Jenny Pellicer on acting, travel and the need for women's stories [INTERVIEW]

Jenny Pellicer was born in Oslo, Norway to a Mexican diplomat father and a Norwegian-American mother. She grew up multicultural and speaks several languages as a result. As she says, she "always loved acting," and so, after getting her law degree from the U.K.'s Durham University, Pellicer decided to dive headfirst into acting in Los Angeles. In short order, she booked roles on FX's The Bridge and NBC's State of Affairs.

A more recent role saw her portray Carolina opposite Catherine Zeta-Jones's Griselda Blanco in Cocaine Godmother. She is set to star in two films releasing later this year: Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich and Disrupted. She heads a production company, Red Jacket Pictures, looking for female storytellers.

Today, she chatted with The Celebrity Cafe about travel, acting, and the need for women's stories in media.

Jenny Pellicer, actress
Credit: Anderson Group PR

The Celebrity Cafe: As a background question, how did you first get into acting and decide it was what you wanted to do?

Jenny Pellicer: Well, these questions always make me ponder my … have an existential crisis. No, I’m kidding. But I always loved acting. I grew up in a household where performing, whether it was me putting on a play with my brothers, singing, dancing, we’d do it as a family all the time. So for me, it was just a way of life.

TCC: I could see that!

JP: And then, you know, when you’re little you just sort of think that’s the way the world is, that’s the way it is in every family, right? It wasn’t until I got older when I was a teenager that I did my first musical—I was Rizzo in Grease at school—that I started sort of getting that feeling that maybe I should do this in life, but I struggled a little bit with recognizing or realizing how to go about it, and have always been so fascinated with human stories or people’s stories, and how by hearing other people’s stories, and sharing, we can grow so much as a community and learn and in a way make the world a better place. So I thought, okay, I’ll go the avenue of becoming a human rights lawyer. So, I studied law. And I guess I did well, because I memorized all the cases because these are stories. When I finished my bachelor’s, I realized this wasn’t really for me, this wasn’t the avenue, and that’s when I started to toy with the idea of actually going into acting and ended up in L.A., the first entertainment town I’d ever been in, and I realized now’s my chance. So I received a lot of support from my family, from my husband, and sort of dived right into it. Been quite a whirlwind.

TCC: I know what you mean about stories, and there are a lot of ways to pursue that, I think. I’m trying that myself!

JP: Yeah, exactly! That’s what you're doing, and I think the connection that can occur through performance, through writing and through reading, and visual art, it’s very important.

TCC: I agree. Would you say you have an acting method or some way to get into character’s heads when you play them?

JP: Until recently, my dear friend and acting coach Elizabeth Kemp passed away a year ago, but she really is the technique that I use, the method. She was the dean of the Actor’s Studio [Drama School at Pace University], so it’s a method background. But it’s so difficult to explain because, you know, it’s so personal, and it really does depend on the character, but one of the things that I love to do, and where I usually start off is writing a diary as the character and really going through their life in my head, and imagining it from what their childhood was like to creating memories to thinking about what experiences they’ve had in their life and what shaped and formed them and I think doing that kind of research and discovering really is such an exciting process for breathing life and truth into a character, and I really love the research element that goes into preparing a character.

TCC: I can definitely see how that would be helpful.

JP: Oh, yeah. It’s a lot of fun. Like everything that’s fun, it takes a lot of hard work.

TCC: Sure! Since Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is your latest role, what can you tell us about your character?

JP: Well, Ashley Summers is the girl next door, the girl that stayed at home or in her hometown, is trying to figure out really who she is. And when she meets Edgar, who’s played by Thomas Lennon, who is friends with her older brother, and they start dating, I think she suddenly transforms into more of a woman, and eventually, a sort of Laura Croft-esque kind of Puppet Master killer, or puppet killer. She goes from being tremendously quirky and wears these outrageous outfits, to annihilating puppets. And to be frank, that was a lot of fun.

TCC: It sounds like it would be.

JP: Yeah, it was. It really was.

TCC: Can you tell us anything about any current projects you’re working on with your production company, Red Jacket Pictures?

JP: Well, right now I’m growing it and insofar as my focus for my production company is right now I’m looking for female storytellers (who I think we can all agree are grossly underrepresented) and so, I’m looking for female directors and producers and writers and stories. I think it’s such an exciting time and I want to encourage this movement that’s happening right now and encourage people to create, so that’s sort of where my company is right now. We’re in the process of acquiring the rights of a few projects, nothing I can really say yet, but yeah, we’re growing it, so it’s in an exciting phase, and I really hope to bring some interesting material to people’s screens.

TCC: I’m looking forward to it!

JP: Thank you. Me too. I have to be very patient though because things take time.

TCC: That’s true.

JP: Yeah, but I think that’s a key. I always tell myself in this industry it takes a lot of patience and perseverance because I think you can’t really wait for people to hand you opportunities, you got to go make them yourself, and as a creative, we’re all thirsty to create, so I love doing just that.

TCC: Kind of off of that question, how did you decide you wanted to focus on telling and empowering women’s stories specifically?

