Jessica Rose is a Toronto based actress, writer, and producer. She is the recipient of the AH! Emerging Artist Award from the Lakeshorts Film Festival in 2015 for Frozen Marbles. In 2016, she wrote, produced, and starred in the short film, Alison, which premiered at the Calgary International Film Festival. In May 2017, Alison was selected as a Vimeo Staff Pick and has garnered over 80K views and counting. Resource Magazine listed it as one of Twelve Captivating Short Films to Binge-Watch on Vimeo.
As an actress, Jessica is a pixie with an attitude. Cute, idiosyncratic, and fiercely intelligent, she is perfect for quirky, endearing characters that are rich in humanity and personality. Think a young Emily Mortimer or Holly Hunter.
Jessica has a BFA in Acting from the University of Windsor and studied at graduate level with Matthew Harrison at the Actor’s Foundry.
We had an opportunity to connect with Jessica. She shared her amazing career with us! Check out the interview below.
Thank you for granting the interview, Jessica! You’re an actress, writer, producer, and an editor. How do you balance the roles?
Acting is my first love, but I also telling my own stories and writing, producing, and editing have allowed me to take more control over my career and the kind of work I put out there. I’m really not one of those people who enjoys waiting around to be told what I can and can’t do — if I don’t have some kind of creative output at all times I go a little crazy. Plus I think I find it doubly satisfying artistically — there is something really magical to me about the process of taking an idea that was in your head and bringing it to life. Wearing the different hats has actually made me a better actor, too; it’s forced me to get very clear on what my voice is as an artist and what I really want to say. I also now see my work through all these other lenses, so it does change how I approach scripts and the different takes I do. But when you’re working on the same project with all those different roles, you have to compartmentalize; when I was acting, I left all the other hats at the door as much as I could.
You use all of the roles for the short film Alison, which became a Vimeo Staff Pick. Tell us about the film.
I’ve been in a relationship for over eleven years, and there’s a specific kind of intimacy in long term relationships that I hadn’t seen portrayed on screen in a way that felt authentic to me. Our partners see sides of us that nobody else does, and in a way when we’re choosing to be committed to someone over the long-term, we’re also choosing to sort of live or deal with their specific baggage. No one is perfect, and we all have our own weird neurosis and issues and insecurities that inevitably surface as we settle in the relationship. I think the deepest intimacy develops because those things are exposed and dealt with together. To me, Alison is about a moment when there is an imbalance in the relationship, when you might be giving more than you get, and what the emotional repercussions of that can be. I wanted to see a couple who are really trying to make it work and love each other through their dysfunction.
Q3. You produced and acted in a short called Frozen Marbles. You won the AH! Emerging Artist Award at the Lakeshorts Film Festival for the role. What inspired you to produce the film?
My husband (director David Lester) and I wanted to work on a project together, and so we approached a writer friend, Karen Moore, and asked her if she would write something for us. She came back to us with this funny, heartfelt, quirky script about two sisters who pull an all-nighter every year on the anniversary of their mother’s death. It was an honest, relationship-driven drama about family and grief, and it had two awesome female lead roles. It was a no-brainer for me. I just loved it and felt honored to bring it to life.
You have been busy! 2017 is a good year! You have several projects in the works. You shot a short film called Be My Guest in June 2017. Tell us more.
Yes, 2017 has been an amazing so far! Be My Guest is this very cool sci-fi film directed by David Jermyn and produced by Richard Rotter that I was thrilled to be part of. It was the recipient of a BravoFACT grant, which is a wonderful foundation that supports Canadian short filmmakers. I probably can’t reveal too much about the film before it’s released, but the premise is about a young couple’s experiments with a grey-market mind-transfer technology and how it affects their relationship. Yep, it’s pretty badass.
One of your early TV credits was starring opposite Kim Cattrall, where you played a Mummy! This sounds like a great story. Tell us more.
That was probably one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done! I showed up to the audition for Sensitive Skin for the role of a “Mummy” that comes to life in a museum and gives Kim Cattrall love advice. In the audition they asked if I was claustrophobic at all, but when you’re an actor in an audition and they ask you if you’re afraid of something you just say no because you want the job! When I got the part, I went in for a fitting where an amazing costume designer built the mummy costume to my body out of paper mache. I was literally wound up from head to toe, just the way they look in a museum. There weren’t even breathing holes at first, and I could barely see out of it or move my legs, so it was already a challenge. But when I got to set, I discovered I was being placed inside a glass museum display case the size of my body. It was like a glass drawer that they would slide open and closed between takes so that I could get air. I was in there for hours. Being an actor is so weird sometimes! But I also got to work with some of my heroes, like Kim and Don Mckellar and Bob Martin, so it was also the best day ever.
