06 Jun Gettin’ Geeky With Jessica Young
As many of you may recall, I did a mermaid-themed shoot a few months back with two talented ladies, Jessica and Maddie. The shoot had big plans for the bulk of concepts to take place outside, in a much more… mermaid-e like setting, but we got dealt an utter downpour for the entire day. Mermaids are waterproof, lighting equipment is not, so we spent the day cooped up in the studio winging the whole shoot. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Jessica for a couple years now, and we’ve had the opportunity to get to know each other on both a professional level and just hanging out. While Maddie was getting in makeup, I spent a couple minutes with Jessica in the back of the studio making some silly, over-the-top mock modeling images (and only in a way Jessica could pull off). I also sent some questions her way in a quick interview. Here is the resulting product when combining our interview with the photos. Enjoy.
When I arrived to the studio to start the mermaid shoot, you were out dancing in the rain. Would you call yourself a free spirit?
I would definitely say that I am a free spirit. While I can certainly be the classiest lady in the room at a fundraiser, I have been surrounded by too many people in my life who are more interested in clipping my wings so they feel more comfortable than just enjoying letting me be me. I have found that being a free spirit lets you find those who are truly honest with themselves, driven, passionate and want what is actually best for those around them. Being a free spirit keeps me sane and in the company of other talented professionals.
Good answer. So, how ya been doing?
Pretty swell. I have a break between acting gigs at the moment so I’m getting to do a lot of improv.
I’ve seen some thing roll through FB about some of the shows you have been in. So you do a bit of both traditional acting and then the imrpov? Have you or do you think you’ll ever want to do any stand up? And do you favor one over the other (comedy or traditional acting)?
I do a bit of both yes. I didn’t even know what improv was until freshman year of college. Most of my background is in traditional acting but after almost a decade of doing improv I have to say I love them both. I consider acting to be my wife and improv my mistress. I couldn’t live with one over the other, but the ladies don’t mind. I love acting for the dramatic side, and the specificity that you can bring to your characters. The depth to which you can delve in to choices, physicality, vocal work etc.
Do you have any stalkers through performance? Or should I say, “very repeat customers.”
*Laughter* Really only in acting. I have a few big fans that make a point of seeing every play that I do. It means the world when friends come to see the work I do in what I consider to be my career. I may have repeats in improv but to be honest, no one really approaches me after improv shows. I’ll get chatted up after scripted performances, but the only people who make a point of talking to me after improv are people I already know.
Is there another job paying the bills right now?
I work at Red Robin and the Mt. Baker Theatre to pay the bills. I have done stage hand work at the Mt. Baker for a few years now and will work the big touring Broadway shows that come through. I also get paid for about 50% of the theater and film work that I do, along with outside performances for The Upfront Theater.
Nice. And I’ve never asked, how long have you been in Bham?
I’ve been back in the Ham for three years this summer. Woop weird. Time flies!
What brought you here? School?
I originally came for school and graduated in 2010 with my Theater degree from WWU. Moved to NY for a bit and then came back for a variety of reasons. I was planning on moving to Chicago two years ago but Life, as it often does, got complicated and plans imploded. So I went in search of a thriving artistic community and hey! Here it is!
Do you feel that to “level-up” you’ll need to eventually head out to a big film area like Hollywood, or do you feel that film can achieve great things and from anywhere?
I think it depends on the type of leveling up that you mean. I have no desire to be an Equity actor. The type of theater that I love to do, that lights my fire and that drives me is found in smaller spaces and with artists who want to create something that is new. I want to show audiences a moment for which they have no comparison. Something that makes them think, even for a moment, about themselves and the world at large. Theater is not meant to be passive. If you cannot surprise your audience you might as well send them to a movie theater. For this type of work I would be perfectly happy to stay where I am. Film, however, is a different ball of wax. While the PNW is positively teeming with talented directors, editors, actors and film crews, I cannot achieve the professional level that I would like here. I find myself more and more drawn to film the more that I get to do. There is an intimacy and a specificity that carries into film that I find fascinating. You have to be completely honest and unafraid. There is a quote from Claire Danes that I think sum up how I feel about film acting and why I think that I want that to be the direction that my career takes. “Actors want to surprise themselves. When it’s really good, you kind of transcend yourself, and that happens infrequently. Very, very rarely.”
