An Interview with Jessamyn Arnstein – By Duane L. Martin

Jessamyn Arnstein appears in James Ward’s latest film, The Hit Girl, in which she appears as the spunky niece of a hit man who, through making a random comment about wishing he had the problems of a teenage girl while he had his hand on an antique statue, woke up the next morning as…you guessed it, a teenage girl. Jessamyn absolutely lit up the screen with her wonderfully infectious energy, and this month, I got to talk to Jessamyn, not only about her work in The Hit Girl, but also about her other film and theater appearances.

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DLM: Let’s start out as I always do by having you introduce yourself to everyone and tell us a little about yourself.

JA: Hi, I’m Jessamyn Arnstein and I play the role of Suzy Bannion in The Hit Girl. Coming from a very artistic family, I got started in the performing arts at a very young age and have yet to stop. I’ve acted on numerous stages, ranging from my hometown of North Hollywood, CA to the beautiful Edinburgh, Scotland. After a sudden interest in the TV & Film world, I did a few jobs as a background actor on Up All Night, 1600 Penn, and The Middle, and now I’m working on finding my way into the foreground.

DLM: You were eight years old when you started in theater. What show was that, and at what point did you decide that acting was something you wanted to pursue seriously?

JA: My first show was a children’s production of Grease. I was an added character in the slumber party scene. I remember being so excited because I got to say two whole lines. I was instantly in love with theatre, but it wasn’t until high school that I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in the arts.

DLM: Before we get to The Hit Girl, let’s talk about some of your past work. You’ve done a lot of theater, including musicals, and then a web series, and now The Hit Girl. Give us some highlights of your theater work. What were some of your favorite shows and performances?

JA: I’ve been in way to many shows to name. My all-time favorite experience was my junior year of high school when I got to play Peter Pan. We were able to rent the full fly system and put on a production that was practically of professional caliber. Another recent favorite of mine was playing Thea in a production of Spring Awakening with Actors’ Repertory Theatre of Simi.

DLM: Theater, being a live performance, gives you no opportunities for edits as film does. Did you ever have one of those nightmare shows where nothing seems to go right?

JA: I think all stage actors have had a show where nothing seems to go right. That’s just the nature of live theatre. I’ve lost my voice during the run of a show when I was playing the lead, I’ve fallen onstage for the entire audience to see, I’ve forgotten song lyrics and lines, I’ve had props break while I was using them, and I’ve even had set pieces fall apart in the middle of a show. I don’t think there’s such a thing as a perfect live performance.

DLM: You’ve done musicals. Do you prefer musical theater over non-musical shows? I would imagine the amount of work and effort that goes into musicals is far greater than it is in non-musicals.

JA: I wouldn’t say one is easier than the other. Even without the music and choreography, there’s still a lot of work that goes into a play. With straight plays, I’ve found that I end up having to work harder to study my character because there’s no song to clearly express what is going on in the characters’ minds.

DLM: Your main focus has been on theater, but now that you’ve done a web series, and a film as well, would you like to do more of that in the future, or do you want to keep most of your focus on theater work?

JA: I would love to do more film & tv work.

DLM: What’s one aspect of theater work that you wished applied to film, and one aspect of film that you wished applied to theater work? Basically, what aspects of each would make the other easier or more enjoyable?

JA: I love that in theatre there’s a full rehearsal process. It allows the cast to bond and get everything in order before presenting their work to the public. With film, you’ve maybe run through the scene once before it’s filmed and you don’t typically get to know the entire cast. However, I find it a huge relief that, with film, if you make a mistake you can just start over and nobody ever has to see it. If you make a mistake onstage, the entire audience is going to see.

DLM: You appeared in James Ward’s web series, Little Miss Kickass as Sydney, and now in The Hit Girl as Suzy. How did you first meet up with James, and tell us about how you got cast in the web series.

JA: I was doing a production of Fame at the time with Samantha Peters who plays Little Miss Kickass. James was looking for someone to play the role of Sydney, and Samantha recommended me for the part. James took Samantha’s advice and voila!

DLM: After seeing your performance in The Hit Girl, I’m not surprised that James was eager to work with you again. What about the rest of the cast though. Did you know any of them previously, or was this a whole new group of people for you to work with?

JA: I knew Delaney (KC) because I had worked with her before, and I had met Ella a few times. There were a few other people in the movie whom I’d worked with before, but we never got to do a scene together. For example, I didn’t even know that Dan Saad (Robert) was in the movie until seeing it for the first time.

DLM: What did you think when you first read the script for The Hit Girl, of both the film in general, but more specifically, of your character?

JA: I knew instantly that I was going to love playing this character. Suzy is the kind of role I live for. She’s funny, vivacious, clever, and a huge nerd. Reading the script for the first time, I didn’t get half of the movie references she made. I took her on as sort of a challenge. If I was going to make her believable, I was going to have to do a lot of studying.

DLM: Did you make any suggestions about your character or the dialogue either prior to, or during production, or did you mostly just keep to the script?

JA: I may have altered lines here and there just to make them more natural, but I can’t remember specifically which ones. When I’m given a script, I like to stick to what’s written as much as I can. If the line is written a certain way, the writer probably had a reason for it. For this reason, I would always ask James first before changing a line.

DLM: Do you have a favorite scene from the film that you really enjoyed shooting? Alternatively, were there any scenes that were just really difficult to get through for one reason or another?

JA: My favorite scene to shoot was definitely the dinner scene with James Castle Stevens (Bill) and Sharon Gibson (Elizabeth). Even though we’d never acted together, we had an instant chemistry and were able to have a good time and get the job done. The most difficult scene for me would have to be the scene at the gun store. We’d already had a long day of filming at the theater then had to drive to this new location in heavy traffic. By the time we got there we were battling against the sun because of course this would be the night of the solar eclipse. Anything you see in that scene where the camera is on me was from just one take because we were running that short on time. That last shot you see of us leaving the store was literally at the exact moment of the eclipse.

DLM: Do you have any more film appearances in the works right now?

JA: Unfortunately I do not, but I’m hoping that will change soon. I’d love to get back in front of a camera.

DLM: How can people see The Hit Girl and Little Miss Kickass if they want to check out your work?

JA: The Hit Girl can be purchased on Amazon or on our website thehitgirlmovie.com. If you’d like to see Little Miss Kickass, all of the episodes are on Youtube. I’m introduced in episode 3.

DLM: What about theater performances? Do you have anything in the works or coming up that you’d like to mention?

JA: At the moment, I’m in a production of Spamalot at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center. It runs until May 19. I play lots of little cameo roles throughout the show, including a Laker Girl, a Ni Knight, and Sir Bors.

DLM: Is there anything else you’d like to mention before we wrap this up?

JA: I just hope everyone enjoys the movie. We all put a lot of time and effort into making The Hit Girl a reality. I’m so proud to have been a part of this process and cannot wait to see what James has in store for his next big movie.