Jessica Chastain on Following the Signs Along the Way

May 3, 2015

“For every reason that I did poorly in school was the reason why I was going to be a good actor.” –Jessica Chastain

After seeing a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with her grandma, seven-year-old Jessica Chastain realized that acting was a bonafide profession, and was determined from that point on to become an actress who could make a living from her work. But with years of struggling with schoolwork and academic testing, Jessica didn’t qualify for graduation in her senior year. And she had no connections into the business. Still, Jessica steadfastly took any opportunity she could to advance toward her acting goal. Cut to years later, she’s an A-list actress who’s displayed a variety of characters and celebrated performances in films such as The HelpZero Dark Thirty, Interstellar, and A Most Violent Year.

So how did she transform from being a poor student to begging for years and years to get an audition to becoming a multi-award-winning actress? “I didn’t know what my path was going to be, I just knew what I was going to do….I believe in signs that come to you. And if you leave yourself open to things that are in your life, you can find an incredible path.”

For Chastain, that meant attaining an adult diploma, attending college, and joining a professional theater company in San Francisco. While playing Juliet, her acting partner was accepted into the prestigious Julliard School in New York to study drama. “And that’s what made me go…I thought, ‘Wait a minute. If he got in, maybe I should audition because maybe I could get in since we’re playing Romeo and Juliet together.’ Before that I never even imagined that I could get into that school. So I just kind of followed these paths that showed themselves to me.”

Yes, she was accepted into Julliard. But Jessica was the first person in her family to attend college, and her family didn’t have the money for such an expensive school; indeed, she has five siblings. Amazingly, a scholarship by Robin Williams provided Jessica with the funds to attend. In the years to follow, she continued to remain open to any signs that revealed themselves, continually climbing the ladder of playing small, eccentric TV roles, and eventually landing her film debut in Jolene.

Jessica Chastain excelled in one of the most competitive industries in the world because she left no stone unturned. She was patient, and seized every opportunity afforded to her. She refused to believe she was only as worthy as her test scores, or accept that she’d forever be shut out from the kinds of auditions she hoped to get. And when she ran into good luck she seized it too. Here’s to you finding many signs along your actor’s journey as well!

Takin’ It to the Streets

May 1, 2012

Many scholars believe modern day theatre and film are actually the children of archaic street theatre. Theatre, as we know it, has its origins in ancient Greek rituals and festivals. As early as the 6th century, poets and dramatists were performing by the roadside for citizens on their way to athletics contests, political events, and even weddings and funerals. These performances transformed and transmogrified into classic Greek tragedy and comedy–the paradigm of modern cinema and dramatic arts. Even as a guy named Willy Shakespeare was honing the art form to a whole new level of expression, actors were still taking to the street to express their most revered stories and their most heated passions.

There are many reasons why an actor or troupe will gravitate to the street as opposed to a traditional theatre or media space. Politically incendiary material or outrageous social perspectives many not be accepted or funded readily through traditional channels. It may be the strictures of an indoor setting are too confining for an expansive production. Or it could just be that the street affords a much more unabashed and raw milieu to invoke the spirit of any passion play.

But the thing that’s so exciting about street theatre for up-and-coming actors is it gives you a chance to perform! Isn’t that why you’re in the game? You want to express yourself through the medium of your very own voice and body and spirit. Yeah, money and fame will be nice, but don’t you just want to show ’em what you got? Here’s your opportunity. While your friends are making excuses and complaining about nepotism, money, contacts, and every other excuse known to mankind, you could be out there knockin’ ’em dead with your energy, your talents, and your chutzpah. When auditions are slow, take it to the street. Agent just dropped you? Take it to the street. Can’t seem to get a foot in the door? Hit the streets! What better way to test your mettle and hone your courage than to perform with no playbill, no red velvet curtain, no permission, and no parachute! Terrifying, right? But what could be more challenging and more invigorating?!  Robin Williams learned early on if he could move passersby on the sidewalk, acting in a fully funded film would be a piece of cake.

So, do likewise young thespian; the acting gods reward courage. Don’t wait for your break; make your break! And don’t forget to send us a link to your street masterpiece. We can’t wait to see it!