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PopEntertainment.com > Feature Interviews - Actresses > Feature Interviews A to E > Jenna Dewan (2006 interview)

Jenna Dewan

The Two Sides of Jenna

by Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: February 3, 2006.

With the face of an angel and a body built for revenge, Jenna Dewan has become the latest internet sweetheart.  The twenty-six-year old former dancer and model has become well-known by fans of MTV Ė she has starred in videos with Justin Timberlake and Ricky Martin as well as touring with Janet Jackson and P. Diddy.  Unfortunately, she is not unknown to the gossip columns Ė a few years ago she was rumored to be the woman who came between Timberlake and his pop-star sweetheart Britney Spears.  (Dewan insisted at the time that she and the singer were just friends.)  Now the attention she is receiving is more welcome.  Dewan is breaking out as an actress.

Her film starring debut is Tamara, a low-budget horror film about a shy, unattractive high school student who dabbles in witchcraft and is transformed into a gorgeous succubus with killer urges.  The film was originally planned to be released straight to video, however rabid web interest in the movie and its photogenic star have led to the movie getting a theatrical release. 

The day before Tamara was to be released into theaters in New York (and two weeks before its wider release around the country); Dewan gave us a call to discuss her new movie and her career.

Previously you had worked as a dancer on several musical tours and videos with people like P. Diddy, Justin Timberlake, Ricky Martin and Janet Jackson.  How did you get into that and what was it like?

It was amazing.  I started dance when I was five years old and danced pretty much throughout my life.  Then at age sixteen, an agent Ė a dance agent from LA, actually Ė found me and asked if I went to LA if he could represent me.  I said sure.  So, right at eighteen I moved to LA and started auditioning.  I went to college as well, I went to USC.  I was auditioning dance-wise and just started booking work.  Booked the Janet Jackson tour and was goneÖ  And that was where my life took me in the beginning.  (laughs)

Youíve also modeled for magazines like Stuff.  How do your backgrounds in dancing and modeling help you as an actress?

Well, I think in any avenue of the industry Ė the entertainment industry Ė itís always kind of an easier crossover.  Because, you know, when dancing, youíre used to being in front of the camera.  Youíre comfortable with different aspects of being in front of the camera.  With modeling, itís the same thing.  Also, you know, you kind of get your feet wet in the industry.  So moving over to actor, youíre still entertaining.  Youíre still an entertainer.  Itís pretty much just going from one aspect to another aspect.  You get to learn different skills.  It was really fun for me because it was a challenge.  I had never acted before, so it was really trying to learn a new craft.  Then I became passionate about it.  I became really excited about it.  (laughs)  It was kind of like my new love.     

A friend of mine from LA said that he had met you at a celebration for producer Dan Curtis when the WB was thinking of doing a new version of his classic series Dark Shadows Ė which never aired.  How did you get involved with that project and what happened with the show?

Yeah, right.  I auditioned for it.  It was a pilot that I auditioned for.  I got it and we ended up shooting it.  You know, it was one of those things where itís just a real big bummer because everyone was saying, ďItís gonna go.  Itís a classic.  They already have a built-in fan base.Ē  It turned out, I think, pretty good, but last minute they pulled it and, you know, it was just kind of one of those Hollywood stories.

Other films you have done have tended to be dramatic, but you have also guest-starred on sitcoms like Joey and Quintuplets.  Do you prefer doing comedy or drama?  Which one is harder?

God, thatís a good question.  I like them both, to be honest.  Comedy, I would say, is harder for me.  I think comedy is harder in general.  Dramatic Ė itís more real Ė you have more to draw from.  If youíre not a natural comedian on a daily basis, comedy is Ė itís about timing, itís about so many other aspects that are hard.  But, I had so much fun doing it.  Once you get the sitcom style down and the comedy style down, itís like a rhythm.  It gets a lot easier.  I had a blast, though.  Iím pretty goofy to begin with, so I just had to embellish my goofy side.  (laughs) 

What attracted you to Tamara?

My agent sent it to me for an audition.  I read it and I loved the fact that to play Tamara you had to play two different characters.  Not only two different characters, but completely different sides of the spectrum Ė the poor, picked on, unattractive girl and the vixen, the revenge-filled powerful woman.  I knew it would be a challenge and I was really excited.  And I always kind of wanted to do a horror movie, so I was excited about that.  I really like the character of Tamara. 

In the early scenes, you had to play Tamara as a mousy, shy, unpopular girl.  You did a really good job of it.

Oh, thank you... 

Was that hard for you?  Because Iím assuming that isnít really exactly what your life was likeÖ

(laughs)  Right.  You know what, it wasnít that hard.  I mean, there was a period in my life where I moved around all the time as a kid.  There was a period where I was pretty much the outcast in a lot of ways.  So, I drew from that.  But, also, once I got into the wardrobe and the hair and the makeup, and they did some scarring on my face and puffed up the eyebrows and shallowed out my eyes.  All these things that, once you get into that and the dowdy clothes, I mean it just kind of came naturally.  I figured out ways to hold myself and be.  I just imagined what it would be like to really be that invisible to people.  It was fun.

