Interview: Jamie Bernadette Talks Acting, ‘The Furnace’November 8, 2019
Recently we had the chance to talk with actor Jamie Bernadette, who talked about moving into producing, possibly directing and her new movie ‘The Furnace’
The last time we spoke you were promoting The 6th Friend, suffice to say you’ve been pretty busy since then. I take it acting has been treating you well?
Jamie: (Laughs) Yeah, it has, it really has. I just finished a sci-fi film called the Colonials where I play the lead female role, and then I also did a TV pilot that’s being pitched to networks, and I did Ash and Bone this year, which is a Harvey Wallen film, a horror film. I also working on producing three feature films as well, trying to get them off the ground and finishing the one I did so yeah, it’s been crazy.
Do you like wearing a lot of hats so to speak, doing multiple things, or is that just part of the business these days?
Jamie: Apparently I do, even though producing is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, oh my goodness. I like to make stories that I want to make, play roles that I want to play and creating that for myself, rather than waiting for that to come along.
You’ve been in this business for over ten years now. Have you found that women are getting more opportunities, both in front of and behind the camera, or do we still have a ways to go in that regard?
Jamie: Yes, it’s gotten better in the last couple of years. They are starting to push for female directors, for example, my gosh, they’re so few and far in between, so I think there’s a big movement going on in Hollywood and it has made a big difference. However, we still do have a ways to go. I know for me, as a female producer, sometimes I’m not treated as same as a man. Twice on The 6th Friend, I had to have the guy I was seeing at the time handle two things for me because they wouldn’t listen to me, and as soon as he got on the phone it was done. It was literally a forty-minute conversation, it was with a woman, she wouldn’t listen to me, and he gets on the phone and it’s done in five minutes, and I’m like, what is this…there was another time, the second film I produced, I produced it with a man, and there were a couple of people that wouldn’t even talk to me about a couple of issues, maybe because I’m a female, I don’t know, but we still have a ways to go, I’ve experienced it first-hand.
It’s a strange way to look at things or treat people, especially with you for example, who has done numerous projects, including acting and producing, so you would think people would want your advice about certain things.
Jamie: Absolutely, I agree. I feel like I’ve been doing this so long now that I do know a lot. I’ve done over seventy projects, I don’t even know what I’m at now but you know, you learn and I’ve definitely learned a lot over the years, that’s for sure.
Last time we talked you were talking to the director of The Furnace about directing, he was going to show you the ropes, so to speak. Did anything ever come of that, and have you got any directing projects lined up?
Jamie: No, not yet but we’ll see. I’ll have to work on him more. (laughs) I’m getting reading to go to South Africa so I’m hoping to see him there for The Furnace premiere so maybe I’ll work on him more when I’m there.
Ok, so let’s talk about The Furnace. How did you get involved with this film?
Jamie: Oh, it’s funny. The producer Sam watched one of my films, he’s sitting in South Africa, he watched one of my films, he doesn’t remember which one it was and he was like, she’s our Mary. I have no idea, out of everyone in the world why me, but he found me through social media and I was like, well, this is interesting. They had done some legitimate projects that looked really great and so we had a Skype phone call that was very short, maybe fifteen or twenty minutes, and then that was it.
How did you prepare, both mentally and physically, to take on the role of Mary?
Jamie: Well, I was already exercising and running so it’s not like I had to lose a lot of weight or anything like that for the role, but I did run more to prepare myself, however, nothing could prepare me for running twelve hours a day. It was literally that much running, of course, we’d stop in between, it wasn’t twelve hours straight, but I did feel like I ran a marathon. I was so sore, I didn’t expect to run that much but I ran, but apparently not enough. It was rough when you’re running day after day and you’re sore but it was fine, I got through it. I researched about having one lung and found out when one lung doesn’t work the chest expands to compensate, so in each scene, of course, we shot the script all over the place, very few movies are actually shot in order, a lot of people don’t realize that, so for me we’re shooting all over the place and I had to know in each scene where my breathing was at, how much I had recovered, so it was a tricky thing. There was also where I was at mentally, it was depression I was going through, I lost my husband, I lost the use of one of my lungs, I didn’t think I would ever run again, or be very active again at all, so I had to know emotionally where I was at, too. My script was just covered in notes so I would know from scene to scene, jumping from place to place, where I was at emotionally and physically.
The Furnace covers a lot of ground, emotionally, physically and spiritually. For you, while this was obviously a challenge, was this a dream role for an actor to take on?
Jamie: Yeah, absolutely, a dream role. I love survival films, where somebody is in nature, fighting against nature, and having nature be a large part of the antagonist really, I love those movies so it goes without saying I loved this role.
The film looks beautiful. What was it like shooting in Africa?
Jamie: Oh my gosh, it was amazing. I don’t know, I just love it there, I love the culture, I love the people, I feel I connect with so many people there on a deep, deep level. The whole experience, the animals, learning about the animals, all the things I didn’t know. I’m not a fan of animals being in captivity but in South Africa, the poaching is so bad, lions and elephants especially, so in a situation like that I’m totally for it because they’re actually protecting that species from going extinct.
Is it hard to market a film like The Furnace or is there a market for it out there, say in film festivals?
Jamie: I don’t know. I know it’s been at the Nice and Madrid film festivals, and I think they’re planning to do more film festivals but I mean the response, on my social media personally has been amazing. A lot of people have seen me in horror, I’ve done some comedies too, sci-fi, but horror has been the dominant genre, and my fan base has been very receptive to this film. They are all really excited, it’s been great. I was told they have ninety territories confirmed and actually faith-based films do extremely well and in January it’s going on some big platform, I’m not sure which one. They hope to get in onto television, which would be great in the U.S., maybe a faith-based channel, I don’t know, but I know they are shooting for a U.S. distributor for sure.
What did you personally take away from The Furnace, once you were finally finished filming it?
Jamie: Oh man…it changed my life, it really did. I just didn’t have any confidence before I went there, to South Africa. Darrell the director, he’s a very honest person, he tells it like it is, and there’s one scene where he’s like Jamie, that’s not working. (laughs) I was doing this croaky voice at the end of the movie and he said no, that’s not really working, so he’ll tell you straight up, but he’ll also tell you if something is working. He gave me so much confidence in my ability and belief in myself, so he’s a very giving director as well, but not like a fake one, if that makes sense. Those people who are really honest…when they do say something you believe them. He just lifted me up when I needed to be lifted up, which is ironic because that’s the movie! (laughs) Also, I made so many connections and friendships with people, and I was around these people from a completely different culture that are so down to earth and so kind and welcoming, I needed that for my soul at the time. Los Angeles is great but it tends to be a very lonely place, and a lot of people will say that. I don’t know exactly why that is, everybody is out for their career obviously, but the family aspect is lacking. It’s all about business, business, which is not a bad thing, it’s the business, but my family doesn’t live here, they’re in Illinois, so for me to go to this country, South Africa, and be treated like family, it was very profound for me at the time, I was very lonely when I went to Africa.
I want to thank Jamie for taking the time to talk with us