The Interview Project: Tori Sampson

Interview by Will Arbery
April 7, 2020

"Y’all aren’t allowed to see my quarantine hair. So here’s a pic of days when locticians were deemed the essential workers we know them to be." —Tori Sampson

What fills your days? 

I’m in a television writer’s room. And we’re currently breaking my episode. My days are very full with this. I’m grateful for this now more than ever. 

What is your relationship to work during crisis?

I feel busier during this crisis. Everyone knows you’re by your phone and available for meetings. So an increased level of self-care is key for me: Boundaries. Podcasts. Exercise. Writing pages in my “feel good” secret project. Leisure reading and binge watching tv. All these things have become more important to me. I won’t neglect them.

What or who is inspiring you right now? What or who is beautiful?

Music. Really into female rappers right now. Bia. Lady London. Young MA. I watch the videos they upload to social media. Black Twitter and Black Instagram inspire me. DJ Nice throws these epic 9 hour sessions. He plays music and thousands of people tune in, to dance along at home. Swiss Beats and Timbaland host these producer battles where artists go against each other, song for song of their hits and the public decides who wins. It’s all fun. And nostalgic. And reminds us that real connections can be made during social distancing. We can still find joy and beauty in this moment. But that’s a privilege. Being healthy right now is SUCH a privilege. And Yamiche; a black woman news journalist. She’s my go-to for news updates.

What are you dreaming of making, once we can gather in rooms again?

I dream of hugs. I dream of the future of the play I’m currently writing. I dream of sharing meals. I dream of a future where the moment we’re in doesn’t get swept under the rug in favor of normalcy. And I dream of the ways we as artists can make sure that doesn’t happen.

What would you say to your younger self — the one without many connections in theater, the one without a Playwrights Horizons commission — if your younger self were confronting or considering a future as an artist during this time of tremendous uncertainty?

Dear younger self,
A faint silver lining. The life of an artist is always uncertain. But you still want one. You’re still drawn to it. So don’t let the world scare you from making art. Try to let it inspire the art you do make. Let this moment sink into you. Don’t rush to react. Relax into meditation and reflection. You write for a reason bigger than yourself. Whose stories aren’t being told right now? How can you impact the world positively by telling the right story? Do that. Do what you always do. Be an artist. Hold that responsibility with so much intentionality. The world is counting on you and your peers to make sense of all of this for them one day. And you’re counting on yourself, too. Please don’t walk away. Please don’t walk away. Please don’t walk away. Be kind to yourself, artist. Please don’t walk away.


Tori Sampson is the recipient of a Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust Commission.