Sacha Baron Cohen is still effectively duping Americans into embarrassing stunts. And he does much of it in the just-released “Borat” sequel with the help of Maria Bakalova, the actress you may already know from her “sexy-time” scene with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Her arc in the film — officially called “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” — is much larger than that much-talked about moment. She joins the fictional Kazakh journalist in a number of hijinks that reflect poorly on the U.S. and its leaders.
Here are some things to know about the young actress, who is introduced to American audiences as Borat’s 15-year-old daughter in the film— a.k.a. the titular “prodigious bribe” — that began streaming Friday on Amazon Prime Video.
She’s a 24-year-old Bulgarian actress
Bakalova was born in Burgas, Bulgaria, and trained as a flautist and singer since she was a child, according to IMDb. She later studied at the National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia.
Her handful of professional credits include the Bulgarian dramas and comedies “Last Call,” “The Father” and “Transgression.”
The actress came to the U.S. for the first time to play the part of Borat’s shaggy daughter, Tutar, who gets a movie makeover and lands herself in a number of dicey scenes with unwitting Americans — politicians, pro-lifers and debutantes among them.
(Times film critic Justin Chang said she’s “terrific” in the film and invests in her character’s journey “with madcap energy and touching conviction.” Baron Cohen is also lobbying for her to get an Oscar.)
She was chosen from 600 women auditioning for Tutar
Bakalova said she responded to an open casting call for the film, sent in a tape and went to London to audition for the part. Baron Cohen, a producer on “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” selected Bakalova from more than 600 women around the world who auditioned for Tutar.
The crew decided Bakalova was the right pick when she acted in scenes with unsuspecting people who believed she was a real journalist. She was so believable, in fact, that she remained in character and was taken on a tour of the White House about a week before the September super-spreader event announcing Amy Coney Barrett as Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. (More on that later.)
She was thrilled to represent Bulgaria in the film
The actress moved to Los Angeles earlier this year and has been active on Instagram, posting photos of her pets, swimsuits, glam, and film projects, but also heftier material including images of protests in Bulgaria and support for the Black Lives Matter movement and Gen Z disruption to the status quo. She also posts with pride about her home country.
“There are almost no leading characters for actors from my background or actors who have a foreign accent so to be given this platform to perform and show what I can do really means the world to me!” she wrote on Instagram Friday, praising Baron Cohen for the role.
She felt safe with Baron Cohen during the infamous Giuliani scene
Also on Friday, during a joint appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Bakalova thanked Baron Cohen for interrupting her now-infamous exchange with the former New York City mayor.
“I’ve always felt safe with our team, with our crew, with Sacha in my corner,” Bakalova said. “I actually never felt that I’ve been in danger. That’s why I’m lucky, because I had them.”
Baron Cohen was “quite concerned for her” during the scene and said it was his responsibility as a producer “to ensure that the lead actor is looked after.”
She also sneaked into a Trump press conference
It’s already public knowledge that Baron Cohen, disguised as President Trump, infiltrated the Conservative Political Action Conference where Pence was speaking in February. Apparently, Bakalova also managed to sneak into one of Trump’s press conferences and met his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.
The meeting was made public Friday in a scene that didn’t make it into the film, but was posted on the Borat character’s official Twitter account Friday.
In the video, the character claims that far-right cable network One America News and its reporter Chanel Rion led Bakalova into the White House under the guise of a conservative journalist. She didn’t undergo a security check or COVID-19 test, either, he said, because “they boring.”