Chase Sui Wonders and Chloe Fineman Have a Downtown Gossip Session
The actor Chase Sui Wonders was hanging out in her East Village apartment when Chloe Fineman, on a rare day off from her duties at Saturday Night Live, joined her on Zoom from across town in the West Village. They’ve crossed paths before, through mutual acquaintances and at the kinds of places you end up at when you’re young, creative, and successful in New York, but this was the first time they really got to gossip.
MONDAY 11 AM MARCH 6, 2023 NYC
CHASE SUI WONDERS: Hey, Chloe!
CHLOE FINEMAN: Hi!
SUI WONDERS: Good to see you. What’s up?
FINEMAN: Not much. Just woke up. You know, Monday.
SUI WONDERS: No shame in that. Rise and grind.
FINEMAN: So what are you up to today?
SUI WONDERS: I’m just getting back into town, getting my life in order. I’m writing today. I’ve been working on this TV script for a while.
FINEMAN: Oh, awesome.
SUI WONDERS: We’re trying to push it across the finish line and get all the kinks out. What about you?
FINEMAN: I have no free time ever.
SUI WONDERS: Except Mondays, right?
FINEMAN: Yeah. Monday and Sunday, which is when you should rest. I had a friend come over yesterday and organize, so everything was everywhere. Mess makes me panicky, but I’ll put stuff in storage because I have a storage unit.
SUI WONDERS: That’s very adult.
FINEMAN: It changed my life. I have no closet space because my boyfriend lives with me, so I had to get a storage unit for shoes.
SUI WONDERS: Your boyfriend’s taking out most of your closet? You’re doing it wrong. [Laughs]
FINEMAN: Basically, and then I was like, “I have no room for dresses,” so now I have a huge bag that I’m going to put in my dressing room at work.
SUI WONDERS: That’s hilarious. You’re using your SNL dressing room as your—
FINEMAN: Actual dressing room. [Laughs] You’re mostly in New York, right?
SUI WONDERS: Yeah. I can’t do L.A. for longer than a couple days, unless I’m working.
FINEMAN: No way. I’ve been here for 16 years on and off, and when I moved to L.A. I was like, “This is so much better.” On an aimless day in New York, I spend so much money on nothing and have existential crises, but for some reason in L.A., everyone’s unemployed.
SUI WONDERS: That part gives me anxiety. I’m such a bug-out that I’m like, “At least everyone is joined in their anxiety here.” We all have this collective psychotic desire to be doing something constantly, and in L.A. it’s so quiet and people are smiling and drinking smoothies at 2 p.m.
FINEMAN: Totally. I was going back and forth. I’d come to New York and sleep on my friend’s couch for a month and then that would give me so much work motivation, I don’t think I would’ve had a career otherwise.
SUI WONDERS: Living on a couch is the best way to develop character.
SUI WONDERS: When I graduated college, I wanted to be in New York so badly but had no money, so I lived on my brother’s couch who was crushing it in the finance world.
FINEMAN: Was that crazy to go from Harvard to the couch?
SUI WONDERS: It’s a tough trajectory.
FINEMAN: You were in the film program, right?
SUI WONDERS: Yeah. It’s not known for that, although a lot of cool people have come out of there, like Damien Chazelle and Darren Aronofsky.
FINEMAN: The coolest.
SUI WONDERS: But it wasn’t a traditional film program. I had these awesome professors, these filmmakers Haden Guest and Guy Maddin, who fed me original 35-millimeter prints. I would just watch movies all day and talk to them about it.
FINEMAN: That’s amazing. So much of it’s just watching stuff. I went to NYU and film students basically just smoked cigarettes outside.
SUI WONDERS: What years were you at NYU?
FINEMAN: I’m going to age myself horrifically. I graduated in 2011.
SUI WONDERS: That era has a very strong showing for NYU kids in the arts.
FINEMAN: [Laughs] Yeah. It was cool. I was there when John Early was there.
SUI WONDERS: Oh my god.
FINEMAN: Lizzie Olsen was in a class, and Haley Joel Osment was there and that was a freak-out for everybody.
SUI WONDERS: That’s incredible.
