On November 14, Jessica Chastain joined Entertainment Tonight host Nischelle Turner and President of Production and Development of Freckle Films, Kelly Carmichael, for an important conversation at Marie Claire’s 2022 Power Trip summit, a conference built to bring together some of the most powerful women leaders and executives in the country.
Turner opened the conversation by asking Carmichael and Chastain about the inspiration behind their production company, Freckle Films, which Chastain founded in 2016 with the intention of amplifying women’s stories. For Chastain, her enthusiasm for telling women’s stories goes back to her childhood. “I was raised by a single mom. My grandma was a single mom,” she explained. “My whole life growing up I was surrounded by women. I felt that they were erased from society in a way that really disturbed me.”
In the lively conversation, the actress also opened up about her 2015 Critic’s Choice Speech, the eye-opening talk she had with co-star Octavia Spencer, the changes she’s noticed in Hollywood, and more. Read on for more highlights from Chastain and Carmichael during their conversation with Turner, below.
Chastain on her early passion for telling women's stories:
“I remember being in school and the history books really not talking about the incredible things that women had done. And when I got older and I could do research on my own, I would come across these stories and think, Well, why haven't I heard this before? And so I really wanted to take whatever platform I have and amplify the incredible things that women have done. How courageous and flawed, because women are human, how wonderful to show them as human, but the power of what that is.”
Chastain on the impact of her 2015 Critic’s Choice Speech:
“It was the very first... I don't remember the name of the award, but it was an award for a performer who had multiple works or something that year. And it was the year of Interstellar, Her Most Violent Year, and Miss Julie. And I got up on stage and, I mean, I thought Ava [DuVernay] needed to get some flowers for Selma and she didn't that day. And so I went on stage and kind of addressed our industry and our, you know, what we were overlooking and our needs to change."
"And then I went to London to do some press right afterwards and people were saying, Love your speech; so what are you planning on doing? Because talk is cheap, to be honest. ... And it really got me thinking and I thought, Maybe I'll create a company to try to use whatever visibility and power I have in this industry to also help lift other people up."
Carmichael on the mission behind Freckle Films:
"I don't wanna speak for [Jessica's] vision, but it really was to tell women's stories. Bottom line: Create content that spoke to the women in our lives and the people that we see day-by-day that probably haven't been represented thus far. That was really baseline."
Chastain on standing up for Octavia Spencer to get equal pay:
“I [had] made an assumption that this woman who had been nominated for an Oscar multiple times, has an Oscar, has every award that you could have—whenever she's in a movie, that's a movie you wanna see, you know?—I had assumed that the industry was paying her fairly for that. And I was wrong. And it was a very easy lesson. We really should talk about pay more often. It's embarrassing sometimes to say, Well what are you making? But the reality is I made an assumption. She goes, Well actually this is my reality. And for her to say that was so brave. And she's the one who changed it because when you speak up for yourself in that way, it'll be a ripple effect.”
Chastain on the changes she's seen in the film industry:
“I've seen a lot of changes from the beginning. I've been in the industry a little over 10 years and when I came into it, it could not be a more different situation, in terms of being an actress. And you know, in the beginning, I would have to… if I had an idea for a movie, I'd have to talk to the actor to get the actor to go to the director with the idea. So it felt like it was man-to-man. And that's how I would get my ideas implemented because I would notice the second I would go to the director it was always no, no, no, no. But the second the actor would do it, [the director] would listen. So I was like, okay, I have to be really good friends with the male actor. There's no more of that.”
Chastain on what drew her to her next project, George & Tammy:
“I didn't realize how much I was gonna like country music when I first started, but Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette are incredible. Loretta Lynn sang about birth control and, you know, “don't come home and drinking with love on your mind.” And she was such this feminist in her music and she stayed with the same man. She was very much a “stand by your man” kind of lady. And Tammy Wynette sang ‘Stand By Your Man’ and ‘Run Woman Run’ and all these songs telling women like, you may not find another guy, so stay put. And she was the opposite. She really was so rebellious in her life that there's a reason she was nicknamed the First Lady of Country Music. She was the first lady to sell over a million albums. And she did that because she was savvy and she was incredibly, incredibly brave. And that's what excited me is that kind of thing of who she was versus how the world saw her.”
Carmichael in what the selling line of her own story would be:
"I think it would be about truly to accomplish your dreams, it's all about hard work and it's all about being open and listening and hopefully, you know, you find your opportunities, but to be open to it all. I think that it's so important in finding your way and telling your own story is to be present and available."
Chastain on what the selling line of her own story would be:
“If someone was gonna tell my story… That's a hard thing to answer ‘cause I don't think my story's done yet. And I mean up until now it probably would be about recognizing how important women have been in my life and definitely that I wouldn't be here without them. You know, I have a lot of men in my life and friends and dear ones to me, but who I am as a person was absolutely fortified and created by the support and the care of other women. And that to me, like everyone talks about your soulmate and the love of your life… Women are like the love of my life.”
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Brooke Knappenberger is the Associate Commerce Editor at Marie Claire, where she writes across the board from fashion and beauty to books and celebrities. As a pop culture junkie, Brooke obsessively consumes and writes about the latest movie releases, streaming TV shows, and celebrity scandals. She has over three years of experience writing on fashion, beauty, and entertainment and her work has appeared on Looper, NickiSwift, The Sun US, and Vox Magazine of Columbia, Missouri. Brooke obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism with an emphasis on Magazine Editing and has a minor in Textile and Apparel Management.
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