Your new movie Mother's
Day Memories - in a few words, what is it about?
To me the final film ends up being about secrets… and the fact that none of
us truly know the motivation behind someone’s behavior.
What did you draw upon to bring your character to life, and how
much Jody Jaress can we find in her?
Well, there is always
a lot of Jody Jaress in the characters I portray. You see, for me, when I
take on a project, I realize there can be no reality if I’m not living
as myself, having made the same choices that the individual made to end up
where they are in the story. I then relate my own personal experiences to
those in the story and trust the director’s vision.
character in Mother's
Day Memories is suffering from Alzheimer, did you do any special
research on the subject prior to filming?
Day Memories, Alzheimers and/or dementia had already touched my personal
life, so I had some emotional knowledge. Then of course, since this film
was loosely based on Bill Hoversten’s family [Bill
Hoversten interview - click here], I wanted specifics. Bill
and I spoke a lot about his relationship to this particular time in his
mother’s life. I have great admiration for his approach to this very
poignant and personal story. A good deal of my dialog was the actual
verbiage used by his mother. Very daunting for us both, especially while
How did you
get involved with the project in the first place?
friend of Bill’s, and mine also, suggested Bill contact me. We met,
along with Matthew the director, and had a great compatible lunch. I truly
was honored to be included. Think about it, I was being asked to portray
someone’s real life mother. Quite a delicate decision.
can you tell us about Mother's
Day Memories' director Matthew Michael Ross, and what was your
At that first meeting with Bill, the
three of us seemed to have a common ground for filmmaking. I must say that
it was lovely to be allowed and encouraged to share ideas and suggestions.
And if you knew me, you’d know that I would be doing just that!
(teehee). On the set, Matthew respected the different ways that each of we
actors wished to be adjusted, or worked with. Good directors understand
that each actor responds differently to redirect etc. With me, it’s
simplicity. “Please don’t start explaining why you want something…
one or two descriptive words is enough.” We did well together… and he
let me stretch a moment longer to see where I would go, thus knowing that
he could choose what he loved and needed in the editing.
Do talk about the shoot as such, and
the on-set atmosphere!
Oh my goodness… well there was
minimal crew. Everyone was on their game at all times. I never heard nor
felt any complaints from anyone about anything. We filmed at three
locations. Two homes, and the nursing facility. Matthew was able to
surround us with a young talented crew. The director sets the mood for
each and every day… plus we were all so close in proximity that respect
and consideration was prevalent from everyone. Our darling Bill, was the
creator/writer/actor and first time producer. He had his hands full,
that’s for sure. He did a great job… and still is, with the screenings
and setting up interviews, and all that goes with promoting a film.
Any future projects you'd like to
I have several areas of creativity and projects:
Actor. Writer. Director. Singer. Private coach. My acting is airing on two
different national commercial spots at the moment; I have two shorts in
post, and one film waiting for the pandemic to allow us to return to work
on set. I’m deep in rewrites on an action/fantasy/romance feature film,
Return Of The Sacred. I’m obsessed with tightening up the story/sub-text
etc. Directing a film is not on the horizon at the moment, but I’m keep
busy directing/taping/editing my actor clients in their self-tape
auditions, demo reels and professional image. Plus since the pandemic,
instead of teaching at home, I teach acting privately on Zoom, and am
hired by theater companies to coach their members, also on Zoom. Of
course, any singing gigs or jam sessions are done on Zoom.
What got you into acting in the first place, and
did you receive any formal training on the subject?
that goes back to grade school! I always wanted to act, sing and dance the
very moment I saw photos of kids in the Sunday papers wearing costumes. My
parents were understanding and generous enough even though we had meager
monies, to allow me to take a variety of lessons throughout my school-age
years. Training was only in theater acting, stage craft and production at
Will-O-Way Apprentice Theatre in Michigan, but not for film nor
television. Of course I read up on technique and other’s experiences and
terminology. I visited the home of Lee Strasberg and his family, back in
the day, as an aspiring young actress wanting to audition for the Actors
Studio in NYC. Unfortunately at the time, Lee realized that I was too
young to join the group. He said to please come back in a year. I never
far as I know, before you got into movies, you did a lot of theatre - so
what can you tell us about that aspect of your career, and what prompted
your move into the filmworld?
