INTERVIEW BY GALAXY INTRO BY ETHAN BREHM
If you didn’t know any better, you would never guess that the ruthless and powerful vampire/oracle on Van Helsing, which just concluded its five-season run earlier this summer, was portrayed by Jesse Stanley, whose comforting enthusiasm and earnest sense of humor are completely mutually exclusive from her character Bathory’s personality entirely.
The young actress really wowed audiences with her conviction in the role and how easily she’s able to cultivate the sense of curiosity surrounding her character. With her performance on Van Helsing, Jesse’s career should be on the up and up, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for her. Jesse gets deep with us about acting technique and performance philosophy, offering advice for aspiring actors alike. We catch up with the young star about what she’s got in store in her post-Van Helsing life and some other things that might not necessarily be on her resume.
SPOILER: Of all the roles you have played in the past, which is your favorite?
JESSE STANLEY: I got to play Malvolio in a commedia dell’arte version of Twelfth Night. I played him as a sort of mob boss gangster and it was the most freeing and fun time I’ve ever had on stage. SPOILER: What attracted you to a career as an actor? JESSE STANLEY: Getting to try out living as different people—with different histories and ways of seeing the world than me. Also, I get a huge rush being on stage.
SPOILER: When was your first role as an actor?
JESSE STANLEY: When I was 7 I played Simba in a summer music theater production of The Lion King. I was tiny and I remember the costume lion head was too heavy for me, so I struggled to keep it level.
SPOILER: How do you show your castmates the importance of communication?
JESSE STANLEY: I think I just try to establish a connection when we’re working through the scene and let them know I am listening to them; that what they are saying to me is landing and impacting how I’ll respond.
SPOILER: How do you like to encourage ideas in others?
JESSE STANLEY: When I’m working in a collaborative creative setting, I don’t hold back. Oftentimes this means I’m throwing out a lot of bad ideas amongst a few good ones.
SPOILER: Describe your acting style.
JESSE STANLEY: Oh, I don’t know! You’d have to ask actors that I’ve worked with.
SPOILER: In which area would you like to improve as an actor?
JESSE STANLEY: I want to get better at judging a character’s actions from my [Jesse’s] point of view. Sometimes I make a snap judgement about something on my first reading of the script and it can be really hard to unthink as I work on understanding what makes the character do the things they do.
SPOILER: Think about a demanding director, professor, or castmate. What made him or her difficult? How did you successfully interact with this person?
JESSE STANLEY: Actors can be total narcissists with fragile egos. I have worked with actors who refuse to be affected or moved by their scene partners and it makes for a difficult scene that is void of anything spontaneous. I’m not saying I always manage to be open to spontaneity either, but I try!
SPOILER: When you suffer a setback, how does that emotionally affect you and your work?
JESSE STANLEY: This industry can be tough on your pride and can really test your perseverance. Setbacks can send me into a tailspin of self-doubt. But ultimately I keep coming back to choosing this career and to the craft.
SPOILER: What sort of acting roles will you be seeking in the future?
JESSE STANLEY: Gritty, unusual, funny women who don’t fit into a particular box. Women who you can’t say, “Oh I’ve seen her before.
SPOILER: What has been your greatest accomplishment as an actor?
JESSE STANLEY: Understudying all of the female parts in Macbeth and being called to play Lady M with one day’s notice.
SPOILER: What’s the biggest audience you’ve performed in front of?
JESSE STANLEY: Probably about a thousand-seat theater.
SPOILER: What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not on set?
JESSE STANLEY: Hang out with my new baby boy!
SPOILER: What director would you drop any project you’re currently working on to go work with?
JESSE STANLEY: Paul Thomas Anderson.
SPOILER: Do you believe in the paranormal?
JESSE STANLEY: Yes, in the sense that I think there are events happening around us beyond the scope of normal scientific understanding. I don’t know what I believe exactly but I think there are other life forms out there that are probably watching us self-destruct and are shaking their heads.
SPOILER: Tell me about what you’re working on now.
JESSE STANLEY: I’m working on an indie feature—producing and acting with a small group of actors and crew who are all close friends. We started shooting at the beginning of the pandemic when we isolated together in a cabin on a lake. It’s a horror film as you may have guessed!
SPOILER: Who is your favorite actor and why?
JESSE STANLEY: It changes all the time when I see new films and series, but currently it’s Frances McDormand after seeing Nomadland. She’s just able to convey such a striking emotional inner life. I could watch her watch TV and I’d be totally rapt. She inhabits the character so fully that she’s totally un-self-conscious—unless selfconsciousness was a facet of the character she was playing.
SPOILER: Do you have any special skills?
JESSE STANLEY: I can pick almost anything up with my feet. I have very dexterous toes.
SPOILER: Tell me something I may not know from reading your résumé.
JESSE STANLEY: I like doing my own stunt work whenever I’m allowed.
SPOILER: What advice can you give to a new actor starting out?
JESSE STANLEY: Don’t assume you’ve ever “figured it out.” The best actors I’ve ever worked with are still very curious about their work.