True Blood’s vampire goddess Lilith, otherwise known as British former supermodel-turned-actress Jessica Clark, talks her first leading role in Nicole Conn’s new movie ‘A Perfect Ending.’
Clark won over the viewers of A Perfect Ending as high-priced escort Paris, the second her splendid silhouette emerged in the luxurious hotel where she would meet her clients. Tall, dark, exotic, with the most hypnotic pair of eyes, the 28-year old approached her first feature role with an innate elegance and a jaw-dropping performance, living up to the talent of her seasoned and brilliant co-star Barbara Niven.
The film, a romantic drama about Rebecca (played by Niven), a middle-aged wealthy wife and mother of three grown-up children, whose life is void of any purpose, and the wake up call that would ultimately transform her lackluster reality thanks to Paris, is planned to be screened in over 20 German cities as of March 14, 2013 before the countrywide DVD release. After the tremendous success in the US, Canada and UK, A Perfect Ending continues to gauge the attention of European art house movie lovers.
The grounded, eloquent and openly gay Clark spoke with Digital Journal, among others, about her experience working on this movie, its crossover appeal, her collaborative work with Niven and Conn, and gave us a hint into Season 6 of True Blood.
Congratulations on your fantastic performance in A Perfect Ending!
Thank you so much. I appreciate that. I had a really amazing time making the film, and I'm very proud of how it turned out.
The response you’re receiving from people who’ve seen the film is absolutely incredible!
Yes, it is. I'm extremely lucky and appreciative. People have been wonderful and seem to really be responding to the film and to the characters of Paris and Rebecca. I think that's very gratifying when you put so much work and love into the work that you do, having people respond to it is an amazing feeling and I'm extremely grateful.
Nicole Conn found you through Facebook, after you friend requested her. You also moved from New York to LA changing careers from fashion industry to acting. At what point did you know that acting was something that you really wanted to pursue?
I'd been studying acting for about three years while I was still a model living in New York, so I knew that I wanted to explore in myself and have a different kind of creative challenge and a different form of creative expression. And then, it just became something that I completely fell in love with, and I almost couldn't help but wanted to sort of do it professionally. I actually sort of fought against it for a while. It's another unpredictable career, and highly competitive. So, I sort of resisted wanting to do it professionally just because of all those, just being aware of what it'd be like starting all over again but I couldn't help it, it was where sort of my passion lay and just where my creativity lay. I sort of couldn't help it.
I've done a short film and a couple of TV things, but I'd never done any kind of feature film. I was still pretty early on in my career. Nicole is a filmmaker, and I was really interested in film, plus we’re both gay, so I guess we knew a lot of the same people. It popped up on her feed. So, I just got this message from her, sort of saying, "I know this is a really strange question, but are you an actress?" And I was like, "Yes, absolutely." And then she contacted my manager, and that's sort of how the ball started rolling. The year prior to that, I had been in LA. I was still living in New York at the time, but a short film that I was in, that I filmed in New York, it was in Outfest, which is a big gay and lesbian and transgender film festival here in LA.
So, I came out here for the screening of my short film, and Nicole's previous film, Elena Undone was headlining the Women's Night for that year's festival. So, I went to see it and obviously, it was wonderful and I got to see Nicole and Marina [Rice Bader - Executive Producer of Elena Undone and A Perfect Ending] speak about the film and the project, and sort of how passionate Nicole was about it. And the person I was with at that time was like, "You should be in one of her films." And I was kind of like, "That would be amazing, but let's not get ahead of ourselves." So then, for it to be auditioning a year later for her, and then working with her on A Perfect Ending and being directed by her, it was quite the experience. It was wonderful.
What was your first reaction when you finished reading the script?
I think I had a lot of different reactions as I was sort of going through it, because obviously, you get caught up in the story. When something is so beautifully written, you get caught up in the story and in the characters and in their journey, and it's unexpected. One of the things that's so wonderful about it is that you're never quite sure where it's going and how it's going to end, so it took me on a real journey. And then, as I finished the script, I was like, "I absolutely want to play Paris." I believed immediately, even though I wasn't necessarily the most experienced of actors that I could bring something specific to Paris. I really felt that I understood her and could tell her story in a unique way. That's pretty rare that I have that kind of response to a character. So, that made me kind of very committed to getting the part.
Paris is so complex. What personality traits do you share with her?