And was there a particular performance (an actor or production) you watched early on which flipped the switch for you and at that moment you decided you wanted to act?
Honestly, I fell into acting. It was kind of weird. I have been involved in music since I can remember. I started piano lessons when I was 5 and learned trumpet in middle school, then switched to percussion right before high school. Percussion Ensemble was the main focus and how I chose what high school I was going to attend. My sisters both had the Theater bug and were involved in productions. My mother encouraged me to start taking voice lessons my sophomore year of high school and my vocal teacher nudged (quite firmly) that I try out for The Sound of Music. Well Leisl was one of my favorite female characters so I did. Turns out my whole family was in the production! My dad ended up playing Herr Zeller, us three girls were the three oldest sisters, and my mom helped with costumes and did some bit parts.
So, us being friends on FB, I see a lot of your posts. A lot of them are centered around the comic universe. Have you always been into comics? And, of course, I can’t ask that question without the followup – who’d you be?
ALWAYS. And frankly the whole comic fad is still a bit unnerving to me. I was the kid who hid her comics in other books coming off the bookmobile so she wouldn’t get beat up.
There are some plus’ that come with the fad – like a shit ton of billion dollar movies. Do you think Hollywood has done a solid job in bringing a lot of these characters to life?
*Laughter* Very true. And it is certainly easier to get ahold of swag without having to wade through the internet for hours on end. If I could be anyone I would be Cassandra Sandsmark, aka Wonder Girl. And I add with the caveat of pre New 52 BULLSHIT. I identify most not only with Cass’s journey to become Wonder Girl, but also with the people who she chooses to surround herself with. And Superboy? First major crush.
To be frank. I think Joss Whedon is one of the only people so far to really understand the comic universe and how it translates to film. People keep trying to make the movies more “gritty and realistic.” Guess what? They’re superheroes. They’re not realistic. They’re modern mythos and to treat them otherwise means you don’t understand the material you’re working with.
Have you seen the new X-Men movie? (Interview predates 2014 release, so referring to ‘First Class’).
I have not. They just keep screwing up the X-Men canon because they’re too afraid to what? Put people in spandex and call them heroes? Own it. Commit to it. The Avengers proved that even people who don’t read comics will get on board to ridiculous scenarios if you commit and don’t apologize for the genre. Much like in IMPROV! BOOM!
So, fill me in on the mermaids thing. Is it strictly a mermaids thing, or did Ariel play a big part in that?
(read mermaid introduction to get caught up on this part of the convo). Ariel didn’t play a terribly huge role. I honestly didn’t watch a lot of TV as a kid. For me it came from Irish and Scottish folklore. Selkies and the like. I think they’re the most amazing creatures on the planet.
How do you feel about the whole Disney Universe?
I like the disney universe as a whole. I think it’s an amazing reflection of the values present in each time period during which the movies were made.
Do you think there is a sliver of a chance mermaids exist?
I almost just threw my computer! If by chance you mean yeah they do and someday I’ll meet them? YES
So you wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if one swam up to you. You’d be like, “Yep I knew all along.,” and high-five them?
HELL YEAH. A merman swims up to me and asks me to take this potion, grow a tail and explore the seas? Put a fork in me I am DONE.
So if you could pull a “reverse Ariel” and trade your legs for a tail and lose your voice, would you do it?
Yup. Right now. Same reason I always keep my room clean. So if the Doctor shows up I can head out no regrets. The dates would be interesting…
Does your ideal man out there have legs or a tail?
*Laughter* My ideal man, I’d be happy with either. But I have yet to find many who are as supportive of my love for merfolk as the ladies I run into. So we shall see.
Awesome, thanks for the time, Jess.
No problem! Geeking out about comics, mermaids and acting is always a pleasure. Thank you!
You can find Jessica Young performing in and around the Bellingham, WA area. She is a regular performer at the Upfront Theatre.