FINEMAN: I know, right? And then the graduation, James Franco was there. It was that time when he went to eight colleges.
SUI WONDERS: He got a degree from every Ivy League school. [Laughs] You studied acting?
FINEMAN: Yeah. I studied acting and he famously came and did a black box theater play in my studio.
SUI WONDERS: Wait, I’ve heard about this. And you were in it?
FINEMAN: No. I was jealous I wasn’t in it. He was wearing sunglasses and speaking into a microphone and there were projections on the wall. It was so that.
SUI WONDERS: Wow.
FINEMAN: Do you have a favorite Harvard memory?
SUI WONDERS: It was a weird place. It’s like a pool of nerds who are put into this landscape where everyone is so competitive. My first year I was in this Chekhov play and it got torn apart in the school newspaper by an 18-year-old. And not only that, the review was directed at me. It was like, “Chase Sui Wonders is the nail in the coffin of this play.”
FINEMAN: No. What play?
SUI WONDERS: Three Sisters. I was Irina, the little baby who’s a hopeless romantic. I was like, “Oh my god, this is public shame. Why would anyone ever do this? My skin’s not thick enough.” And then I was like, “I’ll only ever be behind the camera.”
FINEMAN: But now you’re doing it, so fuck that 18-year-old.
SUI WONDERS: Now I’m doing it. Rebecca Greenberg, eat your heart out.
FINEMAN: [Laughs] Isn’t it the worst when it’s from a chick your age?
SUI WONDERS: Exactly. It’s like, I thought we were in this together.
FINEMAN: I deactivated Twitter once I got on SNL because people are so nice and then there’s two horrible comments—
SUI WONDERS: And it ruins your day. Are most trolls girls? That’s really sad.
FINEMAN: Towards me, 100 percent.
SUI WONDERS: It’s because all hate is a mirror of self-hate.
SUI WONDERS: That’s my kernel of knowledge for the day.
FINEMAN: If it’s a middle-aged man, it doesn’t affect me. But for some reason, when it’s, like, another girl, I’m like, “Wait.”
SUI WONDERS: I remember when you got on SNL.
FINEMAN: No way.
SUI WONDERS: Yeah. I remember seeing your impressions early, they started popping off before you got cast and I was like, “This girl is so talented.” I discovered you, Chloe.
FINEMAN: [Laughs] Aw. Thanks. Let’s talk about your stuff. City on Fire is a very New York show.
SUI WONDERS: Yes.
FINEMAN: What was it like shooting in New York? Have you done that before?
SUI WONDERS: I haven’t. I was in the show Generation that was filmed in L.A., and then Bodies Bodies Bodies was upstate New York, but that was in a secluded mansion. This one was on the street; we were filming down by One World Trade. It takes place right after 9/11, so having to age all those city streets and make them early-aughts was super cool. There’s something special about getting to engage with a landscape that feels like it’s giving back to you. It’s like when you act with a dog or something. It feels like it’s not supposed to feed you, but it really does.
FINEMAN: Do you have a favorite part of New York?
SUI WONDERS: Probably the East Village. I live here.
FINEMAN: Okay, cool girl.
SUI WONDERS: I feel like I’ve aged out of the East Village, unfortunately. It’s all these NYU kids who dress so cool. I feel like they all think I’m cringe.
FINEMAN: No, you’re queen of the cool. What would you consider Dimes Square? That’s the Lower East Side.
SUI WONDERS: That’s like, Chinatown. Dimes Square is its own beast. I don’t belong there either. What’s your hangout spot?
FINEMAN: I live in the West Village, which when I was in college I was like, “This is the dream.” And then when I moved back here two years ago it was such a mistake. It’s the cheugiest place in the land. Everyone’s blonde and in PR or one of those influencers who pop up on my TikTok.
SUI WONDERS: Everyone has a dog and is working out on their way to a dinner with some college buddies.
FINEMAN: [Laughs] Are you going to be in New York forever?
SUI WONDERS: I don’t think so. I’m from Detroit, and growing up I was like, “Wow, I can’t believe my parents decided to raise a family here and live here permanently. It’s crazy that anyone would choose this Midwest life.” I always wanted to get to New York and now that I’m here, and in this industry, I’m like, “Whew, I need those good old Midwestern roots back.