I think what I responded to and what I think I share a lot with her is that she has a very calm, strong exterior, and is very together and professional. But underneath, she's sort of much more vulnerable and conflicted, and trying to find her place in life.
Photo: Marina Rice Bader
Paris (Jessica Clark) is also a gifted pointillism artist in 'A Perfect Ending'
I also think that the beautiful thing about how Nicole writes and the characters she creates is that, from the response of people who have seen the film, people very strongly identified with Paris or Rebecca. I think there are sort of universal themes of what it is to be a person, what it is to be a woman. But for me, that was what really spoke to me about Paris' experience.
Can you tell me a little bit about the dynamics on the set? What was it like?
Oh, the set was wonderful. You sort of become such a family, because you're creating this whole world. We're away on location, we were all living and filming in this big hotel, the crew and the cast. And when it's a passion project like that, and everybody was so excited to be working for Nicole and there was like a real bond, there's a real camaraderie between the cast and crew, there's a real bonding process. Take Barbara who always sort of majorly contributes to the atmosphere that's on set, to the demands and the behaviour. And she's so lovely and positive, and warm and gracious, and so welcoming. She knew everybody's name like the first day she was there, that's the kind of person that she is.
And that's how Nicole is, too, incredibly encouraging and supportive. So, everybody just kind of fed off their energy and people were wonderful. There were, obviously, very intense, emotional parts of the film, and then there were really, really funny scenes as well. People were responding to all of those. When we were filming very emotional scenes, everybody was incredibly respectful and supportive, and just very empathetic of where the cast had to be. With the funny scenes, we were laughing out loud a lot of the time. When Nicole called "Cut!", everybody was giggling. You felt part of the process, and we really felt like we had something good. It's long hours and all, but everybody was just thrilled to be a part of that, and bonded very much. There were actually friendships that sprung out of the filming weeks that have continued to this day. So, it was wonderful.
Why do you think you and Barbara clicked so well as actors and as characters?
I think it's one of those chemistry things. She's wonderful, extremely talented and just a beautiful, beautiful person, so that obviously helps a lot. Nicole can speak to that a little bit better. She always says whenever she's casting her films that the chemistry aspect is so important to her and she'll have chemistry reads. It's sort of like a magical thing that happens.
Given this chemistry that you shared and the level of comfort between you two, did that make it easier or harder to do those intimate scenes together?
That definitely makes it easier. I think that that's what you hope for because then, the characters are able to take on a life of their own. You're really living as the character in those scenes and I think that the camera really picks up on those every non-verbal things, so it definitely made it easier. When you really have to go to deep places, very deep emotional, vulnerable and intimate places, the more trust and confidence you have in your scene partner, the better, because it really enables you to let go of any concerns that you may really have. We're just women and actors. We have our own concerns and insecurities. But once the camera starts rolling, you're able to trust your scene partner.
Photo: Marina Rice Bader
Paris (Jessica Clark) helps Rebecca (Barbara Niven) redeem her life in 'A Perfect Ending'
We were able to trust each other in that scene and know that with whatever ebb and flow of emotion and everything that came, the other one would be there to sort of catch that and support that, and continue to keep it flowing along. So, that was a beautiful thing, to be able to trust. And the chemistry just sort of lets it feel even more real and raw. I'd be really happy to hear that the viewers have really responded to those scenes in that way. They feel incredibly real and honest to them, which, I think, is a huge compliment to myself and Barbara.
Has this part of playing Paris had a transformative effect on your approach to acting, considering that this was your first feature, your first major role?
I think I learned a huge amount from the whole experience. You learn on every job, but in a film such as this, a feature, where you really get to travel through the life of the character, a very transformative time for the character, you can't help but be affected by that and have your skill set sharpened. You can't help but develop a more nuanced way to communicate what the character is going through. And also, just being around Barbara and learning from her, being around Nicole and interacting with them, and hearing how they work through the characters, and having Nicole explain why she needed something, why she needed Paris to be a certain way at this particular point, and just helping us get full understanding of every tiny nuanced detail that goes into that level of a feature film. For sure, my skills evolved and were heightened through A Perfect Ending.
The growing popularity of the film is something Nicole also talked about a lot. People from different corners of the world, gay or straight, have a strong positive response to the message of this movie. What else, other than the internet, of course, which has a huge contribution to making this film accessible to such a wide audience, do you attribute this global popularity to?
