- Birthdate: March 24, 1977
- Birthplace: Sacramento, California
- First Role: ER
Jessica Chastain’s Origin Story
Jessica Chastain was born on March 24, 1977, in Sacramento, California. Her father was rock musician Michael Monasterio, but she did not have a relationship with him. In fact, before he passed away in 2013, she very rarely even spoke about him.
Although she had zero relationship with her father, she did have one with her mother, Jeri. It was a tough childhood as Jeri struggled to keep things together for Jessica and her two brothers and two sisters. In 2003, Chastain lost one of her younger sisters, Juliet, to suicide after she had battled for years with drug addiction.
What Chastain does say about her family is that she “[grew up] with a single mother who worked very hard to put food on our table,” she told the Irish Times. “We did not have money. There were many nights when we had to go to sleep without eating. It was a very difficult upbringing. Things weren’t easy for me growing up.” She also said that after her mother remarried, it was the very first time that someone (her stepfather) made her feel safe.
Jessica Chastain was only seven years old when she began to show interest in performing. This came after she saw a local production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. After that, she would put on shows with other children.
She went to El Camino Fundamental High School but was not a very good student. Although she considered herself to be a loner, it was the performing arts that became her outlet. She found interest in Shakespeare and even more after attending the popular Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Unfortunately, Jessica Chastain encountered too many absences during her senior year in high school to be able to graduate. She eventually did get her GED and from that, she went to the local Sacramento City College.
Jessica Chastain only attended Sac City for a year before finishing up at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. This led her to her first professional stage debut in a San Francisco production of Romeo and Juliet where she played Juliet.
It was this stepping stone that led Jessica to an audition for Julliard in New York. This is where the late Robin Williams became a big part of Jessica Chastain’s early acting career as she was granted a scholarship for Julliard that was funded by Williams.
Although talented, Jessica Chastain suffered from major anxiety. Her first year was tough and she fear that she was going to be dropped from the prestigious program. She made it through her first year and it was during her second year and a production of The Seagull that allowed her to build her confidence. Jessica Chastain eventually graduated from Julliard with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.
Her First Role
Jessica Chastain’s first nine projects were all TV work. Her very gig was in 2004 on the hit medical drama, ER. For the next four years, she got work on shows like Veronica Mars, Law & Order: Trial by Jury, Close to Home, The Evidence, ‘Til Death, and Journeyman.
In 2008, Jessica finally moved on to feature films. Her first feature was called Jolene and it was based on the popular Dolly Parton song. From that time on, Jessica very rarely returned to television roles as she was firmly locked into feature films.
Her Movie Career Takes Off
2011 was a big year for Jessica Chastain as she was trying to establish herself as a major player in Hollywood. That year, she has six films released. Her first film was called Take Shelter, and it was the film that began to get her some notice.
The next film that brought her some attention was the experimental Terrence Malick film, The Tree of Life, in which she starred opposite Brad Pitt. Although she never received a traditional screenplay from Malick, she signed on anyway. Many of her scenes were improvised as was much of her dialogue.
Of her six films in 2011, her biggest success came from the film The Help, which saw Jessica Chastain co-star alongside Viola Davis, Emma Stone, and Octavia Spencer. For her role in the film, she received Academy, Golden Globe, BAFTA, and SAG Award nominations. She lost each and every one to her co-star, Octavia Spencer.
Jessica Chastain’s performance in The Help brought her more prominent roles. There was the documentary Wilde Salomé, Texas Killing Fields, The Color of Time, and Zero Dark Thirty. She followed that amazing performance with the underrated horror film Mama and then followed that with the movie Salomé which was based on the documentary she had been in previously.
From there, Jessica Chastain’s resume is even more impressive. There was Interstellar, A Most Violent Year, The Martian, Crimson Peak, Miss Sloane, The Zookeeper’s Wife, Molly’s Game, Woman Walks Ahead, and It Chapter Two. For those who have followed Jessica Chastain’s career, you will know that one thing about her and for those who haven’t followed it closely enough, well explain. She is not afraid to show some skin in her movies.
Jessica Chastain’s Production Company
Acting isn’t the only thing that Jessica Chastain does. During her acceptance speech for the MVP Award at the 2015 Critics Choice Awards, Chastain lamented the fact that roles were lacking for women across the industry. After the show, she was questioned about what her plans were to bring inclusivity to Hollywood.
“I went ‘well, okay, here I go. I need to put my money where my mouth is, and I need to start creating a company that will offer some opportunities for women and also highlights the stories that perhaps have been unheard and invisible,’” Chastain explained during a Variety Power of Women: Conversations event.
From that came Freckle Films, Chastain’s production company. The first project from Freckle Films was the Jessica Chastain-led actioner The 355. Unfortunately for Freckle Films and the cast that included Chastain, Penélope Cruz, Fan Bingbing, and Diane Kruger, the movie barely made a dent at the box office. The Simon Kinberg-directed film was made for $60 million but to date, has only brought back $27 million of it. Ouch.
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