Jenni Melear transforms into a badass feminist from the 1970’s for the dark and
twisted thriller, Bullitt County.
Originally from Florida, Jenni earned a BA in political science before studying
acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York.
Jenni made her onscreen debut at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in the short, A. 45 at 50th, opposite James Cromwell. She went on to attract attention at more than 25 film festival worldwide for her starring role in the critically successful feature film Dead Dad. On television, Jenni has appeared in shows such as Fox’s New Girl and Disney Channel’s Shake it Up. Proving a triple threat, Jenni also wrote, produced and starred in the award-winning short, Funny Love, and directed the one-man show Baby Boy, which earned ‘Audience Choice’ at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. She also co-founded the new Los Angeles-based production company House MacLeod, to further create original film and television projects.
recently, Jenni has been killing it starring in the indie thriller feature film,
Bullitt County. Jenni appears alongside
writer/director, David McCraken, as part of a group of four friends who confront
greed, corruption and murder on the Bluegrass Bourbon Trail. The film
originally premiered at the Austin Film Festival before hitting the circuit, earning
Jenni two Best Actress nods and several other awards for the film. It went on
to release in AMC Independent Theaters last October and is now available everywhere
indieactivity: How did you get into acting?
Jenni Melear: I started out as a dancer and was kind of terrible – I have zero flexibility and goofy limbs. So people would say nice things like “you sure have great stage presence!” instead of – “wow you suck!” I discovered that it was the story telling and emotion in dance that really spoke to me, and was lucky enough to figure that out around 13-years-old when insecurity and self-loathing are at an all-time high. So I not only found my life’s passion at a young age, I found it in something that encourages both confidence and really being in touch with yourself.
indieactivity: What helps you create a character?
Jenni Melear: As an actor I wouldn’t say I create the character, the writer has put a lot of thought and work into that. It’s my job to find deeply personal ways to relate to this human being with a different set of life experiences than my own, and bring her to life in a truthful and three-dimensional way.
indieactivity: Is there a specific moment when you know you’re fully prepared?
Jenni Melear: Nope. I think if you’re having thoughts like “”I’m fully prepared right now!”…you’re probably not. You’re in your head. There are certainly the more intellectual and external aspects of preparation, but the emotional preparation in the hours and minutes before and during shooting are hugely dependent upon deep relaxation and presence in the moment. Basically when I feel like a big open wound who will burst into tears if you look at me sideways, I’m probably prepared. Fun, right?!
indieactivity: Briefly explain your role in the new film Bullitt County.
Jenni Melear: Robin is a 1970s feminist badass brilliant literature professor. She loves her friends but isn’t willing to lose herself to them. After 10 years apart they reunite for a bachelor party, and what starts as a fun escape from reality takes a dark turn. She’s forced to revisit their complicated past, and ultimately defend her life…but I’ll say no more ‘cuz spoilers!
indieactivity: What was your first impression of Robin?
Jenni Melear: I was just so excited to read a script with a complex, funny, intelligent, flawed, and incredibly brave woman. And it was written by a straight white dude, so huge props to David McCracken. I’m not famous so people aren’t sending me awesome scripts every day – in fact, I read a lot of crap. So it’s always a thrill to be offered such an interesting and well written part like Robin.
indieactivity: How do you keep your performance fresh during long hours on set?
Jenni Melear: Real talk – this is HARD. Especially on an indie when you’re shooting several scenes up to 16 hours a day and they’re like “hey can you knock out 20 takes of this emotionally climactic moment real quick?” on hour 14. This is where your training comes in. The emotional muscles you’ve built over years of doing it again and again. You have to dig around in your tool chest and find something that will get you there, when everything in your body is screaming for you to “indicate” so that you can be done and we all can go home. Resist this urge! Do nothing at all before you fake it. Oh and have a killer playlist. Music is a godsend for reawakening whatever it is you’re trying to access after many draining hours of filming.
indieactivity: What’s the best advice a director ever gave you?
Jenni Melear: I’ve worked with some wonderful directors, but nothing will beat the advice from my acting teacher in Meisner technique, William Alderson. He says “leave yourself alone.” In fact, he probably said it to me 4000 times before it sunk in. Don’t push, don’t force, don’t show. Just be present, connect with your fellow actors, relax, and let “it” happen to you. Is that a super boring actor-y answer?? Probably, but I don’t care!
indieactivity: Any other tips for actors you’d like to share?
Jenni Melear: Find a technique that works for you, taught by a qualified and committed teacher, and study it with your whole heart. There are endless options for classes that cover things like “scene study” and “how to audition”, especially in LA, but that’s not giving you the skill set you need for take after take, day after day. There’s no “learn acting in 10 easy steps!” short cut and there’s no substitute for truly studying your craft with teachers who know what they’re doing.
indieactivity: What do you want to change about the business?
Jenni Melear: More women filmmakers! Lots more. The vast majority of writing and directing in this industry has come from the perspective of men. I’m interested in the life experiences of women of all ages and diverse backgrounds, and ensuring their stories are told and voices heard in film and television.
indieactivity: Who is your creative idol and what do you love about their work?
Jenni Melear: Well, Lucille Ball and Mary Tyler Moore are the reasons I became an actress. Cate Blanchett is living perfection and everything I want to be. But my current very real obsession is Shonda Rhimes. I’m a writer as well and recently devoured both her Masterclass and book “Year of Yes”. Literally how is she still telling captivating stories after 15 dang seasons of Grey’s Anatomy?! It also seems like she truly values and respects actors and what they bring to the table, which isn’t always the case. Shonda is queen. All hail Shonda.
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