Once Tamara comes back and she is evil and very sexually predatory Ė was it fun to play that kind of bad girl role?

Yeah, it really was.  It was a lot of fun.  It was tricky, because I didnít want to play her like I was playing someone powerful or sexy.  I wanted to have her be more like, just really into her newfound powers and experimenting with them and messing with peopleís heads.  Just having fun with it, more than oh, Iím sexy, now Iím going to go use thatÖ  (laughs)  I wanted to play with it and it was fun!  It was really fun to be a powerful woman villainess. 

Which of Tamaraís personalities do you relate to more?

Oh, Iím a mixture of both.  At times, Iím really shy and I really keep to myself.  At times I like to step into my power and step into my sensuality.  On a day to day basis, Iím probably a direct middle of both of those.  (laughs)

It was fun the way Tamara was able to do get her revenge through mind-control Ė she gets the characters to do the bad things to themselves.  She doesnít physically do any of the things.  Did that idea intrigue you as an actress, having that much control over others?

Thatís what I loved about the whole script.  Jeffrey Reddick, who wrote Final Destination, heís really inventive.  He wrote this kind of a throwback to old horror movies, in the sense that a lot of it has been done before.  But, there are twists on it.  I liked that as the villainess; I wasnít running around with a knife and killing people.  I liked that I was working on finding their insecurities and getting them to basically destroy themselves.  Getting to be manipulative.  It just made for a way more interesting character to me.

This was a pretty young, relatively unknown cast.  What were they like to work with?

We had a blast together.  We had so much fun.  I mean, we were stuck in Winnipeg, Canada, which doesnít have the most things to do.  (chuckles)  But we made it fun.  We had so much fun.  I actually grew to love Winnipeg.  The cast, we all really gelled.  It was a really, really good casting. 

Tamara was originally supposed to go straight to video, but because of strong feedback is now getting a theatrical release.  How does that make you feel?

Oh my God, I was extremely excited.  It was shown at a few film festivals Ė one being in New York and a bunch of other things Ė and it got great response.  People really responded to it.  The internet just made it go crazy.  So, they are riding the heights right now and releasing it.  Iím really excited.

I saw a quote from you that said that you have only a very basic understanding of the internet Ė you can get your email and maybe look at a site if you know exactly where it is but otherwise you are kind of lost.  How weird is it that the internet may be responsible for giving your career a boost?

Yes.  Yeah, truly, Iím like man, maybe I should learn a little more internet.  (laughs)  Since this movie, I will say, Iíve gotten a lot better.  I now know how to surf.  I know how to reach different things, how to find links.  But, literally, Iím still pretty slow with it. 

Youíre also promoting Tamara by doing a win-a-date contest.  How did that idea come up?

It was the producerís idea.  I think they just decided it would be kind of fun.  I get to go and pick a guy and pick a date Ė whoever I want to go with and have a fun night on the town.  I was like, okay.  (laughs)  Sounds fun to me.

Now Iíve seen in interviews that you say Tamara is your first film, but according to a filmography I found on the internet, it said you also did a movie called Waterborne.  What was that? Was that after Tamara?

Yeah.  Waterborne was technically the first acting job I did.  But it was a really small independent movie and it was actually a really small part.  There werenít even really lines to it; it was an improv type of thing. Apparently itís a really great movie; I havenít even seen it to be honest.  So, I always say Tamara pretty much is my first movie.

You have also just finished two new films, Take the Lead with Antonio Banderas and an untitled Disney musical film about high school with Rachel Griffiths and Heavy D.  What can we expect from them?

They were amazing to work on.  I love Antonio.  Heís probably one of my favorite people Iíve ever worked with.  That movie is great.  Itís really fun and itís kind of like a Dangerous Minds meets Save the Last Dance, in a way.  So, I got to use my dancing.  On both of the movies I got to go back into my dancing a little bit.  Theyíre fun, big movies and hopefully they will do well.

Letís fast forward a bit here, to later on into your career.  Ideally, how would you like for people to look back at your career as an actress?

I would hope that people would look back and see that Iíve made really interesting, creative choices, and Iíve gotten to play different types of characters.  Not just sticking to one type.  Really fighting for really playing Ė Iíd like to do bigger movies.  Iíd like to do action movies.  Iíd like to do musicals.  Iíd like to do small, independent movies.  Iíd like to do so many different things that you really canít put me pigeonhole me into one category.  Iíd like to do all different kinds of stuff.  I would do TV.  I would do anything, you know, as long as the character was something that I was excited and creatively interested in.  I would like to bring light into everyoneís life and make people feel something Ė joy and happiness and sadness.  Thatís pretty much my only goal.  


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Photo Credits:
#1 © 2006.  Courtesy of City Lights Entertainment/Lion's Gate Films.  All rights reserved.
#2 © 2006.  Courtesy of City Lights Entertainment/Lion's Gate Films.  All rights reserved.
#3 © 2006.  Courtesy of City Lights Entertainment/Lion's Gate Films.  All rights reserved.
#4 © 2006.  Courtesy of City Lights Entertainment/Lion's Gate Films.  All rights reserved.
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Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: February 3, 2006.

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Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: February 3, 2006.