The sentiment rings true for all-around creative-being Amanda Cordner. She’s an actress, playwright, filmmaker, theatre creator, dancer, singer, and clown. She’s also lovingly known as 7ven on the critically-acclaimed and award-winning CBC and HBO Max hit show Sort Of. The show focuses on the lead character Sabi Mehboob, played by co-creator and showrunner Bilal Baig. They are a non-binary, gender-fluid South-Asian twentysomething whose life is transitioning from top to bottom. We have a bird's eye view of Sabi’s tumultuous life, and like us, they are just trying to figure things out.
The funny thing is, you don’t even need to see Cordner on screen or in a play to know she’s an actress. She’s effervescent and vibrant. Her energy permeates every single word as she speaks. Let me add that being of Trini and Italian descent also adds a beautiful splash of character. Cordner’s body language conveys that she should be on stage. And she was well aware of her creativity from the tender age of four.
Cordner used to journal when she was a mere toddler (thanks to her mom, those journals still live). She always wrote that her path would lead her to become a ballerina or an artist. But, of course, her trajectory was always in the form of the arts, so where she is today was simply her calling. By the age of 12, Cordner’s parents put her in her first production, and the rest was, as they say, history.
“I was 12 years old, and by that point, I tried many activities. I was very fortunate that my parents put me in many extracurricular activities: soccer, figure skating, and dance. They just never worked out, or I just quit (laughs). I never felt comfortable in my body in those activities. My mom and dad put me in my first play at 12. It was Sunshine Sketches Of Mariposa, and Ann Marie, let me tell you, I was living!”
Even being self-conscious at the time didn’t stop Cordner from shining. The acting bug awakened a power she didn’t know existed, and she wanted more. So, Cordner followed the breadcrumbs destiny placed before her, from school in the arts to university to a career.
Cordner’s time at York University was a great experience. While attaining her BFA in theatre, she worked as the York University host and hype girl for their sporting league. It’s a position you would think could be detrimental to your studies, but it was quite the contrary. Corder thrived in the environment and used it to learn and apply several acting skills.
“I think any performance, stepping on stage or in front of a crowd, goes towards me finessing my craft. It is truly wielding the power of the audience. There’s nothing like a live performance to gauge what’s happening. The audience’s response to me responding to them. As a host, it’s looser in terms of form. Yes, there’s a script, and I have to thank the sponsors, but the rest is me. How do I work this crowd? And the same goes for theatre,” says Cordner.
All of Cordner’s experiences translate to where she is today. One of the themes on Sort Of this season is “what’s love got to do with it?” The show delves into the complexities of cis/bio love from family and friendships. Some are looking to heal from unrequited love. Others are trying to figure out what their type of love looks like. Love for work, love for being, love of self. Or, as Sabi says, “You know, that uncomplicated Rachel McAdams love. It’s doable, right?” Yet in season one and the first few episodes of season two, 7ven’s character is totally unbothered.
Sabi's bestie 7even is Black and gender fluid. However, the character is not solely steeped in her Blackness. Yes, she is undoubtedly unapologetically Black, but her fierceness and freeness for life are empowering.
Canadian television can use a good dose of LGBTQ+ reality that's been lacking from our screens for forever and a day. Thankfully, this show has delivered in every facet, with many revelling in authentic truth-telling and multi-faceted lives each week. Not to sound cliché, but it is an overdue breath of fresh air. The character has resonated with many people, regardless of gender, because she's so real. She's transcendent, just like the show.
"It feels unreal in the sense that this is something I love to do. It's an adventure that I love to take on. But, exploring this story and this character, I forget about the audience sometimes. It's not until the response that I'm like, 'wow, oh my goodness, this really deeply affected you!' It just blows my mind that TV has that kind of power. Media, performance, and art have the power to make us look inside ourselves. Seeing ourselves is such a joy. Finding connections between characters and ourselves is amazing. Like, 'wow, I've been going through that or thinking about that too and may not know the steps to move forward, but here's some insight.' And it's so amazing how TV can do that!" exclaims Cordner.
Cordner is in awe of the power of television, but she also understands the importance of wielding it. The Peabody, Canadian Screen Award and Members' Choice winning Sort Of is proudly made and shot in Toronto. It's a special series. Not only does it transcend, but it supports the LGBTQ+ community right down to its hiring.
By launching the Sort Of Training Program, the show gave five trans and/or nonbinary creatives a paid work placement and training opportunity to lend their talents. The program included development workshops, apprenticeship-style training, wellness coaching, and more to guide trainees forward in their respective positions. Everyone knows how difficult it is to get into the industry. Dealing with high-level systemic discrimination towards the LGBTQ+ community on top of that is daunting and intolerable. This program was created with purpose, and I'm sure it had the participants 'living their best life.'
Cordner doesn't stop the ball from rolling. She continues to stay busy creating, acting, and writing. Presently, she has two big stage productions coming our way. Right now, you can catch her starring as the main character in Snow White at the Young People's Theatre. And after touring across Canada, with showings in the U.S., Cordner has landed a listing in April 2023 at the Buddies and Bad Times Theatre with her play Body So Fluorescent. Co-written with her best friend, David Di Giovanni, it tackles the difficult questions about Blackness, otherness and appropriation. Lastly, during her off time from Sort Of, Cordner immersed herself in the world of video games. Her varied and energetic performances will be featured in games set to debut in 2023.
When we speak of the love between friends on the show, real life unquestionably meets work life. Cordner knows her character 7even only wants the best for Sabi, the same way she wants the best for her friends. "I want them to live their best life! I want them to scream! Ultimate happiness, joy and liberation of spirit. I wish that for all of my friends," she says jovially. So what's love got to do with it? Apparently, a whole lot.
You can watch the complete first season in Canada by streaming it free on CBC Gem, and season two can be watched every Tuesday at 9 pm on CBC or streamed on CBC Gem.