The talented and beautiful Jo Newman makes her feature film debut in one of the year’s best movies, “Love and Other Drugs.” She was kind enough to take time to answer my questions.
Tell me about the audition process for this film. What were you asked to do and how did you prepare?
The initial audition was awkward to say the least! It was a scene that I did not end up doing for the film and it was, um, intimate. There is a tendency to go overboard when you are doing work that requires you to be uncomfortable. If you feel like you are “acting” it separates you from the moment, limiting how affected you can be by the work.
Although this distancing can comfort your ego, it is bad acting and a casting director can feel that a mile away. For the first audition, I really felt like I parked my inhibitions at the door and went for it.
When they called me back and I had to do the scene in front of Ed Zwick, the director, I clammed up and hammed it up. He told me to relax, to respond, to exist solely in the moment. To allow yourself that kind of vulnerability, especially when you are asked to switch it on immediately, can be terrifying but in this business, there is no room for fear. It is in those moments, where you completely forget yourself, where you are wholly absorbed in character, that define us as actors; those moments that push us to wake up every day and put our hearts and egos out there because the ability to see the world through someone else’s eyes is the most profoundly freeing experience I have ever had.
What was was the most unexpected aspect of working on your first major studio film?
I was genuinely surprised by how friendly everyone was. I was only on set for a week and felt like I made some real friends by the time it was over. You are spending a hugely concentrated amount of time with the cast and crew and everyone showed me that to have a positive and creative environment, you have to do your part. No one likes getting up at 5am in the rain, but if you bring the makeup artist some coffee, that crack of dawn call-time becomes a lot nicer for everyone involved. There are so many people involved in a major film and if people don’t work together, it negatively affects everyone involved.
What was the most important thing you learned?
I learned how to be more present on set, to ask more questions and talk to people about their lives and experiences. I used to get nervous to engage a well-known actor on set but truthfully, there is no one who will better understand your struggle as an artist than someone who has been in your shoes. And this movie has some great comedic moments– these actors are truly funny people! I learned to laugh and engage while standing around in underwear that would make my mother blush (correction, that will make my mother blush!)
What advice did Ed Zwick give you about playing the role?
He told me to breathe, to be in the moment, and to have the confidence that I was the one that he picked to play the part for a reason. He is a man who chooses his words carefully and that meant a lot to me.
How did you work with the costume designer to develop the look of the character?
The character doesn’t wear very much! I worked with wardrobe to find a costume that I was comfortable in but also served the story. I practice yoga everyday and did some pretty funny poses for the wardrobe women to make sure that everything stayed in place!
What did you learn about the era and industry depicted in the film?
“Love and Other Drugs” is based on the memoir by Jamie Reidy who worked for Pfizer in the 1990’s when Viagra was introduced to the market. The film address some tough and very relevant issues concerning healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry. Hank Azaria plays a doctor in a seriously conflicted situation and has a scene that will make any audience stop and seriously think about the direction that our health care system is going. It is such a complex issue with so many involved and affected and I believe that this film offers an interesting vision on the whole situations.
What do you think is the most important contribution your character makes to the story?
My character illustrates how Jake Gyllenhaal’s character is a person who embodies both power and a lack of control.
What do you hope to do next?
I am working on a pilot that I wrote and am presently producing entitled “(Greetings From) Sunny Beaches.” It is the behind-the-scenes look at a Reality Show and its hilarious, if I may say so! We are dying to get Joan Rivers to play the mother, an iconic actress who she sends her two outrageous daughters to Los Angeles to star in their own show.
When did you know you wanted to act?
As cliched as it sounds, I have always known that this is what I wanted to do with my life. I certainly didn’t have any grasp of the business or industry but I have always known that I am on this earth to perform. And maybe to cook, I’ve been cooking a lot lately….
Photo Credit: John Hildebrand Photography
Hair By: Erica Birdoes
Styling By: Cece Abel