Meet the Foxy Lady of André 3000’s new Jimi Hendrix biopic
Ten years ago she was a household name playing Fair City’s Jasmine, then Jade Yourell followed her heart to London... and her career hit the doldrums. Now the Galway girl is back – with some sultry new movie roles, she tells Jason O’Toole
I like doing love scenes …as long as
the guy is cute
We’ll certainly be seeing a lot more of actress Jade Yourell on our cinema screens in the coming months — and I mean that quite literally. Not only will she appear as a foxy lady alongside Outkast superstar rapper André 3000 in the Jimi Hendrix movie All Is By My Side, but the Galwegian actress has even stripped off for an upcoming comedy — in a scene during which she wears only melted chocolate.
Up till now, this head-turning beauty — whose unusual surname is derived from Norman ancestors who ‘arrived here with Strongbow’ — has been best known for her roles in the likes of Fair City and a handful of quirky Irish movies. She also attracted attention in the last decade for well-received performances in the Gate Theatre’s critically acclaimed productions of Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard and Oscar Wilde classics.
All those years of grafting now certainly look set to pay off for the actress, who has piqued the interest of Hollywood moguls with her turn in the Jimi Hendrix biopic. But it’s more likely that the next talking point for cinema audiences will be the 34-year-old — who jokes she’s in the ‘dirty 30s’ phase of her life — stripping completely naked in her next feature film, The Food Guide To Love.
A slightly red-faced Jade — who is about to jet off to LA to meet producers after securing her US work visa on the back of the Hendrix movie — laughs nervously as she recalls shooting scene. In it, she opens the door to Richard Coyle, of Channel 4’s Coupling, completely naked — and covered in chocolate. ‘My character’s a bit of a cougar,’ she says. ‘I invite him over to talk about some of his recipes, I answer the door — and he doesn’t expect me to be covered in chocolate spread. And I’m just like, “Eat me! I’m your chocolate bar!”’ She roars laughing.
Jade admits it was such an embarrassing part to shoot that she had second thoughts about doing the nudity scene only minutes before filming it. ‘It was pretty challenging because it brings up all your insecurities as a woman in general. So, you’re kind of going, “Oh...” It wasn’t just in front of one guy — it was in front of about 30 cast and crew. You just go, “I’m in the moment and I’m doing it!” You do have a minute before you go on and you’re thinking, “Why did I take this role?” People are dabbing you with chocolate, you’re looking in the mirror and you have second thoughts. But it was worth it.’
How does she find doing love scenes in general? ‘If they’re good-looking, you don’t mind,’ she laughs sheepishly. ‘If they’re not, you go, “I’ll get into character.” As long as it looks real, you don’t really care.’ Jade concedes she’s been hit on by some famous actors but refuses to divulge names. ‘Just in a very polite way, you go, “No, that’s not happening.” I’d think, “Who do you think you are?” People are people — I don’t get starry-eyed, let’s put it that way. Sometimes you just kind of go, “Ah, that’s gone to your head now!” Men will be men,’ she giggles.
Growing up in Galway, Jade was four years old when she first declared to her parents that she wanted to be an actress. And then, at age 13, she asked to see a psychologist because she was being bullied. ‘I was quite an introverted child,’ she says. ‘I needed to talk to somebody. I was bullied at school and I had quite a hard time.’ It’s obvious there are lingering emotional scars and that Jade still finds the experience painful to talk about, all these years later. ‘It was pretty horrendous. It wasn’t so much physical, but it was definitely emotional and mental... Yeah, it wasn’t good. We won’t concentrate on that,’ she says, quickly moving the conversation on. After that she decided to go to boarding school in Dublin, at the Loreto in Rathfarnham, because part of the curriculum included acting classes with the legendary child acting teacher Ann Kavanagh. While initially lonely at her new school, Jade soon came out of her shell and thrived under the tutelage of Kavanagh, who has discovered many talents including the Bolger sisters Sarah and Emma. (Coincidentally, Jade’s younger brother, Camille, recently ‘fell into acting’ at the age of 30 after a friend got him a role in the smash hit Jack Taylor.)