SUI WONDERS: It’s the overstimulation of it all. And as a writer, I’m sure you can relate, it’s nice to not be so sensory overloaded all the time.
SUI WONDERS: I’ve done all my best writing when I go back home and write in my childhood bedroom.
FINEMAN: Wow. That’s the real thing. I didn’t know you were from Detroit. What’s a Chase day in Detroit?
SUI WONDERS: A Chase day in Detroit is playing hockey.
SUI WONDERS: I’m a huge hockey girl. I grew up playing on boys’ teams, which was the scariest. A young boys’ locker room is the scariest place imaginable. They didn’t talk to me. They had me stay in the corner. But playing hockey, preferably on a lake when it’s frozen over, that’s the best. And then you get a Coney dog.
FINEMAN: I do not know what a Coney dog is.
SUI WONDERS: It’s a hot dog with chili on top, and then mustard and onions. It’s vile, but it’s quintessential Detroit. You’ll have to come.
FINEMAN: Yes. I’ve seen you at hockey games wearing a Tár hat.
SUI WONDERS: I haven’t seen Tár.
FINEMAN: Okay well this is pathetic but I saw Tár and I was obsessed with Cate Blanchett’s outfits. In one scene, she has the New York Rangers hat.
SUI WONDERS: I’m stanning Tár without having seen it?
FINEMAN: Yeah. I saw you with Rachel [Sennott]. Not to be a full stalker, but I feel like you guys were at a hockey game and I was like, “See? They love the Tár hat, too.”
SUI WONDERS: Come with me and Rachel to a Rangers game. I’m obsessed. A different, primal side of me comes out.
SUI WONDERS: I’m screaming and hooting and hollering. Do you play sports?
FINEMAN: Oh god, no. I was a cheerleader in high school. I liked dance.
SUI WONDERS: Wait, did you do theater in high school?
SUI WONDERS: You’re a theater kid. Were you a writer before SNL?
FINEMAN: God no. I would make my videos on my phone and that was just trendy.
SUI WONDERS: When you did your impressions, would that be all improv or would you write it out and fine-tune it?
FINEMAN: Yeah I guess so. You just practice and talk to yourself and then write down what worked.
SUI WONDERS: That’s the best. I talk to myself in different characters while I’m in the shower, it’s really scary.
FINEMAN: Do you improvise on set?
SUI WONDERS: I like to. I just did a few episodes of Bupkis and that was all comedians improvising a ton. That environment is so fun, especially when it’s just flowing like that. For Bodies, the cameras would roll and no one would call cut, and people would just keep going and going and going.
SUI WONDERS: Yeah. Halina [Reijn, the director] set it up like that. She’s like, “Just go with it.” But City on Fire, it’s such an airtight script. Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage are masters of television, and their pace is so recognizable you don’t even want to mess with it. What about you?
FINEMAN: It’s weird because I was a theater girl, and then now—if I’m lucky enough to work outside of the show—I think that there’s an expectation that, “Oh, you’re going to improv.”
SUI WONDERS: You’re going to come do your shtick.
FINEMAN: Yeah. I feel like we’re in a new era of acting where there is a lot of improv.
SUI WONDERS: I think so, too. There was a trend towards aggressive naturalism, and now that we’ve done that, it’s like, “Okay, bring your wildest, firecracker-iest spark plug parts of your personality out for the camera.”
FINEMAN: But for you, in between it’s technical, but then you have to improv. Those to me are the best actors. I’ve just finished this Coppola shmoodaloodaloo.
SUI WONDERS: I’m so excited to see you in that. And the several-decades–long journey to the release of that movie is so insane.
FINEMAN: Our Roman epic. That had improv, but I was like, “I don’t know how to improvise Rome.”
SUI WONDERS: Wait, it’s true period?
FINEMAN: Yeah, but the future. So it’s if Rome never fell and was New York.
SUI WONDERS: That’s incredible. How was working with the legend, Francis Ford?