Right off the bat, movies
were my focus… even in grade school. I sat in movie theaters every
weekend. I lived on that screen no matter what! My parents knew nothing
about who, where, how to help me, other than seeking out the best theater
training nearby. And I’m so happy and fortunate that they did. To me,
theater is basic to an actor’s growth, understanding, concentration,
consistency and career development. I earned several awards, and was
honored by Sir Basil Rathbone [Basil
Rathbone bio - click here] when he requested a command performance from
me as Kate in Taming of the Shrew. I was fortunate to work with amazing
actors such as George C. Scott, and William Holden’s son, dynamic actor
West Holden, in Equus. West received Best Actor, and I was nominated as
Best Supporting Actor. My acting abilities seemed to become instinctual
and logical as I finally moved into film and television after I moved from
Michigan to Los Angeles. I have never adhered to a particular style of
acting other than to be real… don’t get caught acting. I do my very
best at the time.
What can you tell us about
your filmwork prior to Mother's
I need to be very honest with you. I
have difficulty in answering interview questions. I’ve lived so many
lives in my life, it’s hard to know what’s interesting to readers or
not. What to exclude or include. Okay… a few films that I absolutely
adored working on before Mother's
Day Memories were: Chain Link, an
award winning, gritty feature film written/directed/edited by Dylan
Reynolds [Dylan Reynolds
interview - click here]. We ended up becoming a true extended family of filmmakers, and
we’re still in each other’s lives today. Rare indeed. Another award
winner, Fragile Storm is an amazing production directed/edited by Dawn
Fields. This short stars Lance Henriksen, myself and Mackenzie Mason and is
about my husband living up to a promise with a devastating and unexpected
twist on an ailment. I loved going to New Orleans and filming 2Bedroom
1Bath, a horror film by Stanley Yung. FYI, I was NOT the victim! Horror
comics and films were one of my favorites growing up. I’ve worked with
iconic Oscar winning directors; Mike Nichols for one on Charlie Wilson’s
War; worked with Oscar awarded actors; Adrien Brody, Tom Hanks, Julia
Roberts, Timothy Bottoms, Ernest Borgnine, etc. in films such as Hollywoodland,
Chinaman's Chance and others.
Working in the movies for quite
some time now, how do you feel the filmworld has changed over the years?
change is good. It’s necessary, even though we sometimes say, “If it
works, don’t change it.” Do I like or am I comfortable with all the
differences… yes and no. For instance: Back in the 80s, 90s as an
actor our audition process was very personal. Casting, directors,
producers were in the room, not on computers or in another state on Zoom.
Most actors like myself miss that real live connection. The relationship,
the bonding in getting to sense their energies, attitudes. Being able to
“read the room” was for the filmmakers advantage as well as ours the
actors to better evaluate whether or not you want to work together. It’s
not just talent that gets you the bookings. On the other hand, this new
technology has opened up more opportunities for actors and the filmmakers,
because there are now no initial limits when seeking out talent, or even
locations. The romantic process of working as a craftsman shooting on
film, was amazing, beautiful, delicate, slow, limited and nearly extinct
now. Thank goodness there are still young and old filmmakers intrigued
with this vintage process and are excited to learn the craft. Of course,
they use today's digital technology also. And why not. Time is
money… digital is fast, with a growing amount of creative functions.
