Interview With Jess Weixler, Star Of ENTANGLEMENT
We had the chance to chat with Jess Weixler, star of indie film Entanglement. We discussed what drew her to the project, her interpretation of Jason Filiatrault's mind-bending script, her process as an actor, and what project she's currently working on.
On the verge of the U.S. premiere of her upcoming film, Entanglement co-starring Thomas Middleditch, I had the opportunity to speak with Jess Weixler about her involvement in the film. Entanglement tells the story of a suicidal man (Middleditch) who finds out that he almost had a sister (Weixler), who was returned to the adoption agency by his parents as a baby. On his quest to find her, he falls in love with her, complicating things rather significantly. A film that puts a unique spin on the romantic comedy formula, Entanglement is a story about loving yourself entirely, accepting your positive qualities and faults and character flaws equally.
Weixler plays her free-spirited character, Hanna, with an infectious, mischievous note to it and her exuberant confidence in the role counteracts Middleditch’s depressed, self-deprecating loneliness perfectly. Weixler is eloquent, astute, funny, and refreshingly unpretentious. During our interview, we discussed what drew her to the project, how it compares to a role such as Teeth, in which she plays a polar opposite character, her process as an actor, what is was like working with Middleditch and director Jason James, her interpretation of Jason Filiatrault’s mind-bending script, and what project she’s currently working on.
Alex Arabian for Film Inquiry: I really enjoyed your latest movie, Entanglement, it was incredible. Excellent job.
Jess Weixler: Oh, good. Oh, I’m glad.
What aspect or aspects initially drew you to this project?
Jess Weixler: I really liked that this one kind of turns the romantic comedy aspect on its head a bit, that there’s some like quirky, confident, exciting person that’s going to sort of wake you up and complete you. [Laughs] That it sort of turns that on its head. And I really enjoyed thinking about what makes people idealize other people.
Jess Weixler: And I’ve had a hard time sort of talking about it too much because I don’t wanna give too much away, but making yourself whole – I just really like the idea of accepting your whole self and what other people might love about you as a whole, not just the charming parts, also love the not charming parts.
Yeah, that’s a great theme in the film. So, between a film such as Teeth where you’re kind of shy for a significant portion of the film and still finding yourself, and Entanglement, where you exude confidence, you’re very self-assured, and you show such range, which role was more challenging, or rather, maybe further from your personality for you?
Jess Weixler: Oh, interesting. I mean, Teeth she really goes from A to Z since it’s her story. She is the Thomas Middleditch of that story [laughs], where she really has to make a full journey into discovering that she’s a woman, and that she’s a woman with power. This was like a whole other acting exercise for me because I was creating the idealized version of what he thinks he wants and needs and what he thinks is missing in himself; that he wishes he could be confident, and he wishes he could be carefree and do exciting things and be brave.
So, for this one, I was studying people like James Dean and Marilyn Monroe to see what makes people so obsessed with them, or that they seem so charming to everyone, they’ve become icons. And then hopefully [the reason] the movie goes on Hanna’s journey as a character in and of herself I think is to get more and more real to where she suddenly has, like, a backstory about her own adopted parents, and I think their love scene is quite real as she moves towards realness, as she moves towards being really a part of him. Again, I don’t know if that gives too much away. [Laughs]
No, I don’t think so. I don’t think so. [Laughs] There are a lot of twists so –
Jess Weixler: Oh, but which one is closer to me I guess is your question. I have no idea. I hope a part of me is in all of the people I play. I’m not sure…my acting coach said something really great, he says, “Would you like to see the actor or the character they’re playing?” And my first reaction, as an actor, was, “Well, I wanna see the character they’re playing, not the actor,” and he says, “No, you really wanna make sure you’re showing what’s real in you, and all these characters are different aspects of you.”
Oh, that’s really interesting.
Jess Weixler: So, yeah, I think both those characters ‑ the character in Teeth and this person ‑ is an aspect of me and it’s just kind of trying to highlight that part of you to really find that part of you.
What was it like working with the director, Jason James, compared to others that you’ve worked with? He has such a unique vision. He incorporates animation, incredible imagery, and fuses all these aspects like old fashioned props and set locations such as the camera and the diner, and there’s just such attention to detail.
Jess Weixler: I mean, he’s just the greatest person to hang out with, [laughs] first of all, and I like his sense of play. He definitely is attracted to magical realism, and I got to be involved in so many parts of that. I mean, so many aspects of it, he wanted to sort of pop out like a over-idealized version of a Disney movie, you know, like with the deer or the fireworks when you’re kissing. Really taking something that almost feels real, but then it just pops and goes like quicksilver to being like this is too good to be true. And it was really fun playing with that line with him sort of back-and-forth between it being very real and being too good to be true. And him and Thomas Middleditch are both also hilarious. I mean as funny as Thomas Middleditch is in anything you’ve seen him do, he is like a hundred times funnier person. [Laughs]
That’s awesome. And speaking of Thomas, you guys have incredible chemistry onscreen. How did the both of you prepare for the film and your scenes?
