RR: Jess, I’m looking back over your career and it’s kind of interesting because for close to about 10 years you were working, but you were doing TV roles. You were always playing the girl that had something wrong or something bad happened to her and it seemed like for a while there Hollywood didn’t know what to do with you. Did you kind of feel the same way?
JC: Oh definitely I felt the same way. I think it’s because when I first moved to Los Angeles, It was very difficult to get an audition for film roles..And in TV there was like this formula of the girlfriend of the male character and the girlfriend’s usually the babe or the crazy neighbor or you know a person that had something wrong with her. And in actuality those are what I thought were the best roles because those were actually something that I could play. To me playing the girlfriend or whatever isn’t interesting because you don’t really have high stakes to the character, you’re not going through something extreme. Playing these crazy characters—to me it was the better acting part.
RR: Until about four or five years ago you really weren’t doing a lot of movies. In most careers, steady work in your 20s is fine. But if you’re an actor, you feel like the clock is ticking all the time, right? I mean was there was a moment there where you thought, “Is this this ever going to happen for me? Or am I going to be the special guest star on ‘NCIS Tulsa’ for the rest of my career.”
JC: (Laughs) yeah I did wonder about that. You know it’s really hard, I didn’t know anyone in the industry. So it’s not like I could call my uncle or my—you know a friend of my mom’s to see if I could get an agent. So I really, the only connection I had was the Julliard school, which is the college I went to. But most people in Los Angeles, kind of at the starting level don’t even know what that school is. Like casting directors.
RR: Yeah, they’re like now who is Julie Ard? Was she a teacher or?
JC: (laughs) Exactly. It was taking a long time and I didn’t know how I was going to get an agent in the beginning….It wasn’t until I got cast in Salome the play, with Al Pacino, that happened in Los Angeles that that’s really where my career started to change and immediately I started to get these auditions for films.
RR: You had that one year where I think you had seven movies come out. I mean like every other month there was another film with you in it. And now you have so many options and you’re worked with or you’re going to work with so many directors and actors who are top of the line talents. Is that super satisfying or a little bit terrifying or a little bit of both?
JC: It’s a little bit of both to be honest. Of course it’s satisfying because my whole life I watched these incredible performers and directors and have been inspired by their work and I’ve wanted to work with them and be involved in these films and plays, but then there’s always the thing of ‘be careful what you wish for’ because then what happens when I’m acting toe to toe with a great and then what happens, am I going to get demolished? There’s this feeling of, I better step it up. And in fact I find that it makes me better. Like working alongside Michael Shannon in “Take Shelter” made me a better actor because he’s so good.
RR: “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby” reminded me of films such as “Rashomon.” Same story from different perspectives. But it’s still a unique thing. Even the scenes that are shared through the movies, you know “Him” and “Her,” there’s a different color to them. I think there’s literally a different color in the cinematography, but also just a simple line reading is a little bit different when it’s in him than her. It must have been really fun and interesting to play those different kinds of shades.
JC: Oh it’s so fascinating. I thought I played like two different characters. I played Eleanor Rigby in the ‘Her’ version and I played Conner’s perception of her in ‘Him.’ Which, it’s interesting then too, even as an actress talking about this. And I’m pretty outspoken about female roles in Hollywood.. I know I’m really lucky because I’m getting the best scripts, but there are other incredible actresses out there…such as Rosamund Pike. How fantastic is she in “Gone Girl”?
RR: You’ve got so many other things coming up. “Miss Julie,” another light comedy. Based on a Swedish play from about 1888. (laughs) Now, when you’re doing something like that. Did you go back and watch the original movie? The Swedish movie from the 50s? Have you seen that?
JC: Yeah. I’ve seen that. “Miss Julie” is one of my favorite plays and I’ve studied it at Julliard. I’ve seen even, I’ve seen a Helen Mirren production of it,they filmed her on stage doing it. It was like a VHS that I found. I’ve seen a Janet McTeer version. The wonderful thing about theatre, which sometimes you don’t have in films, there’s like this sisterhood and brotherhood of a role. So you take a role like Miss Julie and you look at the actresses that have played it throughout the years. And there’s this shared experience of that. And the beautiful thing with theatre is, in my opinion, there’s not one version that’s better than the other. It’s just like, if you take a different artist, they’re going to illuminate a part of the character that you didn’t understand before.
RR: What about “Interstellar”? Now that’s a little movie with a couple of crazy kids with a dream. Matthew McConaughey and Christopher Nolan… Now that’s as big as it gets.
JC: Yeah. (laughs). Prepare yourself. It’s epic. It’s like, I saw it a while ago and I sat in the theatre. And even when the lights came up, I was sitting in there, Anne Hathaway was with me and Annie and we’re like—and she’s like crying and I’m crying and—it was, it’s pretty special. It’s beyond a science fiction movie to me It goes way deeper than that. In ways that “2001” goes deeper than science fiction. And also in my opinion, it’s deep in ways that true life goes as well. What happens to people when they die? Are they still with you? And for me this movie, “Interstellar,” is like, it’s more than action adventure. Which of course it is. But it’s like this idea of life and death and love. Especially love. I think it’s a really important film, shockingly so. I knew it was going to be great when I signed on with Chris because of his work. But once I saw it all come together, I didn’t realize how great he would make—it would be.
