Friday, September 7, 2007
A Monster Cast Interview: Jennie Townsperson
Jennie Sword is a truly nice person. She has the role of Jennie the Townsperson on Jericho and does an outstanding job. She graciously accepted my request for this interview and I appreciate it. I continued to think of more questions for her and she answered all of those as well. Those answers will appear here tomorrow in Part II.
Talking to Jennie has been a great pleasure. She is kind, funny, very intelligent, and speaks highly of Jericho, the cast and crew, and the fans. I predict Jennie is on her way to bigger roles and I wish her the very best. But, Jennie, you can never leave Jericho!
1. How did you get into the acting business?
There’s no short answer to this question. I was born and raised in Southern California. Since my Dad is a retired film and sound effects editor, I’ve been exposed to and influenced by the film industry all my life and always had my own love for film and story telling. Doing school plays was probably my first effort at seeing if I’d enjoy acting. I’ve always been an artsy type that has had many things I’ve wanted to explore in life. So I didn’t know for sure that’s what I wanted to do that early on but I knew I loved acting. I was also a very shy little girl so that was probably the biggest thing I worked passed over the years in doing other things. After I graduated high school, I took some time off to decide what to pursue. Soon I started taking acting classes for fun and registered with a background casting agency and worked on a few films. I loved it but my love for other things also needed to be explored. I decided to go for a degree in photography. Once I finished, I had started to work and sold a few pieces then things quickly lead me into the digital side of the art. I took it a few steps farther and went to school for visual effects. When I finished the program, I specialized in creating realistic atmospheric effects for film called visual effects animation. While I loved it at first, the technical side of it became very tedious for me. The creative side of it was still very gratifying. I did three projects and then it just became clear to me how much I had missed acting. Along the way, doors started to open for me to get back into acting. I started up classes again, started doing auditions and got very serious this time around because all of a sudden, I wanted it bad enough to do the work for it. I was definitely bitten by the bug!
2. How did you get the role of Townsperson on Jericho?
After being back in classes for a year or so, my acting coach had to take some time out to do some commercials. I decided it was a good time for a break because I was preparing to start looking for principal work but at the same time, I was also very anxious to just get back onto a set for a little while without the pressure of getting the job. So I started doing some background acting. Initially, I only intended to do it for a little while to get the feel of being on a set again and also to try and finish earning my eligibility for getting into the union. Around that time, a new show called “Jericho” had been filming its first few episodes. I had heard of the show and its exciting premise and decided I’d like to work on it when they were looking to cast townspeople. I submitted for it with the casting director and she booked me for the show since I fit what they were looking for. I really enjoyed the work and how well I was treated by far in comparison to the few other things I had worked on at the time, so I decided to continue booking the show as long as they’d have me. Before long, they kept me on as a regular and I continued to work the rest of the season. I had fallen into this great experience when I only planned on doing it a little while. What a lovely gift it has been to work here with these lovely people. I’ve earned my union eligibility and I still come back! That should say a lot.
3. What do you enjoy most about being on Jericho?
I enjoy working with a large group of people who feel the same passion for what we are doing as I do and the family type of bond we created so easily in the process. I love that there were no egos to worry about. Everyone was always so happy to be there and that made the long hours easy. Everyone respects each other's work and there wasn't ever this feeling of anyone thinking they were more important than the other. To me it felt like we were all important and welcomed. I think that's rare here but it's the way it should be – it shows in our work and those are the types of productions I want to be involved in. So it will be interesting where my career goes from here after such an experience. Not to mention, I absolutely love these unique stories we are telling and being lucky enough to be a part of that. Everything on this show is top notch – especially the writing. There’s nothing else like this show being done. I love that it’s different.
4. How did you hear about the Nuts campaign?
I heard about the nuts campaign on the CBS message board as well as on Shaun Daily's blog talk radio show. I had started watching the message board a few days before the upfronts came out and the show getting canceled. I remember the emails between some of us that were going around talking a lot about how we might actually get canceled and so I think we were all nervous and stressed and trying to find out as much as we could and that's when I saw how much the fans were talking. Then after we got canceled, it was amazing to see what the fans did. They jumped into action with emails, phone calls, letters and sending nuts and that was one of the things that really stood out right away. For me, I really loved the metaphor for what it meant - from the meaning of "nuts" in the storyline of the season finale to what it meant in the campaign. It's beautifully poetic from my point of view.
