‘Sugar’ Actress Kirby on the Only Album She Really Needs

When Kirby accepted the role of Ruby — a Bondish M-meets-Q foil to a Los Angeles private detective played by Colin Farrell — in the Apple TV+ series “Sugar,” she found herself among kindred spirits.

“All of us sort of bounce,” she said about the ability of her co-stars Farrell and Amy Ryan to move seamlessly between drama and comedy. “As an actor, you are always looking to engage your audience and excite them, but at the same time, you want to feel excited by the material yourself. For me, it comes from the richness of being able to dip my toe in many worlds.”

Kirby’s own bouncing has taken her to TV shows like “Killing Eve,” “Barry” and “The Sandman.” She stars as a commercial cleaner in her latest film project, “We Strangers,” an observation on assimilation, code switching and belonging in Gary, Ind.

“That is sort of my pride and joy, I think the best piece of work I’ve done,” she said.

In a video call from Los Angeles, Kirby (who last year dropped her surnames Howell-Baptiste) explained why Doc Martens, a Starbucks cup and Solange’s “A Seat at the Table” made her list of cultural necessities. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.


My new best friend. The lacrosse ball is basically a Thai massage that you can take around with you everywhere. Super easy, but it’s fantastic. I just roll it around on my back or my foot. It’s instant pain relief.


They’re these incredible Chinese sauces by this chef called Jing. You can put them on everything and anything — from boiled eggs to ramen noodles. I buy these sprouted peanuts from the farmers’ market. And then I just chop up some shallots, do some black sesame seed and mix the Fly by Jing sauce in. It is truly a winner.


I’ve only had a couple of facials in my life, and I don’t always make as much time as I should for those things. But a good body scrub — I feel renewed, and you can do it at home. I would love to have one that I could tell you that’s my go-to, but I actually don’t. Maybe someone can read this and become my favorite brand.


That’s one of the things I actually miss the most when I’m not in Los Angeles. Every meal I make from the farmers’ market feels so much more nutritious and delicious than anything I could ever make from the supermarket with the exact same ingredients.


I drink vast amounts of water, so much so that my boyfriend tells me that I’m diluting my blood. I just think that he and most people are dehydrated. I keep them everywhere. I feel like what happens is, if you don’t drink enough water, you get to the point where you feel like you’re almost dying.


Probably one of my big London tells is that I’m a girl who loves Doc Martens. I’ve worn them in lieu of heels on red carpets multiple times. It doesn’t feel like you phoned it in, and you get to be the only woman who’s comfortable all night.


I’m sort of a magpie. I love shiny things. I’m not really like a diamond girl, but I do love if there are beautiful old gems. My boyfriend recently bought me an absolutely stunning gold ring that looked like branches, and it had emeralds in it. It was probably one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given. Certainly the best gift that man has ever given me.


My mom has always been a market trader in London. She did Portobello Road for a long time, and that’s largely a vintage market. I kind of joke when I say this, but I love other people’s stuff. There’s a life behind it, a story. I also feel very passionately about recycling and reusing the resources that we have here. I feel like we have everything we need. We just have to distribute it better.


I’m pretty English in that I’m a tea girl. So coffee becomes kind of my treat. I’ll find a coffee shop, I’ll sit down perhaps with a book, sometimes with nothing, and look and think with a good flat white and a really good croissant. It resets me.


If someone said you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, I think it would be that one. I remember listening to it when it first came out. I was filming in Pittsburgh, I had a couple of days off and wanted to go to Washington, D.C., because the National Museum of African American History and Culture had just opened. I did the drive on my own, and I played that album the entire way.

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