President Selina Meyer, Sutherland brings a deadpan vulnerability to the show that begins its sixth season this month. The own-tempo, own-reality credo could very well be applied to the actress herself, who despite a dynastic Hollywood upbringing—her father is Kiefer Sutherland and her grandparents are the actors Donald Sutherland and Shirley Douglas—has avoided most of the usual trappings of young fame. "I'm not fending people off walking down the street," she admits. "I'm often met with, ‘Did we go to high school together?' "
For one thing, Sutherland insists she had a normal childhood growing up in Santa Monica. After some initial reticence, she turned to the family trade, studying theater at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, a move that ultimately led her right to Veep's casting director Allison Jones. Despite having no comedic experience (besides, she notes dryly, studying a traditional form of clown theater at school), Sutherland was encouraged to audition and found herself doing a test-read alongside Louis-Dreyfus in 2011. Something clicked. "On the page, Catherine was much snarkier and met Selina with fire," Sutherland recalls. "We realized that didn't have legs in the same way that Catherine being vulnerable would. Because if you actually make her take in the criticism, you're playing with a more interesting, darker line of wounding."
Sutherland has carried this penchant for darkness into her film work, which includes playing a teenager in a down-and-out farming community in 2014's Beneath the Harvest Sky, and the estranged daughter of a homecare nurse who develops unusually close relationships with his patients in last year's Chronic. Despite these moody roles, she seems remarkably well adjusted. She spends most nights cooking dinner with friends in her new West Hollywood apartment—according to her landlord, the same building Chloë Sevigny once lived in. ("It feels like a good omen.") Sutherland admires Sevigny's effortless demeanor and discerning choice of material—something she's trying to keep in mind as she begins auditioning for new projects. "I think the idea of the Hollywood template that people are supposed to fit into, if you really look at who is working right now, doesn't exist," she says. "It's being eradicated."