Sophia Caldwell (born February 27, 1988) is an American actress and singer. Initially known for her portrayal of Marley Rose on the fourth and fifth seasons of the Fox musical comedy-drama television series Glee, she was catapulted to fame when she landed the role of Anastasia Steele in the romantic drama Fifty Shades of Grey. She received a People's Choice Award for Favorite Dramatic Movie Actress for the film, and will reprise her role in upcoming installments Fifty Shades Darker (2017) and Fifty Shades Freed (2018). Caldwell has also appeared in films such as Whiplash and The Spectacular Now.
By the time Sophia Caldwell told her parents that she wanted to be an actress - no, like really wanted to be an actress, not just in that distant dream kind of way - they had been through similar variants on the same theme with enough of her older siblings to know that it was often easier to just say "fine", pat the kid on the back, and send them on their way than try to argue. At least acting was less hazardous than, say, cage fighting, or photographing wild cats in their natural habitat. While studying (or technically so; she had never been a particularly brilliant or dedicated student, but she got by) at NYU, she was also on the grind, sneaking in auditions where she could and occasionally skipping a class to stand in a non-equity waiting line for six hours. A born idealist and staunch believer that anything that was meant to happen eventually would, she had the kind of Teflon skin that rejection handily bounced off of. It was also that same optimism that made landing a role on Glee just as half of its fan base had jumped ship seem like the break of a lifetime rather than a resounding disappointment. The show's popularity was steadily waning, but Sophia loved anything that gave her a reason to sing and dance - Broadway had launched her career, after all, and in hindsight her dedication to her own high school glee club, while hardly at a Ryan Murphy-worthy level, was definitely a little over the top. Going back to box steps and jazz hands wouldn't be that much of a stretch.
Though she had no trouble staying occupied thanks in large part to Glee's typically grueling filming hours, Sophia continued to audition for new projects - after all, it was becoming more and more obvious that the show wasn't going to be around forever, and she wanted something to be waiting for her when it did end. Landing a small supporting role in the Damian Chazelle film Whiplash was a big step in the right direction, but shortly after filming began, what would turn out to be a much bigger announcement came along: amidst months of speculation and fancasting, she had been offered the role of Anastasia Steele in the Fifty Shades of Grey film franchise. As a longtime fan of trashy romance novels and an unashamed fan of the books in the least ironic sense, she was unsurprisingly elated. The reaction from America, on the other hand: a collective (and in some cases, outraged) "who?" Not unlike with many hyped up adaptations, people had a very specific idea of what they wanted from their cast, and there was no way to please everyone. When her leading costar dropped out and the search for a new Christian Grey began, an insistence that Sophia take a hint and drop as well became the rallying cry for fans of the series. But Sophia was far less willing to throw in the towel on a project she had worked so hard to earn, and she stuck to her guns, assuring reporters with a smile that there was no way she was going anywhere. There was a reason for everything, so there had to be some kind of reason for this.
She didn't find that reason as quickly as she might have hoped, but there was something to be said for her unwillingness to give up. Not all those who had opposed her casting came around, but a strong chemistry with the actor recast in the title role put new wind into the ship's sails, and when all was said and done, people weren't going to not see the movie they had been waiting so anxiously for. While she was hardly receiving rave reviews for her acting chops (no one was, and no one had been deluded enough to expect to) people weren't saying she was awful, either, and she did receive the People's Choice Award for Favorite Dramatic Movie Actress - a nice reminder that if nothing else, somewhere there was an award show producer who liked her enough to give her a shout-out and a trophy for her wall. Were that not enough, the internet had a lot of nice things to say about how she looked topless. What was there for her to complain about, again?
With two more installments of the Fifty Shades franchise ahead of her and her name more in demand than ever, Sophia has every reason to be looking up - but with her nearly-terminal optimism, it stands to reason that the other shoe could drop any minute and she'd still find a reason to keep trucking along. Her steadfast belief in the good in people, even and often especially those who've proven themselves to be untrustworthy, unstable, or both, makes her an extraordinarily easy target for anyone looking to take advantage, and her friends and family have often privately worried that the depths of Hollywood might be just a little too cutthroat for someone so willing to put her neck on the line for others without first wondering whether or not they're worth the trouble. But for Sophia, who while aware of her perceived shortcomings has no inclination to attempt a personality transplant anytime soon, living in the moment and dealing with the lumps as they come seems a much preferable alternative to worrying about bridges there's no certainty she'll have to cross.
Despite a shaky start with fans after her out of the blue rocketing to solid starlet status after her Fifty Shades of Grey casting, Sophia has always had a relatively positive relationship with the media, who tends to focus on projecting her sweetheart image rather than focusing on the quality of her acting. She's not particularly bright or witty, and tries to avoid sharing her personal thoughts on hot button issues simply because she doesn't know enough about many of them to deliver an opinion based on anything other than her gut feelings, but she'll gladly ramble on about nearly anything else. Perpetually upbeat and outgoing, Sophia is often considered an actress for the people - she has a genuine love for her work and her fans, and hates feeling like she's let anyone down, so maintaining a clear line between her public image and her personal life is something she has struggled with. The day she realized she was no longer able to keep up with her @ mentions on Twitter was a tough one. Her ho-hum approach to security has made her an easy target for phone hacks, and her tendency to forget that the paparazzi can be absolutely nuts when it comes to getting their money shot is practically asking for trouble. Even in cases where there has obviously been tension or bad blood, it's difficult to get a negative soundbite out of Sophia; she wants to make friends, not enemies, regardless of the other side's feelings toward her, so even disastrous breakups or professional clashes get a positive spin when told from her perspective. It's easy to assume her ray of sunshine attitude is an overenthusiastic shtick, and many do, but those close to her are quick to corroborate that she really is just that up, for better or worse.