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Interview: Jessalyn Gilsig Talks 'Somewhere Slow', 'Vikings', 'Glee' & More

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Actress Jessalyn Gilsig
has shown over and over again that with determination, hard work and skill, you can carve out an amazing career in film and television. With roles in films such as 
The StepfatherProm Night and The Horse Whisperer along with roles in hit television shows like Glee,HeroesNip/TuckFriday Night Lights and Boston Public, Jessalyn has become one of the most recognized and sought after actresses in the business today. She can be currently seen on the History Channel hit series Vikings which will start Season 2 on February 27th and she also currently stars in the independent  film Somewhere Slow where she is not only the lead actress, but a first time producer as well. She took a moment out of her busy schedule to sit down and chat with us about her career and acting.
Pop Culture Principle – Can you tell us about the film Somewhere Slow?

Jessalyn Gilsig – I think of it as sort of an unconventional love story with a woman who has become emotionally paralyzed and through a random series of events, she has this opportunity to walk out on her life and take a recess from her reality. Along the way she meets this young teenager name Travis who convinces her to break into a summer home that her family had once owned. There they spend a few days together and he really encourages her to take down her guard, relax and be present. Through their friendship and their love, they grow I think. Ultimately as you do in life, they go back to reality, but I think slightly changed in a way that may seem small, but is significant.

Pop Culture Principle – What did you like most about playing Anna?

Jessalyn Gilsig – Well for me, she was really interesting because I usually play these women, who are really proactive and go after what they want, whether or not it’s morally sound, but they have a lot of drive and Anna is the opposite of that. In some ways, I think that she defines passive aggression; she’s so passive that it’s infuriating and frustrating which is also something you encounter sometimes in life. So, it was really a good challenge for me to have to trust that with everything moving around me, to just be there and to not be a part of the flow, but to kind of allow the flow to wash over me. That was the story and that was the character and to not feel like I had to insert energy which is what I am use to doing.

Pop Culture Principle – What were the challenges in playing this unique character?

Jessalyn Gilsig – Because I produced the film, I was involved with it so early on; from the first read through of the film and all the way through pre-production and casting. By the time we filmed it, I knew it so well, it was a really good lesson for me as an actor. As an actor it’s really hard sometimes to know entire scripts as well as you wish you did. You rarely ever get read-throughs or rehearsals. So, sometimes you feel like you are just popping in and you are not entirely sure not only where you are coming from and where you are going after the scene, but maybe where the other character is coming from or where they are going. In this instance, I knew the material so well that in a way, by the time we were filming, I felt I had to just put on the clothes and just let it happen. I am not trying to sound arrogant or ridiculous, but I knew her so well by then that she was just a natural extension of me. Also having Graham, he was such an incredible partner. I never had to take care of him. He stepped into that role with such confidence, but at the same time allowing the boy to come through which was important to the story. I felt like I had this natural dance partner. I’ve seen reviews that say he steals the film and I am so glad that people can see how special his performance is because his performance is very deliberate and very thought out. That’s not who Graham is, he’s not Travis, but he really created a very compelling character and so to be able to play opposite him made my job so much easier.

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Pop Culture Principle – Do you think Anna is going through a mid-life crisis?

Jessalyn Gilsig – I feel like Anna’s journey to where she is has nothing to do with her age. I always thought of her as someone who was quite successful in high school; someone who socially functioned really effectively and somewhere along the way, she didn’t evolve. Sometimes people just don’t have the strength to get back on track. I feel like with Anna, somewhere she got arrested and she hasn’t been able to evolve and show up in her life. The layers are just piling on and it’s getting progressively more and more oppressed. I don’t think it’s directly linked to the fact that she happens to be what you would call mid-life, I think it’s more of a character study of this individual.

Pop Culture Principe – How much did you relate to Anna and her obsession with her appearance?
Jessalyn Gilsig – One of the big reasons I love this role is that I can relate to that. That issue defined my entire adolescence. It’s the ultimate in a kind of narcissism, where you really cannot be a reasonable human being because all you can think about are all these sores on your face. I know that feeling, I remember that feeling. I don’t think Anna is the only woman to get into a kind of obsessive sort of confusion about appearance. I think in our culture right now with appearance and public face, I think we are in such a dysmorphia about it and about what beauty is and what is acceptable. We are so judgmental of women right now in this culture, it’s incredible. I feel like she really manifests that and she has completely lost her personal compass.

Pop Culture Principle – What was it like working with Jeremy O’Keefe?