FINEMAN: It was the best. I feel really lucky that I got to work with him because it felt like you were really making a movie in the ’70s, and it was so experimental and so collaborative, which I was not expecting.
SUI WONDERS: That’s so cool.
FINEMAN: Do you consider yourself funny?
SUI WONDERS: I don’t. I’m fun, but I’ve been told I’m funny. I wrote for this humor publication in college that was very cerebral-funny. The [Harvard] Lampoon.
FINEMAN: Oh my god. Bitch, you’re like the girl in The Sex Lives of College Girls.
SUI WONDERS: I don’t know that reference, but I’ve been meaning to watch it. I always put on weird voices and tell sex and potty jokes, and everyone rolls their eyes at me. Is there that thing in SNL where it’s like, “That’s really funny.”?
FINEMAN: Totally. You’ll pitch something and everyone’s, like, “Ha,” but they’re stone-faced. It’s interesting because there are a lot of stand-up comedians, but then also it’s just really smart people who are quiet. My parents are super enthusiastic, so I grew up around, “Yes, bitch. Hilarious.” And then at SNL, it’s like, “Hey, that was super funny,” and you’re like, “Was it?”
SUI WONDERS: Power move.
FINEMAN: Totally. And also, everyone’s so tired. Okay. I just have a few more New York questions. Do people recognize you on the street?
SUI WONDERS: No.
SUI WONDERS: I feel like here and there, but it doesn’t happen often. The nicest thing is that the girl I get my coffee from, she’s a fan, and every day she’s like, “Have a good day, as you should, queen. I can’t wait to see what you do next.” And I’m like, “That’s awesome.” But no, not very often. I’ll get the look sometimes, but I tune it out. I’m hood on, headphones on.
FINEMAN: Yeah. I go to the same coffee place, honestly, multiple times a day. I don’t think they have any idea who I am, which is A-okay, but then people in the coffee shop will be like, “Hey, can we get a picture?” I think they’re really thrown by it because I look insane. My hair’s greasy and I’m in a mismatching sweatsuit.
SUI WONDERS: That’s the worst feeling. I feel like anytime anyone’s ever asked for a photo with me, I’m looking heinous. I’m so excited to talk to them and engage, but then the smile in my eyes is like, “I look so bad right now.”
FINEMAN: This weekend I had a hoodie and white ’90s glasses on, and my hair was in a rat’s nest, and somehow this guy was like, “Chloe, can I get a picture?”
SUI WONDERS: It’s like, of course this is how you recognize me. I’m wearing pimple patches, and my transition glasses, and someone’s like, “Oh my god, Chase.” I don’t look like this on TV. Come on.
FINEMAN: Do you prefer a stranger taking your picture or a fancy—
SUI WONDERS: Honestly, probably a stranger because I can dissociate more. On those red carpet things when the lights are blasting, I’m having a panic attack.
SUI WONDERS: That’s never not going to be weird. Especially at those things where they have drinks around and you haven’t eaten for four hours because you’ve been in glam.
SUI WONDERS: Then I usually will drink something to try to take the edge off and I turn bright red. I’m a real lightweight, so I barely drink. I’ll be in full makeup and my face will be literally radiating heat and redness. It’s a bad combo. [Laughs]
FINEMAN: So, how long are you back in New York?
SUI WONDERS: I’m here for the next little bit. I’ll start doing City on Fire press in May, and then there are several things that are up in the air, so I’m just taking it day by day. But in the meantime, it’s that wonderful just unknown that we love.
FINEMAN: Yeah, baby. Alright. Well, what a lovely morning chat.
SUI WONDERS: Thank you for doing this. I’m pumped I got to talk to you.
FINEMAN: So good to see you. We got to hang. I’ll come east or you come west.
SUI WONDERS: We’ll converge right in the middle of the aisle.
Hair: Blake Erik using Hair Rituel by Sisley at Forward Artists
Makeup: Chiho Omae using MAC Cosmetics at LGA Management
Nails: Daria Hardeman at De Facto Inc.
Set Designer: Elaine Winter
Photography Assistants: Alex Hopkins and Tony Jarum
Fashion Assistant: Katey Kabukubi
Digital Technician: Ryan Jones