Interview with Jessica Messenger

Jessica Messenger_indieactivity

Jessica Messenger was age 3 when she started out dancing. It began at 3 and carried on until she was 18 years old. Jessica went through many phases and different art forms during those years and definitely owe her performance skills to her time as a dancer. Jessica had a brief period of about 2 years during all of that where she heavily got into music and was in a punk rock band. She played the guitar and vocals. Performing Arts has been a wide range of things to Jessica. It all changed at 18 when she had been studying dance at a well known performing arts institute which some incredibly talented dancers. It just clicked with her that she had gone as far as she could go and that it was time for her to move on. Jessica made a completely random decision to study Film at the University and the rest is basically history. Jessica now can’t imagine doing anything else but acting and specifically acting for film.

Did you study acting
I studied elements of acting as I took performing arts courses alongside dance courses. My main training was always dance up until aged 18. I got a summer placement at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance which was a huge deal at the time. I was begged to stay and take the degree course there and join the troupe but something in me just knew it wasn’t right. I didn’t know that at the time but in hindsight I understand it now. I studied at Burton College which famously trained industry alumni Shane Meadows, Paddy Considine and both Bafta winner Lauren Socha and her brother Michael Socha. I really had a great start in terms of training and being around such gifted people.

What acting technique do you use
In terms of technique i apply multiple techniques depending what is required for the role. Im not adverse to changing things up, i think you have to use what works. I worked very method for a number of roles, but i nearly always apply what i learned from Stanislavski , Meisner, and Stella Adler. I could spend all day discussing various elements of each of these, but really you have to purchase the books and read the principles over and over. Some stick with you, others don’t. Its what works for you!

Do you take courses to improve your craft
Yes but i read a lot too. and really acting isn’t all about acting. Its about being. Learning. Growing as a person. Forget acting all together and learn to be. I am really heavily focused on learning about people, the planet, politics, religion, science and so on. Find out what it is to be human. i watch so many documentaries about people. I study people every single day. I wonder what it is like to be those people. I ask myself why they do what they do, why they say what they say. You cant teach someone to act, just like you cant teach someone to have a musical ear or have rhythm in their feet. Part of that already exists, its how you bring out the best in that person that counts.

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Jessica Messenger in a scene from HOOD

What acting books do you read
An Actor Prepares – Stanislavski, Sanford Meisner On Acting- Meisner / Dennis Longwell , How To Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie, The Secret – Rhonda Byrne, some aren’t necessarily acting books but they go hand in hand.

How do you keep fit as an actor
Learn, study, develop yourself and pick up new skills. Never stop learning and being open to learning everything there is to know about life and the planet. Physically? I train for a role, but you know i love a doughnut or two now and again.

How do you prepare for a role when you get it
I usually ask a whole bunch of questions, read the script, then go research. It depends what research that role needs but sometimes it requires costume, history, or even just needs inspiration from something else or someone else. I moodboard a lot. That’s one of my favourite prep tools. i then read over and over. I rehearse to myself though. Acting is a really private thing, the process beforehand is a really lonely one. I have to develop alone i cant bring someone else in on that.

How do you create a character from a script into a person
I find similarities between me and that character. Regardless of how much i might feel we aren’t alike, soon enough we are going to be the same. There will always be something you can identify with. I try to understand why they are that way, what are they doing these things for, if its not on the page, find out why or if you starting in the middle of something, then make your own history yourself. I read the lines out in many different ways. Sometimes you completely miss the mark. I really practice natural. Down play, down play, down play. The most important thing is stillness. Learning to be still is so difficult for some people. Don’t mistake stillness for tense. The audience can smell it a mile away.

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Jessica Messenger in Annie

How do you stay fresh on a production set
Its difficult if your working on budget productions or in long long shoots. You do what you can. I have a habit of not eating too much, coffee is a favourite of mine and water. So much water. Food tends to distract me so I’m not a big eater. Its mind over matter sometimes. I take rests by myself. I go off by myself in the work up to a scene. Sometimes if the surroundings are pretty zen then i can stay put where i am. Its all circumstantial.

Describe a memorable character you played
I’ve had a few but i think BETH from Wasteland 2013 has to be one of my most memorable yet and thats probably not to the audience but to me as a performance artist. She was the first real slice of film drama that i got to sink my teeth into, she was complex (thanks to Tommy Drapers fantastic script) she was badass, she was more than just a girlfriend or a wife. it was so refreshing and for that reason ill always remember her.

Explain one creative choice you took on set
I have a few, because i have a habit of ad-libbing and i really love improvisation. That’s my dance background for you. Sometimes you just see things in your character, that the person who wrote it didn’t see or the director doesn’t see, because the character is you, its yours. One of the recent ones is i had had a lot of creative input into the character, down to her makeup, hair and costume, it was really awesome, i got to totally make her my own which rarely happens, I just had this image of her with a bunch of lollipops constantly, she was kind of a bubble gum pop character with girl power bite. I brought it up with the director and he loved the idea. So it was written into the script. By the time we got to set, i had a whole fight scene to do, there came a point at the end of the scene, where i was placed in almost a western stand-off with the assailant, i suddenly had a light bulb moment and said, i really want to pull a lollipop out of my boot. This has to happen. And so it did. And its a great scene, its really quite hilarious. It sounds mad, but in context of the film, it really really works.

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Jessica Messenger in Draper music video

What do you want most from a director
An actor’s director. By that i mean you get 2 types. Directors that are actor directors and those that are production directors. Its great if you get both. The issue is you tend to get a real lack of direction and i love to have somebody tell me what they need and what they want. Im there to serve the production, I’m essentially the productions bitch, so use me! Tell me what you want, i am eager and ready to deliver. Radio silence is the worst worst kind.

What actors do you long to work with
Meryl Streep or Julianne Moore. I know that’s 2.

They have SO much i could learn from, incredibly talented, not nearly cast enough, not nearly written about enough. Powerful on screen and off screen, beautiful, brilliant.

What advice would you give to actors
Learn everything there is to know about life. Everything. Learn everything there is to know about business, marketing, social media, branding. i can’t emphasis learning enough. You need to be in awe of life. You cant possibly be an actor without the passion for life.

Briefly write about your career
This is always where it takes forever to backtrack and write everything about everyone I’ve played. Its all available on IMDb. And if you’re a creative like me I just started a blog for creatives finding their way through show business. Its called Backstagehack

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