Jessalyn Gilsig – He was fantastic! From the moment that he asked me to play the role, he put an amazing amount of trust in me for this project that was very personal for him. It’s like we are siblings now and he’s my little brother. He pushed me as an actor and I pushed him as a director. A really good example of this is the scene with both characters being under the blanket. We debated about this scene a lot. I wasn’t sure that it worked and we would argue about it. Many people have told me that scene was their favorite in the film. Jeremy really fought as an artist to keep that and he was right. It’s been a really intense, but really rewarding partnership.

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Pop Culture Principle – What would you like people to take away from this film after seeing it?

Jessalyn Gilsig – If you reach back to the child within you, it will make you more human, more open and more compassionate. The whole idea of stop the world I want to get off. If you really could get off for a minute, where would you find your laughter? Where would you find your joy? We all have to go back home. Everybody has struggles, complicated dynamics and family issues and money challenges. No one can escape that but can you stay in touch with that light inside you and if you can I think it makes you more able to be present and be connected. It’s that ability to connect and really actually hear that around her there was love, she just couldn’t feel it or let it in.

Pop Culture Principle – Season 2 is about to start for the hit series Vikings, was it difficult getting back into that mindset while filming Season 2?

Jessalyn Gilsig – We were all so nervous about it when we went back. Luckily we have this amazing wardrobe and hair and the environment to get us going, but I have to be honest, we were all trying to figure out what to do. Should we watch it, should we not watch it? How are we going to get back into the world and then over time of course, it comes back.

Pop Culture Principle – Michael Hirst said in an interview he wanted Season 2 to be bigger and better. What do you think that means for Siggy and for the series as a whole?

Jessalyn Gilsig – The show is definitely bigger in the sense that there are bigger ships and we have more extras and they go more places. There are more storylines away from the central village; there is a lot more exploration. With regards to Siggy, what was fun is that I got to branch out and really interact with a lot more characters and sort of build up a storyline of her own of her attempt to find security and to survive because she’s in such a vulnerable position. So for me personally, I did a lot of scenes with Donal Logue whom I’ve known for years and it was a lot of fun for us to play together. I had some nice scene with Alyssa Sutherland as well so it was fun to be able to interact with some of the other talent.

Pop Culture Principle – Do you think Siggy and Lagertha will grow closer in Season 2?

Jessalyn Gilsig – Yes, they are quite connected at the end of Season 1. In Season 2, the friendship does get tested because Lagertha actually goes away and when she comes back, she has an expectation of the solidarity from Siggy, but Siggy has to put herself first. We have an interesting exchange were Lagertha wants information from Siggy and she can’t give it to her because she has to protect herself first and this actually creates quite a rift between the two which I think is really interesting.

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Pop Culture Principle – Do you think Siggy will find true love in Season 2?

Jessalyn Gilsig – That’s a great question. I think love is very hard for Siggy. I just feel she loves Rollo in spite of herself and I think she knows that he’s not a great bet, but it’s kind of where she’s hung her hat so she’s going to try and make it work. Siggy has lost so much that for her to really put her trust into anybody would be a very tall order.

Pop Culture Principle – Are you still surprised at the popularity of the show?

Jessalyn Gilsig – I am surprised because there have only been 9 episodes. There is so much activity about the show on social media and people really took these characters and ran with them in a way we didn’t expect. I think it says a lot about the way people watch TV now. People are really deeply invested in story and in character in a very sophisticated way and you can’t get away with anything. They are really noticing all the dynamics and all the different kinds of tensions and politics and so forth. I’m always surprised when people take the time to watch anything that I’ve been a part of because people are busy. So, it’s always a relief and I’m usually pinching myself when I realize that I am actually a part of that story.

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Pop Culture Principle – With Glee possibly coming to an end soon, is there talk of you may be coming back for the final season for a guest appearance as Terri Schuester?

Jessalyn Gilsig – I don’t know, I hope so. I haven’t heard anything but doing something for the final season would be a lot of fun. I owe so much to Ryan Murphy and that’s an understatement. Not just career wise, but I feel creatively as well. He’s such an interesting show runner to work for because he pushes you as an actor. So, I would do anything for him. If he calls, I would definitely make the time and space because I am indebted to him and I always will be.

Pop Culture Principle – Is there a genre to type of role that you haven’t done yet, that you would like too?

Jessalyn Gilsig – I would really, really like to do comedy. I really do. I want to do a single camera type of comedy show like Parks & Recreation. I love that stuff. When I did theater, I did a lot of comedy. I love the rhythm of comedy, I love the part when you say a line and the other person closes it with a joke, I just love that dance. If I had a vision board, which I don’t, but if I did, a single camera comedy would be on it for sure.

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