RR: What’s it like when you’re finally able to share a movie like this with the world?
JC: For me I get happy, because I don’t like keeping things a secret. I love talking about movies, more than just being an actor, I just love going to the movies. So to be able to finally talk about this film makes me so happy.
RR: Just to talk about your character is kind of a spoiler alert.
RR: You’re playing Matthew McConaughey’s daughter thanks to the theory of relativity. So you worked with him but you didn’t. You’re in scenes with him but you’re not.
JC: It was a very interesting challenge for me. I’m playing an astrophysicist who’s dealing with the agricultural crisis on Earth. My character is Michael Caine’s prodigy which is kind of cool, so most of my scenes are with him, but you’re right…
My character has suffered this emotional hurt when she was a child, and from that moment on, she hid behind physics and equations. She doesn’t allow herself to be loved again. But she eventually opens up to these ideas she had as a child and becomes more open to the idea of love and the spirit.
She’s very isolated…so that’s what I was doing. There was never a time when I was hanging out with anyone in the movie. The very first scene I filmed, I was talking into a camera. I didn’t even have a scene partner. She’s a woman that is sad and angry and hurt and emotional, and in her life she doesn’t even have a person to react to.
RR: But through the miracle of editing and acting, there IS this relationship between you and Matthew.
JC: Right. And watching Matthew’s performance in this film is so heartbreaking. And the character that I play could never know the effects her words have on everyone.
RR: It’s not New Agey, but it’s a spiritual film.
JC: Definitely. I was surprised when I first saw the film, one thing I got from him, elements that reminded me of ‘Tree of Life.’ That was nature vs. grace. This film, it’s about body and spirit, the connection. This relationship between science and spirit.
RR: This film is drawing inevitable comparisons to ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ but that film was emotionally ‘cool.’ This film has the same kind of grand ideas and epic scope, but it also makes a play for love. The almost supernatural power of love. That’s a bold thing for a movie to do.
JC: Yes, right. This is one of Chris’ most personal films. The production company name is ‘Flora’s Letter.’ And I was on set and there and I was talking to this little girl, and she told me she was Chris’ daughter. It’s his eldest child, his only daughter, and her name is Flora. And as soon as I realized that…Chris had never told me. It kind of opened my character in a new way. I realized yes, this is a thrilling, visually stunning space exploration film, but the core of this movie is about the powerful bonds of love, and it’s about the relationship between a father and a daughter. Just because someone leaves you doesn’t mean they’re gone.
RR: Well this is my favorite time of the year for movies because classically the fawn. And I know you’re a film buff too, so this has got to be fun for you just as a movie go-er. You’re still like a movie fan as well right?
JC: Yeah. Like “Gone Girl,” I was completely blown away. I’m always going to the movie theatres. It is my favorite time. I know like, I’m a member of the academy now so I get screeners, but I much prefer to see things in the cinema.
RR: That’s funny, you were just invited into the Academy like two years ago right? You’d already done a bunch of movies but you weren’t in the Academy? They have very strange and mysterious ways. There’s a council there and I don’t know how they decide those things.
JC: I know (laughs) I was invited in 2011 when I had my first Oscar nomination. And it was like such a—I was super excited. Like Oh my God, I’m a part of the Academy! How quickly has my year changed. From 2010-2011 my life was such a different thing.
RR: As you know too, things have changed so much in the last decade. And with social media and Twitter and all this stuff and TMZ and sometimes when you see somebody whose 17 or 18 and they make it big I almost hold my breath for them because I just feel like, who wants to grow up under a spotlight. And you really still are growing up. I feel like it’s better maybe if you’ve got a decade of experience before an explosion like this occurs like what’s happening with you.
JC: My heart, I have so much empathy for people like that. Especially like I think of Jennifer Lawrence and I have so much empathy because immediately—I mean I know she’s young and I think she made “Winter’s Bone” when she was like 18 or something—and was immediately, with “Hunger Games” and everything, she got shot out of a rocket. And had so much attention on her. And I kind of feel a little bit like, I don’t know, I’ve seen so many times where actresses even actors, where media can lift you up and then like joyously watch you fall. And then lift you up again for your comeback.
JC: It’s a very weird dynamic and I’m so impressed with someone like Jennifer who really young and she’s handled herself with such grace and intelligence. My goes out to all these other actresses who are in the spotlight because I know that if I was 19 or whatever when all this is happening I would have made myself look like the biggest fool! (laughs)
JC: That’s when we’re supposed to make our mistakes so to have to make them in front of people is a terrible thing.
RR: In front of the entire world. I really appreciate you taking the time and thanks for all the great work.
JC: Oh thank you, it was such a pleasure. When they asked me about this interview, I was like Oh my god I’d love to talk with him. So I really appreciate it. Thank you.
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