It was actually a meeting with Gabriel Byrne that spurred on Jade’s acting career. The actor grew up with Jade’s mother, Helena, and persuaded his agent Teri Hayden to take her on as a client. Jade recalls, ‘Gabriel Byrne basically said to me, “Listen, react and don’t be dreamy about the business; it’s a hard life.”’ She has now spent practically half her life in
‘I answer the door, wearing nothing
but chocolate spread, and I say, “Eat me – I’m your
acting, after first treading the boards at the Gate aged 17 — she went to an audition for a minor role in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia and somehow came away with the lead. She then starred in Fair City from 1999 to 2002. ‘I was warned by everybody not to do it. It’s a decision I don’t regret, actually. I always go by my instincts. Yvonne was my cousin in Fair City. Ciara O’Callaghan played her. We were the best of mates and, of course, our characters hated each other in the show. We’d be walking down the street and people would go, “Oh my God!” They’d actually believe what was happening in the storylines, which I find crazy. People would look at you and go, “Are you friends?” How strange!’ she laughs.
For someone who professes not to have any regrets in life, it’s quite clear that Jade does rue her next move after Fair City — emigrating to London to be with her English actor boyfriend. ‘ I was warned by Ann Kavanagh, “Never go out with a musician or an actor,”’ she recalls, shaking her head.
For the next few years, Jade’s career hit a major low as she failed to break into the acting world in London. It was a case of rejection after rejection. ‘A stupid mistake,’ she sighs. ‘That was hard. I got a really big agent and everything. I was doing so well here and I went to London — but of course nobody knows you over there; you have to start again.’
To make ends meet, Jade took a job as a waitress. ‘I got very down, very depressed. A few issues reared their little ugly head… Let’s just say, that helped me grow up big time. There was no messing about there. We broke up because there was no love there any more. I was relying on him… he wasn’t a good boy,’ she explains, conceding that the relationship ended because he was unfaithful. She now tries to look at the positive aspects of her sojourn in London. ‘I ended up working as a maître d’ for a Michelin-starred restaurant. Even though I didn’t [act] that much over there — because I had no profile, I had no reputation, and I stayed for him — I learnt so much about myself and I met so many different types of people that I actually use now for characterisation. So, it wasn’t a dead end — it was actually a learning curve.’
Licking her wounds, Jade returned to Ireland and was nominated for a Best Actress IFTA for her role in Happy Ever Afters, in which she had to wear a wedding dress. It was a part, she confesses, that has turned her off marriage — for now, at least. ‘Marriage and me — I think that will be down the line,’ she laughs. She adds that her ‘very cynical view of marriage’ stems from her parents’ break-up. ‘But they’re best friends now. It is tough, but I’ve been away from home since I was 17, so you roll with the punches…’ Still, deep down she remains a romantic. ‘I believe in love. I just don’t think I’ve met the one.’
She’s excited about participating in the Vintage Fashion & Décor Fair taking place at the Royal Marine Hotel in Dún Laoghaire today, from 11.30am to 6.30pm, with over 50 specialist traders showcasing a wide range of vintage fashion. ‘I said yes to it is because I get to dress up. They’re putting me in all the original vintage stuff so I can’t wait!’
After this, Jade will jet over to Hollywood to discuss movie roles on the back of All Is By My Side, which was directed by Three Kings writer John Ridley. Speaking about her part opposite André 3000, she says, ‘I can’t talk too much about it because of the confidentiality agreement. But I play Roberta Goldstein. It’s basically about the time before [Jimi] made it. He made it in England before he made it in America. My character is a Jewish heiress living in London. She’s a monied, New York gal — she was part of his clique.’
Jade’s clearly thrilled about finally getting her shot at Hollywood stardom. ‘It got etched into my memory, the experience of London: going over too soon. This film is opening a few doors.’ And she’s ready to make her entrance.
Left: Jimi Hendrix, the subject of Jade’s upcoming movie All Is By My Side, performing in the UK in 1969. Above: A young Jade as Jasmine with her onscreen granny Hannah (Pat Leevy) in Fair City