5. Where were you and what did you think when you heard Jericho had been renewed?
I had worked a long day on a pilot so when I came home late that evening I turned on my computer to see what the latest was on the campaign. There had already been some exciting talk between many of us those last few days hearing that CBS was trying to do something in response to your awesome efforts to save Jericho. The biggest sign of that was that they halted striking sets and returning set dressings to storage. So I had a few emails waiting for me that night. The first one I had opened was from my friend Jeff Porter, our set medic, saying congratulations! So I first heard it from him. There was a really beautiful email from the producers to the cast and crew that had me feeling tears of joy for the show and us and all of you - the Jericho Rangers and your huge accomplishment. It was a really incredible moment taking all of that in. It's historic.
6. What is the most difficult part of your job? What are the benefits?
A difficult part of my job on Jericho is that I care about every aspect of making the show good. I’ve always had an eye for details and continuity so sometimes I get distracted by it if something seems off. If I bring something I notice to the right person’s attention however, it’s always appreciated here. We all care. That might not be so good for me to do on just any other set. But a more difficult problem I have is with certain background actors in general. Usually Jericho is cast really well with our core group but there are times on larger calls where you get people who don't care about the show or doing a good job and just want to collect a paycheck. That hurts the industry in my opinion. I would love to see the requirements for acquiring a job in background acting changed. Like requiring training, an audition or interview as well as doing background checks. There are too many people doing this kind of work who do give it a bad name in this industry which isn't fair to those of us who take it seriously and work hard. People see the difference on our show having talented background actors who love to act. We’re proud of that.
The benefits are working with these wonderful people who've welcomed me into this wonderful family. I have learned more from working with all of them than I could have ever hoped for. It surpassed my reasoning for going back to work on a set because I’ve gained much more than I had expected. I feel very lucky to have found my footing with added self confidence for working in this industry by working here.
7. What other roles would you like to do eventually?
Well from here my focus is turning again towards doing principal work. So while I'm ready to try a variety of rolls and genres, if I had my choice, I'd love to play good dramatic rolls in film or a good TV series. I’d really love to have a key roll in a big epic adventure film. That would be so wonderful and a dream come true for me if I got that opportunity.
8. Jericho has fans from all over the world. Does that surprise you?
Yes and no. I saw several posts written by people from different parts of the world during the campaign to save the show. Back then I was certainly surprised. I had no idea how many countries were airing our show. But now it doesn’t surprise me and I’m thrilled to know they too have fought to save it. If they didn’t know it before, you all have certainly made the world aware of what Jericho is.
9. What do you do on the set when you aren't actually filming?
Well, luckily they keep me pretty busy most of the time. I don’t enjoy too much down time. I like to work. But when we do have long breaks, I usually find myself either writing or doing something creative. I crocheted a really nice scarf last winter. I also tend to visit and bond with my friends on the crew if they aren’t busy at the same time.
10. What are your acting plans for the future?
Currently I’m looking for representation and getting my package together to do a lot more auditioning after we wrap Jericho season 2 in the coming weeks. For now, I’m living in the moments and enjoying being back. But I will soon be looking at doing some commercial work as well as principal parts in film and television. I’m pretty open to see what comes to me. I love to explore and see where the road takes me as long as it makes me happy and I can continually learn new things.
Any comment you'd like to make?
I would just like to say how thankful I am to all of the fans – the Jericho Rangers who brought us back with such passion and grace. Thank you all for being so kind and encouraging in your posts and messages to me. This is certainly a time I will never forget and I am so honored to be a part of this. I knew I was a part of something special while working on season one – but none of us could have imagined the gravity of that and all that has transpired and all that has come from it. Now we have this huge extended family from what we knew we had on set. It’s truly amazing.