JP: I think that when I saw, a big inspiration to me recently—and there’s been many, many notable female directors, and female producers, and female writers—but I think that when I saw Lady Bird recently and saw Greta Gerwig's work, it really struck a chord, and I just felt like it was incredible to watch a character (that Saoirse Ronan did) that I related with that felt similar or familiar to me or me as a younger girl, and how moving that was, and the mother-daughter relationship was so incredibly well done. That it inspired me to keep telling those kinds of stories and also because I think that it's so important as a young woman and as a young man, as just a young person, when you’re growing up in a world that’s difficult—we live in a really difficult time—just to see stories that allow you to feel acknowledged and allow you to feel that you’re doing just fine. I think that’s a very positive method and quite inspiring.

TCC: I also think it’s a really important thing to contribute to.

JP: Thanks. I’m glad you agree.

Jenny Pellicer, actress
Credit: Anderson Group PR

TCC: So, another one of your recent projects, you played Carolina in Cocaine Godmother. What was it like to work with Catherine Zeta-Jones?

JP: Oh, it was delightful. Catherine couldn’t have been more gracious and generous. It was a lot of fun! For me, one of my favorite roles that she’s done is Velma Kelly in Chicago, I love musicals, so I had to keep pinching myself as I was doing scenes with someone that I grew up watching. It was really bizarre a lot of the time. But she’s just a cool, lovely woman, a human being, so incredibly generous. It was brilliant.

TCC: Good! It’s always nice to hear when people have good experiences.

JP: Yeah, and I think she really is one of those women who’s supporting other women, who are less experienced than her, and she really is that. That’s important.

TCC: That’s really awesome.

TCC: You’re very well-rounded and well-traveled, would you say that has affected your acting in any way? Or producing?

JP: Yes. I suppose it’s hard for me to know really, because I have traveled a lot, and so that’s the only reality I’m lucky enough to know. Yes, in short, yes. I think it does help to travel. I think going somewhere that you don’t know, discovering a new place, whether it’s a new part of town (I don’t think you have to leave the country) you could even just go to a new part of town and meet different people. I think it’s important to widen your perspective on the world and to challenge your ideas and to not keep ideas stagnant, and to be fixed on judgements and to be fixed on views of the world because as everything is constantly changing and constantly expanding and so traveling allows for that, allows for getting out of your comfort zone, and for pushing the boundaries of your own knowledge. I’m constantly curious about the world, of people, of new cultures, of new things I don’t know. Life goes quickly, so I’ve been told, and as every day goes on, you start to really understand that, and I think you’ve got to learn as much as you can. Why not?

TCC: It’s here, it’s available to you.

JP: Exactly! We live in such a connected time, which has its pros and cons. But I think the pro is that we can really have access to such a wealth of knowledge, so why only get it from one place? Explore and learn and see and color your life with new and exciting things.

TCC: That sounds good! That sounds like a really great way to live.

JP: Yeah. Why not, right?

TCC: Yeah, exactly! What advice would you give to aspiring actors?

JP: Let’s see. I think that if you make the decision to be an actor, you have to take it seriously and to honor yourself by being brave, brave enough to say ‘I’m an actor’ even in the face of many no’s that you will unavoidably receive, be persistent because you have to be in order to get through a lot of the rejection and be patient. I think that those three things can garner some success because I think this industry … you have to be in it for the long run, and it has to be a true love. And true love, with true love you have many ups and downs, so it’s sort of though sickness and through health—in health, however, the saying goes for marriage—it really is a commitment, you have to go into it a hundred percent, and just be patient, be patient and persevere. It takes bravery to do that, so they all intertwine. And not wait for anyone to give you an opportunity, go out and create your own. I think that’s one of the brilliant things of today. You can pick up an iPhone and shoot a short film, and meet other like-minded creatives and get together for a weekend and make something. And who cares if it’s good or bad or fails or doesn’t fail; it’s just about doing it.

TCC: That’s very true. I think a lot of that is similar for most creative occupations.

JP: Exactly! I think it’s true for everything. I think any career whether you’re a dentist, or a doctor, or a lawyer, or an engineer, or a scientist, I think you really have to be willing to fail. And not be afraid of it.

TCC: After Puppet Master, what can we look forward to from you?

JP: Well, I’m working with the Three Swedes, as I like to call them, that directed Puppet Master: Sonny Laguna, David Liljeblad, and Tommy Wiklund. They have written another film, called Old Shadows, and offered me the lead, So that’s in pre-production and I’m quite excited about that. And I have a couple other projects, one is Disrupted, it’s coming out by the end of the year. I’m potentially shooting another movie this month, it’s a little uncertain, so I won’t say anything yet. What else? And now I’m working to grow my production company, I’m working on getting the rights to a couple different projects, and I’m in constant building mode for it with my business partner, my manager, Richard Schwartz, and we’ll see what we put together. I’m excited for the next couple years in Red Jacket’s future.

TCC: Lots of things just starting out.

JP: Exactly! Lots of things coming into fruition. I’m really practicing what I preach—my bravery persistence, and patience. I’m being very persistent. It’s the only way.

TCC: Hey, it gets results!

TCC: Is there anything else you’d like to add or cover before we go?

JP: What else? I guess I could say I really enjoyed working with the Swedes. It was really fun doing a movie with fellow Scandinavians, because we kind of have a secret language, because Norwegian and Swedish are so similar we understand each other perfectly. So that was really fun too. Apart from them being great directors, it was just fun to talk to them on the side. They speak in Swedish so I could understand everything. That was a lot of fun, that was a blast. Hadn’t experienced that yet, so that was lovely. Everyone was looking at us like we were crazy, they were ‘what language are you guys speaking?’

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