Decades ago, I was not so politically aware regarding the discontent over
the hiring of men over women etc. Or ageism, etc. Women have been
directing films from the beginning of cinema — Alice Guy is credited
with directing one of the world’s first narrative films in 1896, and
women have continued to break new cinematic ground, overcoming plenty of
resistance in more than 100 years since. I knew that in the 1800s, the
20s, 30s and 40s there were more female directors, writers,
certainly more than are talked about today or even acknowledged. Dorothy
Arzner (1927) directed Paramount's first talkie, later directing Katharine
Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Lucille Ball; Lois Weber, highest-paid director in
Hollywood (1917); so many others too! Oh yes, we all know about Ida Lupino
(1949) famed actress and just as famous for her many film noir directing
techniques and screenwriting career, especially The Hitch-Hiker
(1953); Chantal Akerman (1975), etc. Well, we’ve had set-backs and
up-swings, and maybe that will balance out, whatever that means. I just
want opportunities for everyone interested. Whoever is the best for the
particular film’s genre, is the one that ought to get the job. Each
generation brings their new technology and passions. That’s as it ought
to be. That’s how we have gotten to where we are… and that’s good.
being an actress, you're also a very accomplished jazz and blues singer -
so do talk about that aspect of your career, and your musical influences?
mother wanted me to be a singer more than an actress, I think. I really
enjoyed singing and performing live. I was twelve when I recall starting
to sing country western music at fairs, horse shows, Elks clubs, Knights
of Columbus etc. Also, with Mother as guardian, I was allowed to sing with
the bands at some local bars, as long as they served food. Eventually, I
spent many years entertaining our, the USA, service men and women on naval
ships and at camp sites. For those years, I was awarded the prestigious
USO pin. A beautiful honor. I suppose my country music meshed into
American Standards, when I was let go as a regular singer on a local Los
Angeles country western music television show. I wasn’t “country”
enough they said. Oh well, onward I go. I ended up as a jazz dancer at the
Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas for a couple of years… and would jam as a
singer with the Ink Spots at the New Frontier. Absolute fun! Let’s see,
after a marriage and two precious children, a divorce, and a tragedy no
parent ought to bare, I had more life to cry about sharing it in my
singing I guess. I began connecting to the pain I heard in Billie Holiday,
Janis Joplin, Nina Simone and my singing took a turn. I’m a stylist. A
story teller, whether it’s in films or live on stage singing. After more
years of singing, what some called jazz and blues, I became one of the
favorites in the Los Angeles jazz venues. One particular night at the
famed Hollywood Studio Bar and Grill, blues icon Linda “the kid”
Hopkins, approached me and said “Honey, you know how to sing the blues.
Yes, you do.” I’ve now been honored by UNESCO on International Jazz
Day, by the Duke Ellington Society, NAACP Beverly Hills and
Jazzabration Foundation, and the City of Los Angeles, for my years
performing and contribution to the jazz and blues community. I’ve been
inducted as a Jazz and Blues Living Legend as I continue to inspire others
to achieve their passions. Their dreams.
would you describe yourself as an actress, and some of your techniques to
bring your characters to life?
Oh my, I’d like to hear
how “others” would describe me as an actress! I must know what the
story is truly about and then I can figure out my purpose and
responsibility in the story. I like having some backstory if possible, or
make it up for myself. I study the script like a detective would delve
into a case. Totally curious about everything. I must trust my instincts.
Being real is the key. I don’t focus on memorizing the dialog, just
understanding it: Like, if I lived this life from start till now - and
made those choices in my life - how would I, Jody, respond to the
circumstances in the film’s story. I’m me. I’m not becoming someone
Actresses (and indeed
actors) who inspire you?
Such a long list! The usual:
Katharine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant,
Anthony Hopkins… I don’t know. So many. Character actors as well. Some
inspire me for just one particular film, but not for most of their work.
There is something I learn from nearly every actor I watch… from
excellent ones to “how the heck did they cast this person”-bad (in my
Again, there are many. A few: Gilda, Raiders of the
Lost Ark, Dark Victory, most film noir, Arsenic and Old
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Moulin Rouge.
... and of course, films you really deplore?
not certain that I have any. When Howard the Duck originally came
out (1986), it was the first time that I ever walked out of a theater
because I didn’t like the film. But today, I like it! Different times in
your life, like food, your tastes change. Although, I’m not a great fan
of Blazing Saddles. Oh, and I don’t like films on the order of Dumb
and Dumber, etc.
Your website, social media, whatever else?
else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
my, let’s hope not at this point, eh?! You had great questions. Thank
you for your interest.
for the interview!