Why Jessica Biel’s latest role in The Sinner is a career game changer
FROM ingénue to Hollywood producer, Jessica Biel’s career has grown more slowly than most.
First hitting the small screen at the age of 14 in family drama 7th Heaven, to more recently taking time out to nurture her young son with actor and pop star Justin Timberlake, Biel has been satisfied with seeing her star rise exponentially.
“When you’re young you don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t know what you want, or what the goal is. It takes a while to really stand on your own two feet in your career and go, ‘OK, this is where it was before and this is where it is now. Where do I want it to go?’,” she tells TV Guide.
Now, at 35, she has taken control: as the star and executive producer of new Netflix thriller The Sinner, playing a wife and mother whose uncontrollable rage leads her to commit an outrageous, utterly unprovoked act of public violence.
Based on the Petra Hammesfahr novel, Biels says signing on for the project was “a no-brainer”.
“I hadn’t worked in a long time because of my two-yearold son [Silas], and as soon as I read it, I felt ready to go back to work. It inspired me to the extent that I was willing to take the time away from my family to do it … the train got on the tracks, out of the station, and off it went.”
It’s a dramatic change of pace from the actor’s earlier roles, which capitalised on her girl-next-door appeal in Accidental Love and A Kind of Murder.
“I love that my character is very complicated and very layered. I am interested in peeling away those layers and getting to the bottom of her story, looking at how she became this young woman who does what she does, behaves the way that she does, even after she admits this crime,” she says.
“What interests me about this woman is that we’re all capable of certain acts and we’ve all thought about doing something violent and crazy, but we don’t. I like exploring the idea of what is it [about] someone [that causes them to act] on those impulses.”
Ask Biel what it takes to get her angry and she laughs.
“This might sound really terrible, but it’s the truth. Having a child, I have never experienced more emotions in all my life, anger being one of them. Simply put, sometimes your two-year-old makes you crazy.”
Juggling career and motherhood has its challenges, she admits, with the couple recently moving their family to New York.
“There are people everywhere and cool things to look at. My kid loves it. He’s particularly excited about the trucks that pass by every two seconds. We don’t have to do much to entertain him. We sit on the corner and watch everything go by. It’s a great afternoon.”
For Biel, who has often been dismissed as “just another pretty face”, The Sinner has afforded her the best reviews of her career.
“I’m so pleased,” she smiles, nodding. “Honestly, there have been so many times in my career that I can say, ‘I don’t feel terribly proud about this thing’, or ‘I didn’t really like the project’.
“But with this particular one, it’s so nice to do something that you’re genuinely proud of.”
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Above, Jessica Biel plays murder accused Cora Tannetti alongside Bill Pullman in the Netflix drama TheSinner; left, Biel with her actor and singer husband Justin Timberlake.