Growing up, what inspired you?
On a personal level, seeing anyone go after their dreams and accomplish them in some way has been hugely inspirational and motivating. Pursuing any art as a profession is challenging, and I always look to others who do it to remind myself that perseverance and hard work pays off. So often my own art has come out of being inspired by someone I know who did something great, and then vice versa, and then it becomes this beautiful cycle where we keep creating because of one another. Creatively, I do draw inspiration from the lives and conversations around me, but writers like Charlie Kaufman and Sarah Polley are huge influences on my writing, and there are so many actors that inspire me to be braver in my work. And I keep going back to films like The Apartment, When Harry Met Sally, Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Fargo, and Annie Hall for different reasons — I want to make art that is as timeless as they are.
Do you use any personal experiences to create your characters? This is always a fun question to ask!
I do! I think it’s impossible not to draw on your personal experiences to some degree. Acting is definitely part imagination, but you do have to access and express real feelings, and the only way I know how to do that is to relate the material or the character’s experience to my own life in some way. If it’s a character that has a vastly different life experience, I will still try to find some comparisons or parallels or be able to identify some time where I have felt similar feelings. I try to work from what I know and understand.
We are excited for the role you have on a new show on Hulu. Could you share some teasers about the show?
I can’t say much about this, yet! But it’s an amazing detective drama that I’m so honored to be part of. The writing is fantastic, and the part I get to play is really dark and edgy — a real departure from the stuff I’ve done up until now. I’m so excited but I don’t shoot until later in the fall.
Your short films are very compelling! What is the most important aspect of telling a great story?
Honestly? It’s almost a cliche, but I really do believe it’s about writing from what you know and bringing your unique truth and perspective to the page. The more specific and true you are in your writing, the more universal and relatable your art becomes. So much happens in life that you really can’t make up — the best, weirdest stuff comes from life. It’s often people’s most personal stories that end up having the most success and I don’t think that’s a coincidence at all. Audiences respond passionately to truth. But I also think you have to understand structure, write wonderful characters, have a sense of humour, throw in a few surprises…all of that is important to telling a great story too. There are really so many components to good storytelling, I can’t say it’s one thing! And it’s still something I’m learning.
Apparently, you do not allow your age to dictate your filmmaking. Your stories are timeless and ageless. What is the biggest misconception about writing?
That’s a lovely compliment. I don’t know what the misconceptions are. I think in the case of Alison, I actually allowed myself to make something imperfect — I didn’t expect it do as well as it did, and I just wrote from my heart and tried to make it quickly so I couldn’t overthink it. I just wanted to make something, and then ironically it did better than when I’ve slaved over every word. Sometimes we do ourselves a disservice and shut down our creativity when we strive for perfectionism. I’m having a much harder time writing my feature right now because I feel the pressure after having done something that had success, so I’m trying to make it “good”, which is pretty much an exercise in futility. I also think writers tend to be seen as a bit lazy, and that couldn’t be further from the truth — it takes an enormous amount of discipline, hard work, time, and patience with yourself. I have so much respect and admiration for anyone who manages to finish a script.
What is your most favorite experience in your career to date?
Filming Alison was a profound day for me, because it was the first time I was actually delivering my own dialogue on screen. Prior to this, I had written some plays, but so many people and elements have to come together to make a film, and seeing all these talented people show up to bring to life something I had written felt pretty extraordinary to me. It was also amazing working again with my husband, David Lester, who directed the film, and Kristopher Turner, who was the most wonderful scene partner I could have ever hoped for. And because I had written it, it was obviously a character I loved sinking my teeth into.
List the 5 things you need to have with you on a film set.
Headphones and music, a journal, healthy snacks, lots of coffee, and a great book. Also, my hubby works as an AD and when we’ve been able to work on the same shows together it’s always the most fun — so I’d say him too 🙂
Do you have any upcoming projects that we haven’t mentioned?
I have a fun role on an episode of The Detail which should be out in the new year, which is a great new series starring Shenae Grimes, Wendy Crewson, and Angela Griffin. Lots of lady power! You might also be able to spot me in the upcoming film, Flatliners. And Alison will be making its U.S Festival Premiere at the Bend Film Festival in Bend, Oregon in October!
Complete this sentence, if I had an opportunity to change anything, I would change ___________.
Cynicism into hope. Fear into love. Prejudice into respect. War into peace. And I would be able to eat all the bread and cheese and wine I want without getting a stomach ache.
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