Interview by Gareth Hughes & Laura Foster
Jessy Schram has got to be one of the busiest actresses in Hollywood right now with roles in 3 separate television projects. She is currently on our screens as Karen Nadler in the second season of TNT's 'Falling Skies' and is about to start production on ABC's new drama 'Last Resort'. Oh course, Oncers know her best as Cinderella/Ashley in 'Once Upon A Time'.
We caught up with Jessy and put a few questions to her about her time on the show and what's next for Cinders, as well as finding out more about her new project.
Can you tell us about your early career and what led you into the acting profession?
When I was about 10 or 11 I started in the "business" of acting. I've always loved to perform. I used to sit my Great Grandpa down and for hours would sing songs from sing along song books or make commercials, SNL style, with my sister on our VHS video recorder. Movies, music and TV were always magical to me. I always told my Mom I wanted to be part of the real TV and didn't know it was something that was even possible until my best friend in grade school told me she was auditioning for "Harriet the Spy" and I went to the cattle call with her. I didn't get called back, but after that, got an agent and did a whole bunch of commercials, radio spots and modeling for the Sunday ads over the years.
My first on stage production was playing the original Kirsten in The American Girl Revue when the first American Girl Building opened up on Michigan Ave. It was my after school job. I've been blessed to have been able to grow up and learn on set how production happens, but also learn at a young age that living the life of an actress is fun, but it's also a commitment and hard work.
We all grew up with the character of Cinderella so deeply ingrained in popular culture. Was portraying such an iconic character nerve wracking for you? Did you feel a lot of pressure to make everything perfect?
There is definitely a sense of not wanting to screw it up! By landing the role you're then given the responsibility and opportunity to deliver a character, and in this case especially, one which you and everyone else has an image of! There were moments where I was filled with anxiety and about not doing it "right". But at the same time, there's no such thing as perfect and that's Cinderella. Eddie and Adam kept saying that the characters' stories are about the in-betweens that makes them the way they are.
I looked up a few different versions (I grew up on the Disney version) after we started filming, which was so interesting. I gathered all the different portrayals and threw them to the side. Cinderella is kind and gentle but no push over. I wanted to try and take her background and nature and react to the script in a way a person in her situation would. She's been broken down, by herself and alone. She's independent and strong. She's young, which makes her a bit naive but still graceful and of good heart.
Since we don't have magic wands in real life, how long did it actually take to transform you into your fabulous 'ready for the ball' look?
The first reveal in the blue dress was 20 minutes! We were running out of time before the sun came up and the hair and makeup team literally were bustling about my head. I ran on set and on came the dress and "action". The other days were about a good hour, hour and a half!
Why do you suppose that Cinderella signed Rumplestiltskin's contract without so much as skimming it, let alone reading the fine print.... Do you chalk that up to desperation or simple naive innocence?
The desperation, the desire, the dream and hopefulness of changing her circumstances for a better life. She was in a space where her love wasn't reciprocated; she was taken advantage of and seen as nothing. If you say there's a way out, that’s all she needs to know.
Would you like to do a background story revolving around the step mother and sisters? If so, how would you like them portrayed, vile or misunderstood?
Oh that's a great question. It would be neat to see them. I think when you discover the events of how someone became vile - you understand them, which makes them misunderstood. It would be neat to see the way Eddie and Adam portray them.
Now that Sean and Ashley have become engaged, do you think we'll see them finally get their happy ending?
I think they're further along on "the happy ending" road than the others, but it's Storybrooke. There is still a curse and they're still so young!
Do you have any funny stories or mishaps from filming that you can share with us?
I saw the blooper real for the DVD a little bit ago and couldn't stop laughing. There are some cute things in there. During the shoot, there are so many things that can go wrong or make you wobble. There was a carriage that came to pick up Cinderella just as Rumple had twitched his wand that never made it to the screen. Of course I get to excitedly run over to the carriage to go to the ball which was a task in that dress. Robert Carlyle kept laughing because without fail, every first couple of steps, I'd trip. It was rags to riches within moments. Tripping will happen.
Does working with a lot of green screen technology present any particular challenges to your acting?
Well, you never really know what you're looking at. People behind the monitors can see what you're doing and where everything is, but for the most part you can walk through a wall and wonder why they yelled cut.
Fans can also catch you in ‘Falling Skies’, which is back for it’s second season. Tell us about the role of Karen and your time on the show?
The second season of Falling Skies is on the move. It's expanded so much from being just about "what are these things and how are we going to survive?"You'll see an intense amount of the skitters- a lot of hand to hand combat. This season everyone has grown and transformed a lot. Every character has taken on a different skin from the events that have occurred over time and it's neat to see the relationships grow.
With that being said, my character Karen has a spine/harness from the aliens. She's under their control in direct contact with the "Overlord" who is high on the chain of command, working as their messenger. She does return to the 2nd Mass and then the question arises of whether or not they can trust her, just like as those questions would arise if any other character had been in direct contact with the aliens.
Do you have any other projects we should look out for in the future? We hear you will be a regular on Last Resort this fall?
Yes! Last Resort on ABC this fall! It's a captivating new show. It has a large ensemble cast that pulls together elements of politics, family, survival, trust, power and more in a setting of trying to avoid mass destruction and reunite with life. A US nuclear sub has defied orders due to their own reasons and in return has taken over an island declaring themselves their own nation until safety and truth is given.
I play Christine Kendal, wife of XO Sam Kendal, played by Scott Speedman. There's a lot to play with in this show and a lot of heart to be given. We start production next month and I can guarantee that it will be worth tuning in every week.
You appeared in a 2007 episode of House, back when Jennifer Morrison was still on the show. Do you have any memories of working together from that time?
The first day I was on "Once" we caught up on the different things we remembered from the Gypsy hospital bed days. With the amount of episodes she did for the show, it’s amazing she even remembered!
Fans have been saying that you didn't get nearly enough screen time in Season One....will we be seeing more of you in Season Two?
That's all up to the story lines and writers!
What hobbies do you pursue outside of acting?
I love live music and I love to dance. In the last year I haven't been able to attend nearly enough shows, but it's my heart for sure. I sketch, play minimal amounts of guitar, hike, beach walk, I've been cup drumming…. I like to be random and explore. Lately, any hobby I've been active in is something that can be accessible on a plane.
What one piece of advice would you give to fans who aspire to enter the acting profession?
Know that everything happens for a reason and it's what you do with what you learn that is key. The acting profession isn't all magic, so keep your chin up, have drive and patience, know yourself and let things and yourself change.
Did you envision the massive fandom that has developed around Once Upon a Time so quickly?
With Once Upon a Time I became a super fan right off the bat so I'm not surprised at the amount of people who love and follow it. But I must say that I am always overwhelmed and impressed by all of the extra support--- the websites, pictures, montages and tweeting that goes on!
Finally, what would you like to say to all the fans who are reading this article?
Thank you so much for all your support! The fans make "Once" so special to be a part of. And on a side note; it's a good idea to read the fine print.
You can follow Jessy on Twitter: @jschramer