“When you film out of order, you just don’t want to wait for lightning in a bottle for a scene to kind of find its feet.” – Jess Weixler on why she works with an Acting Coach
In Entanglement, Jess Weixler stars as Hanna, the would-be sister of Ben (Thomas Middleditch), who helps drag him out of his self-imposed shell and into a world of excitement and adventure. When we first meet Hanna, she’s the typical romantic comedy archetype, but Weixler quickly turns that upside down. “I tried to drift her more and more real as it went on, as you kind of discover what’s really going on,” she said. The film is funny, sad and dark at times and Weixler is wonderful.
Weixler (The Good Wife) chats about her role as Hannah, her time at Juilliard and how meditation has helped her with auditions.
I would think that this would be such fun part to play. I mean, she’s confident, ballsy… basically everything that most people would love to be on a daily basis.
Jess Weixler: Yeah, it was really fun because I wanted to sort of start her in the place that is the pixie dream girl of romantic comedies who would be the ideal woman to this man of everything that’s missing. Somebody exciting, and fun, and brave, all that stuff. And then sort of sort of drift her … I tried to drift her more and more real as it went on, as you kind of discover what’s really going on, since I think this movie really tries to turn the romantic comedy on its head. The idea that there’s some dream girl like in the movie Serendipity from the ’90s that’s going to come along and be exactly what you wanted and were missing.
Yeah, now that you mention it, you totally did make that shift of like the typical romantic comedy dream girl into something totally real, as it were.
Jess Weixler: Yeah, at first I was like, “How do I make an idealized person?” And I just … I started watching Marilyn Monroe, and James Dean and I was like, “What is it about these people that make other people crazy about them? Why are they these icons? And tried to form something in that zone, but then shift to a more whole, a more real person as it goes.
Yeah, because at first she’s kind of everything that he’s not, and then you make it real.
Jess Weixler: Yeah, but the piece of him that’s missing … He’s trying to find the part of himself that he needs to be happier.
How much work do you put into going over the script, and researching things before you get to set?
Jess Weixler: I spend a good amount of time working on stuff before I get to set. Yeah, I read the script over, and over, and over, an over to try and have context with the bigger picture.
And I often work with a coach because it’s just really nice to feel thorough. When you film out of order, you just don’t want to wait for lightning in a bottle for a scene to kind of find its feet. I like to enter in sort of with the feeling that I can throw myself into it, and be there with the other person because I’m not afraid that I don’t know what it’s about.
How did you end up getting this role? Was it just like a typical audition?
Jess Weixler: This one I got really fortunate. Jason James has seen me in some other things and then just reached out to me to do it. And originally, I read it and I was like, “I want to play Tabby. I want to play Hannah. I want to play Tabby.” But he convinced me that Hannah would be good and, yeah I wound up loving playing Hannah because of the shift we had talked about before.
How cool is it to be offered something and not have to worry about auditioning?
Jess Weixler: Oh, it’s the greatest. It does not happen all the time. Let me say this is not like a regular occurrence. Yeah, but this one was great, and I love Thomas Middleditch and Diana Bang and I was like, “They’re wonderful of course. I want to play with them.”
I think he’s great, and he’s great in the role, too. This part in particular is something that you don’t see him do often.
Jess Weixler: Yeah, it’s nice to see him feel sad in a way that isn’t so … I don’t know how to put my finger on it, but he feels very real to me in this despite how funny it seems to be at some times because there are funny moments, but it’s not most of the time going right for the comedy. I really like how real he feels. I really feel for him in this.
Yeah, you’re heart kind of goes out to him especially towards the end. You co-wrote and directed a film a couple years ago. How was that experience, and would you do it again?
Jess Weixler: Yes, I absolutely would. Yeah, that movie, Apartment Troubles, which is like a buddy comedy but it veers to being about the breakup of a friendship. Like, there are breakups of love relationships in movies, but not, I mean, there are getting to be more and more just what you do in a co-dependent relationship.
And it was so fun being on the other side of the camera also, and piecing it together with a friend because I co-wrote and co-directed it with my friend, Jennifer Prediger. And it was nice to go, “Okay, we have each other’s back. Let’s do this, and trust each other, and sort of share taking the reigns.”
I just had the best time seeing the way a movie gets made, really, from the other side. Post production blew my mind the most. Making a movie on set I was familiar with, I felt comfortable and confident on set while we were shooting and post production was just a complete learning experience. Editing is crazy.
Jess Weixler: Oh, yeah. I love that you watched this move. Yeah, I can’t believe we got that cast right before they each had their shows. It was right before Jeffrey was doing Transparent, and right before Last Man On Earth was happening, and Megan … It just so happened … And we had known them from working with them on other projects, and they really became in because they’re lovely, sweet people and we were like, “Sure, we have some time. We’ll do this with you.”
You went to Juilliard. I’m endlessly fascinated by people who went there. I talked to Carrie Preston a while ago and she said it was like going to war and acting boot camp at the same time.
Jess Weixler: Yes, because you’re there, and you’re working on yourself and with the same small group of people because you only have 18 to 20 people in each class from 7:00AM, 8:00AM in the morning until 11:00PM at night.
Yeah, it’s pretty intense because you’re with the same people and everybody’s trying to discover what they’re capable of from morning until night every day. And I really appreciate that they are not telling you you’re great all the time. They’re really breaking you down, so you get better, and pushing you to play parts you’re not comfortable with, which in retrospect is a great gift half the time. Yeah, it was a lot of work.
What was your worst audition ever?
Jess Weixler: Oh, my gosh. My worst audition ever? How do I choose? I can be so bad at auditioning because I get so nervous. It’s a real problem.
Jess Weixler: Oh, yeah, even still, but it used to be quite bad. I would get hives before something I really wanted. And so, I had a few auditions there especially in the beginning where as I walked in the room I would feel my temperature go up, and I would look down at my chest and I would be like, “There they go.” And I would know that hives were just starting to break out on my neck and up to the bottom of my face. I was like, “Damn it. I can’t control this. I’m having some kind of physiological reaction to the stress.” And then eventually, actually, with the help of a coach and some people, learned to focus and breathe and meditate, and meditating has really made my life so much better, so that the nerves don’t overwhelm me.
Is that something you’re doing every day?
Jess Weixler: I try to, yeah. I mean, every now and then I miss a day, but I did the TM meditation that David Lynch, the foundation he had sort of helped start, and it’s great because it’s 20 minutes twice a day, though sometimes I just do it once a day for 20 minutes, but it really just makes you feel grounded.
And even if its not like a great meditation where you’re trying to clear your mind the whole time it’s just calming. It’s like a moment to yourself. It’s just like, “This is just a moment to myself where I don’t have to worry about anything.” And it presses the reset button for me.
I definitely want to try and start doing it, and I think it would be fantastic. I’ve heard so many good things about it.
Jess Weixler: It’s pretty great, and if you have a good teacher, too, they tell you that they don’t have to be perfect with it because you’re trying to clear your thoughts is also to stressful. It’s just not possible to not think thoughts. Yeah, so I’ve found it great, TM.
Entanglement opens in theaters and On Demand / Digital this Friday.