Jess Weixler: Oh, we just hung out together all the time. And I wanted to really serve – I mean it’s, more than anything, his through-line, and I wanted to serve his through-line. Yeah, I think just by hanging out all the time, we could get comfortable, and also talk through scenes, and so much of my role is being playful that being playful with him before and after shooting makes that easier.
That totally makes sense. The screenwriter, Jason Filiatrault – I hope I said that correctly –
Jess Weixler: That’s how I say it. So, I don’t know, [both laugh] I’m not totally sure.
He deals with such intense themes, and he manages to add levity to morbidity, and there are also themes of abandonment, being stuck in the past, and obviously the more pressing and severe themes of mental illness. How did you, Thomas, and the rest of the cast so gracefully maneuver these themes while reading the script and preparing for your scenes? I mean, the execution is so fluid, so I imagine it took some tact.
Jess Weixler: Oh, yeah. I think that’s all Thomas and Jason James, because Thomas really had to carry all that darkness and sadness in a way that it didn’t just dive to being heavy and he has a real gift for just making you – I think in this, more than I’ve seen him in most things, you just really feel for him as a person, but he’s not, like, trying to make you see how bad things are. It’s just there in a very easy way, so you can do things like, at the top of the movie, show the suicide stuff and just know that it’s still there and he’s kind of desperate to make life better the whole rest of the movie. I give all that credit to Thomas and Jason.
Without giving too much away, in your opinion, what is the significance of your character?
Jess Weixler: I think the significance of my character is to help him [Thomas Middleditch] find more of himself, the thing he thinks he’s missing, but then also, along with that, know that that thing that was missing wasn’t the thing that was gonna make him happy. I think the journey is, he has to love himself. He first makes it that he’s fallen in love with somebody else, but really, I mean, as cheesy as that sounds, he’s gotta sort of integrate that, love himself, and also let himself be loved by somebody who sees all of the very unlovable things – not unlovable things, the very uncharming aspects of him. Did I answer the question? Oh my gosh, I don’t even remember the question anymore. What was the question?
It was, ‘what is the significance of your character?’ You did, yeah. I would say you answered it very well.
Jess Weixler: Okay, okay.
[Laughs] So, you’ve become a staple of indie cinema and beyond. What’s next for you? Any exciting projects that you’re allowed to share on the horizon?
Jess Weixler: Well, first of all, that’s a very nice thing to say. [Laughs] I’m working on a TV show for AMC right now called The Son, like father, son, and it’s a western. And we are in our second season. And hopefully when it starts to stream, people can find it somewhere that isn’t just on AMC on the night that it airs, which, I mean, nobody watch those things on TV on the night they air anymore. Yeah, so hopefully they stream at some point. But it’s really fun and there’s more going on with the women in season two as well, which is great for a western.
Oh, that’s awesome. I love westerns. That’s super exciting. Very cool.
Jess Weixler: Oh, good. I hope you like it. It’s also with Pierce Brosnan. He’s the patriarch of the family.
Oh, nice, nice. Wonderful cast. I bet that’s a lot of fun to work on.
Jess Weixler: It’s great, and it’s in Austin, Texas. I don’t know if you’ve been to Austin, but it’s a killer town.
I have. I was gonna go to South by Southwest this year, and I still might, I’m on the fence, but yeah, it’s an amazing town for sure.
Jess Weixler: Yeah, I feel very lucky to be on a show and in a place as cool as that for what is like five, six months out of the year. It’s a long time to be somewhere else.
Yeah, no kidding. Well, congratulations on Entanglement and The Son as well, and I’m looking forward to the release of both of them, and thank you so much for your time, Jess, really. This was great. And wonderful insight!
Jess Weixler: Oh, thanks, I’m glad liked the movie. You make indies and you don’t know if anybody will ever see them, so it’s always nice to hear when people do.
This was one of my favorite films I’ve seen in years, honestly. I can’t wait to watch it again.
Jess Weixler: Oh my god, that’s so cool! That’s awesome. That’s awesome. [Both laugh] Thank you!
Yeah, of course!
Film Inquiry would like to thank Jess Weixler for taking the time out of her busy schedule to share a bit about her process as an actor and her breadth of knowledge of acting, film, and the industry.
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