INTERVIEW: Jessica Rose On the Vulnerability in Acting and Her Short Film, ‘Alison’

Jessica Rose is a creative powerhouse and you may recognize her from television shows such as Man Seeking Woman and Saving Hope. She has also written and starred in her own short film called Alison which explores the intimacy between a couple during one particular strange night. Read more below to find out what acting means to her and her upcoming projects.

Your short film, ‘Alison,’ is so simple yet conveys so much about a relationship in one single night. I love how the short started out a bit silly then the emotional roller coaster escalates. What was the inspiration for it and what did you hope to show people?

Thank you! I think relationships are a subject that have always fascinated me. There is a specific kind of intimacy you develop in long term relationships that I hadn’t seen on screen before, and a particular kind of work involved that isn’t often talked about. There is a vulnerability, sometimes a very dark side, that we share with our partners that no one else sees. I know many couples who appear to always be fighting or dealing with some sort of drama, but they remain extremely determined and committed to staying together. Love is complicated, and our need for intimacy and partnership is powerful. I’m fascinated by the equation behind it: what and how much we are willing to endure in order to keep a relationship going, and whether the rewards of companionship outweigh the challenges.

What was it like writing and starring in your own film? What was the best part and what was the most challenging part of the process? Would you hope to do it on a bigger scale one day?

The best part for me is always the acting. Writing and producing initially began as a response to my frustration at not being seen for the kind of parts I really wanted to do at the time. Writing tends to be the the hardest for me—it takes a great deal of time and discipline and I don’t always have enough of either—but Alison actually came to me fairly quickly. In this case, the most challenging part of the process was probably the edit. The film was so close to me that it was hard to have objectivity at times, and in an editing room you have so many options and variations that you really have to be clear about what story you’re telling. I went a little cray cray trying to get it right. And yes, I totally want to do it on a bigger scale one day. I hope every project I do gets a little bit bigger and more ambitious. I don’t know if I have the guts to direct myself just yet (seriously, how do people do that?), but directing film is absolutely on my bucket list.

What kind of project would you want to produce in the future?

So many things! Right now I’m working on my first feature script, which of course I’d love to produce eventually. Generally I gravitate towards things that are smart, funny, a little absurd, and express something meaningful (without being pretentious, hopefully!). So I’d like to try to bring more of that into the world. I also hope I can play a role in creating more interesting, complicated, and diverse roles for women. We keep recycling ideas and remaking movies that were already hits twenty years ago when there are so many important stories that have been left untold. I hope I can shine some light on people who deserve to have their stories known.

How do you prioritize working as an actress and working behind the scenes? Did you always know you wanted to be part of the whole creative process?

I didn’t always know that, but I should have. I’m a little bit of a control freak (my husband puts it as: “it’s because you know your ideas are usually the best!”…hmm.) and do love wearing different hats. I had written and directed stage plays in the past, but I never saw myself producing film until a few years ago. At first it felt like more of a necessity so that I could start playing roles and being a part of projects that were more exciting to me, but then I realized how fulfilling the process is. There is something so deeply satisfying about seeing a project through from inception to completion, and really getting to express ideas and creativity in a multitude of ways. I also love collaborating and seeing the process through the various lenses. As an actor you’re often just a vessel for someone else’s vision, and that can be really wonderful and meaningful, but there are creative limits. I like being empowered to tell the stories I think are important.

Do you have any upcoming projects that you can talk to us about?

I do, but so much is under wraps I can’t really talk that much about them yet! I’m currently filming a role on a mini series that should air next year, but I can’t name names yet. You will also be able to see me in roles on CTV’s The Detail and CBC’s web series My 90 Year Old Roommate. I also filmed a very cool sci-fi short this summer called, Be My Guest.

What has been your favorite parts about pursuing a career in acting? What kind of advice would you give people, especially fellow actors in Toronto?

My favourite part is really the acting itself. There is an open-heartedness and vulnerability to the process that I am a little addicted to. We spend so much of our regular lives guarded and protected and shoving feelings down, and acting is this space where I can express and explore these taboo things in this pure and uninhibited way. It’s actually very hard work; depending on the role it can also be an enormous amount of energy. But it’s just so gratifying to me. I’ve always been deeply empathic and getting to know the core of people is something I care a lot about, so I really do make it my goal to do justice to the lives and stories I get to embody. I get a lot of value from that, knowing that maybe there is someone out there feeling these things, living these same circumstances, who might get comfort or relief or joy from watching this.

As far as advice goes, I can only tell you what worked for me. First, I think finding a supportive community is really important. My career changed when I started collaboration and connecting with my fellow artists, supporting them rather than feeling I was in competition with them. I found many of them in acting classes, which would be my next point: I really do believe in getting some form of training. Being in audition rooms or on a big set can be a very intimidating thing even for the best of us, so knowing how to be consistently strong is really important. I also suggest finding a way to meet casting directors if you aren’t getting in rooms: go to meet and greets, or find casting workshops (make sure they aren’t big scams!) and show them what you can do. Finally, and maybe most importantly, make stuff! Don’t wait around for the phone to ring. It doesn’t matter if you write it yourself or find someone to write for you, but in this day and age there are many ways to take power over your career and show people who you are.

Now for the important question: if you were to become a super hero (or perhaps, a super villain?) what power will you possess and what will you use it for?

The power to transform hate into empathy. Maybe we would all be able to get along a little bit better.

Watch Alison:

Follow Jessica on Twitter at @thejessrose.

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