Jes­sica Chas­tain takes Capi­tol Hill

In po­lit­i­cal-thriller ‘Miss Sloane,’ the Os­car nom­i­nee plays a hard­ened D.C. lob­by­ist

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - LIVING - By Amy Longs­dorf For Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

In just five short years, Jes­sica Chas­tain has gone from be­ing a lit­tle-known stage ac­tress to a two-time Os­car nom­i­nee with roles in a hand­ful of hits in­clud­ing “The Help,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “In­ter­stel­lar” and “The Mar­tian.”

Chas­tain has worked in many dif­fer­ent gen­res, from sci-fi to fantasy to ro­man­tic come­dies, but she al­ways strives to play com­plex women who are at a cross­roads in their lives.

Case in point: “Miss Sloane,” a po­lit­i­cal thriller open­ing next week which gives Chas­tain the juicy role of a lob­by­ist who’s at­tempt­ing to push a back­ground­check-on-guns bill through the U.S. Se­nate. Sam Water­ston, Jake Lacey, Mark Strong, John Lith­gow and Gugu Mbatha-Raw co-star.

For Chas­tain, play­ing Sloane was all about mak­ing sure she got the many lay­ers of this com­pli­cated char­ac­ter on the screen.

“I like char­ac­ters where [I] have to show some re­straint, where there’s op­po­site things go­ing on,” says the ac­tress, 39.

“It’s a strange thing for me to talk about a per­for­mance that way be­cause I don’t know ac­tu­ally when I’m putting some­thing to­gether what peo­ple are go­ing to see. I cre­ate a lot of se­crets for the char­ac­ters that I play that I don’t talk to any­one about, even di­rec­tors.

“I just cre­ate this whole back­story that I hope when peo­ple are watch­ing a char­ac­ter, they see these things just kind of bub­ble up, and they don’t un­der­stand ex­actly what it all means. That’s how I ap­proach ev­ery­thing.”

Along with Daniel Day Lewis, Chas­tain is known as one of the most re­lent­less re­searchers in the act­ing busi­ness. Be­fore be­gin­ning “Miss Sloane,” the ac­tress met with not one lob­by­ist but eleven of them, and grilled each woman about how she does her job.

Chas­tain says that El­iz­a­beth Sloane’s look, right down to her ever-present black nail pol­ish, was a re­flec­tion of the women she met in Wash­ing­ton

“A lot of [the style choices] were in­formed by the women I met in D.C

and how they present them­selves in that world,” notes the ac­tress who adds that only ten per­cent of all lob­by­ists are women.

“Seven of the 11 women I met were wear­ing black nail pol­ish, which, in the past, I would as­so­ciate with rock ‘n’ roll and Goth and all of that. But [the nail pol­ish] re­ally forced me to look at how they were pre­sent­ing them­selves in the world, and the strength that comes from that.”

As she was pre­par­ing to shoot the movie, Chas­tain also paid at­ten­tion to the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign be­tween Hil­lary Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump, and noted the dif­fer­ent ways the can­di­dates were cov­ered by the me­dia.

“There’s a huge prob­lem in the me­dia [be­cause] there was this talk about how much [Clin­ton] smiled or how her hair looked or her pantsuits, or that she was over-pre­pared for the first de­bate.

“I’ve never heard any man be­ing spo­ken of in that way . ... I think the me­dia can do a bet­ter job.”

While some per­form­ers might have been tempted to ac­cen­tu­ate El­iz­a­beth’s more mas­cu­line at­tributes, Chas­tain chose to play the lob­by­ist as a woman whose vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties were right be­low the sur­face.

“I ac­tu­ally didn’t see El­iz­a­beth so much as mas­cu­line but [rather] as just an hon­est por­trayal of a woman,” says Chas­tain.

“Hol­ly­wood films do not [of­ten] show women as am­bi­tious and over-pre­pared and driven and per­fec­tion­ists but also in­cred­i­bly flawed. We see men play those char­ac­ters but we don’t get to see women play those char­ac­ters.

“I think that is what is great about [Sloane]: she chal­lenges the sta­tus quo of what we think a woman should be, and [the movie] shows what a woman can be and is, in many cases.

“I like that be­cause I like messy char­ac­ters and I like women who [aren’t] per­fect.”

PHOTO BY KERRY HAYES

Ali­son Pill stars in “Miss Sloane.”

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