Character Breakdown with Juliette Blackman

Read on for a quick Q&A with actress Juliette Blackman, who played Missy’s sister Jess in Keeper.

What drew you to the role of Jess? 

I think the challenge of playing Jess is what drew me to her. As soon as I read the script, I knew I didn’t want to portray Jess as one-faceted; being an addict or having an addiction can seem like someone’s entire self, but the addiction is just one aspect of the entire person. So for Jess, I was interested in discovering who she was outside of the heroin use. 

How did you prepare for the role?

To prepare for Keeper, I did a lot of research on Jess’s addiction. I watched interviews and documentaries, and reading as many articles as I could get my hands on. Then once I felt like I intellectually “understood” what Jess was going through, I started working emotionally to find her in the circumstances. 

Working this way looked different day by day, but ultimately I used my imagination to create the world Jess lives in, a world founded on the experiences I read about. From there, I used various tools to find myself as Jess in the world I created.  

Jess’ addiction is a huge part of her story; how did you emotionally connect to that illness?

Connecting to Jess’s addiction wasn’t nearly as hard as one might imagine. I think that most of us have our little “addictions,”  whether they are healthy or not. It’s uncomfortable to think about, but these dependencies are, in a way, the kernel of what a more substantial addiction could be like. 

To connect to Jess, I looked at all of the things that I rely on and am unhappy when I don’t have. Then asked myself what would happen if I had none of these coping tools, and amplified that feeling ten-fold. As you might imagine, the resulting feeling was not fun. What was fun was imagining the inverse amplified to a whole other level for Jess’s high. 

How would you describe Jess and Missy’s relationship?

This question is tough. Missy is so many things to Jess; her savior, security blanket, best friend, mother, enabler, and one heck of a guilt-trip, all rolled into one. 

A lot of Jess and Bill’s history plays out off-screen. What do you think draws Jess to Bill? How did you imagine their relationship?

I think they probably have a chemical romance, a love addiction—that type of relationship that’s either “fight or f***.”  I’m not sure Jess has a clue why she’s drawn to Bill, but that’s why he’s so dangerous for her. Like a moth to a flame, she goes back. Subconsciously I think there is a sense of security in the level of control Bill exerts over Jess, which she confuses for love.

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