Jessica Stanley: balancing a dark secret

Jess Still

As a kid, Jessica Stanley found the easiest way to make friends was to join the drama club. A daughter of duel nationality parents she could have studied acting in America but choose a BA in Performing Arts at the London Metropolitan University instead. A founding member of Metra theatre, she is striving to make original and accessible theatre when she’s not starring in films.

C.R: Did you enjoy working on Wilby Park?
Jessica: When I read the script I was very curious about the process. The language is very, very stylised so I knew we’d have to work at making it appear natural to the characters. We wanted the dialogue to flow and every night Ian worked with us to help refine the script so we were all comfortable. He is very thorough but we could make suggestions and if Ian likes it he goes with it. It’s good to work with someone who has written the work but isn’t precious about it as some writer-directors can be. Ian is so open. I would never want to be a puppet on a shoot. The best work comes from everyone chipping in, it’s more organic, more real.

C.R: Stephanie is a complex role, how have you come to grips with her?
Jessica: Stephanie is still an enigma to me. I’m still finding her in each scene, figuring out the heart of the role. She is all about show, it’s all a front, so it would be easy to play her very dramatically and at times grotesquely but you have to remember there’s something underneath in order to make her real. Stephanie has a dark secret.

C.R: Ian allowed you to do your own makeup and clothes for the shoot. Was that part of the fun?
Jessica: I love having my makeup done. When I was younger I was a die hard tomboy but now I love it. We wanted to get a 1950’s ‘Twin Peaks’ look for Stephanie. Ian liked it right down to the beauty spot a la Audrey Horne. It was nice to have the free reign to create Stephanie’s look.

C.R: What would your dream role be?
Jessica: I’d like more than anything to play an American. I have a mixed English/American accent and I can do both on their own but I’m rarely seen for American roles. My perfect role would be something like ‘Walk the Line’, but I love costume dramas and period settings, a film with depth and drama and a nice ensemble.

C.R. And Metra Theater’s next production?
Jessica : An adaptation of Chekhov’s ‘Three sisters’ which we’ve set entirely on a boat. We want to make classical texts more accessible to modern audiences while leaving the language entirely intact.

Wilby Park Jessica Stanley


Laura Evelyn: The challenge of a characters journey

Laura Evelyn Wilby ParkLaura Evelyn decided to become a professional actor in the last year of her degree in performance at Northumbria University. She graduated with honours and went on to Guilford School of Drama. Since then she been working for a wide range of  productions in theatre, film and television.

C.R. What was it like to receive the call telling you, you got the part of Emily?

Laura: I was very pleased but at the same time I was aware of the challenge facing me. The script was very surreal and I knew I would have to trust my director a hell of a lot. The vibe I got from Ian is that he is very intelligent, with lots of vision and imagination. I had to hope he knew what I could bring to the role. In this sort of work is good to have a good relationship with your director.

C.R. What did you bring to Emily Bodega?

Laura: She is a character that is larger than life with a big imagination so I related to her, being Emily came naturally. I really enjoy playing such an intense character with imagination, I’m in my element.

Emily’s deeply troubled. She’s incredibly jealous, a mixture of intense and something’s not right. She has a lack of conscience, a weird insecurity, and an unhappy childhood. Even if this isn’t her apparent motivation I wanted to show this background behind her eyes.

In some ways she’s like Kathy Bates from Misery. The way she looks at James Caan’s character. Outwardly there is nothing you can connect with but she is obsessed by Paul Sheldon. No conscious action of hers comes from anything another person can fathom. Emily is selfish but not self absorbed, she has tunnel vision.

C.R. You’ve done a lot of theatre as well as film, which do you prefer?

Laura: I’ve made a short commercial for Matt Beaumonts’s book Small World. In the last few months I’ve been drawn toward comedy theatre. When you are working the live comedy circuit you get lots of contacts, people say you’re good at comedy come and work for us.

Currently my favorite current show is How to die in a domestic environment. It was at Brighton Festival and Jackson Lane theatre. It’s a surreal tragic-comedy. I play a woman who has no identity and desperately searches for it. It sounds very dark and it is but it’s also very comic.

Working on Wilby was nice because it was so different. I was part of the sitcom trials in Leicester Square theatre. So I went from the intensity of my work in Hampshire to comedy.

It was exciting in a way. I was stretched keeping the journey of the character. It’s the same with any film the scenes are shot out of order. I want to keep Emily ending in the right emotional place in the journey. Emily is very focused and her goal is to make Monica’s life a misery. She thinks she’s very controlled but her imagination isn’t. Her character has to struggle; I’ve to got show that struggle emotionally.

C.R.What would your dream role be?

Laura: My dream role would be Rosaline from Shakespeare’s As you like it. She’s strong and witty. She falls in love with someone who falls in love with her. She lives in her family’s house; her world is potentially very happy and adventurous. It helps she’s tall and I’m tall.