That's a good question. I think that the themes of the film, the themes of perfection, of transforming your life, taking control of who you are and who you want to be, and how you want to live, are universal themes. I think also that Nicole's created a really beautiful, unique film. The two women protagonists fall in love and share an experience, but I think it's sort of an art film in the cinematography and the way it tells its stories, and the multi-layers of the different stories that are happening in and around Rebecca and Paris' experiences. She just created a really complex, beautiful film, and I think the score is amazing and the way it's shot is amazing. That has crossover appeal to so many different types of people, like gay or straight. But also, I think if you love romance, if you love art house independent film, you'll love it. There's comedy there. There are so many different things for people to respond to. I'm extremely excited to see how much appeal it's having in lots of different countries. That's very gratifying.
Right on. What have you personally taken from A Perfect Ending?
I think it's never too late to live the life that you want to live and to be who you want to be. You always have that choice, no matter how stuck you feel because of the circumstances, your external circumstances, your environment or how you feel about yourself inside. There's always an opportunity for change. You have the right and the ability to be happy and to be loved and to love yourself. And at any point in your life, you can make that decision that you need to go, that you want that.
Let’s talk a bit about your part as Lilith in True Blood. What could the Truebies expect from Season 6?
I can tell you that you definitely haven't seen the last of Lilith.
How many hours of make-up did you have to go through for that scene where you emerged from that pool of blood?
For every time that I filmed, it was about four hours in make-up, with two people working on me. And then it took about an hour and a half to remove that at the end of the day as well. It's been crazy, but it looks amazing. It was so fun because you sort of need to be transformed into this supernatural creature. I would look in the mirror, I'd forget, I'd be walking onto the set and sort of catch myself in the mirror as I was walking, and was like, "Whoa! Oh, oh! Oh my God!” [laughs] I scared myself a couple of times.
You're active on social media on Twitter and Facebook. You also have an official website from where your fans can order your 2013 calendar. What do you make of this whole social media phenomenon and how much does it affect you as an actor and a public figure in this realm of social interaction?
I'm a fan of social media because I like the immediacy of it. I like that you can put a thought out there. What I particularly like about it, I follow different kinds of people. So, I follow people who are in the industry, films. So, you get to read interviews or behind-the-scenes things, or different essays about things that you wouldn't necessarily think about. And I follow a lot of world news and political things, all in real-time. People will tweet where they are around the world, about whatever's going on, like the uprisings in Syria or things like that, that are real-time things coming through on Twitter and things like that. I'm sort of a political news junkie.
And then in terms of my roles as an actor, I really like the opportunity to interact with people that like my work or are interested in what I do. And I have enough to take, get feedback from them and interact with them, and that's fun and it's interesting, and it just kind of keeps it real. I think also, it's very important because especially when you work on really interesting, but more independent projects, like A Perfect Ending, the more of a presence you have on social media and the more interaction you have with people who are interested in your work, the more people you're able to reach, to encourage, to seek out those kind of films and to seek out kind of quality independent film like A Perfect Ending.
I love that as well. And if somebody who interacts with me on Twitter or Facebook, sees my film and may come in, use their social media to talk about the fact that they love the film and so therefore, more people would see it, which just has this kinda like, this snowball effect that I think is so powerful. That's really important because the more people that see the kind of work that's out there and able to seek it out and find them, then the more that validates the work being created in the first place, and then the more quality projects you can create and you can be a part of. So, if people talk about they're not being... There's not enough quality, there's not enough films about women's life, there's not enough films about LGBT, there's not enough films about whatever it is...
But the more responses you can get and the more you can track that on social media and show that, then the more incentive there is for people to be like, "Oh, okay there is a market for it, there is an audience for it". And there are some more of equal quality and things like that, so yeah, I'm a big fan of it. I try to do as much as I can. I try to keep up with everybody. I try to like interact or thank people or whatever, as much as I possibly can. Sometimes I get a bit behind, but I usually catch up.
Do you have the time to read everything?
I definitely try. [laughs]
What else are you working on? True Blood is in production right now. It's Season 6 that went into production, so there's that. And then in LA, it's pilot season with all the new shows they're casting, so I'm just sort of out, and auditioning, and doing a lot of different things with that. Hopefully, there'll be another show or something in the near future. It's my goal, as well as True Blood.
'A Perfect Ending' screenings start in Germany on March 14 and the DVD will be released nationwide on March 29. The film's soundtrack is avalailable for download on iTunes.