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An Interview with Jody Jaress, Star of Mother's Day Memories

by Mike Haberfelner

February 2021

Films starring Jody Jaress on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie Mother's Day Memories - in a few words, what is it about?

 

To me the final film ends up being about secrets… and the fact that none of us truly know the motivation behind someone’s behavior.

 

What did you draw upon to bring your character to life, and how much Jody Jaress can we find in her?

 

Well, there is always a lot of Jody Jaress in the characters I portray. You see, for me, when I take on a project, I realize there can be no reality if I’m not living as myself, having made the same choices that the individual made to end up where they are in the story. I then relate my own personal experiences to those in the story and trust the director’s vision.

 

Since your character in Mother's Day Memories is suffering from Alzheimer, did you do any special research on the subject prior to filming?

 

For Mother's Day Memories, Alzheimers and/or dementia had already touched my personal life, so I had some emotional knowledge. Then of course, since this film was loosely based on Bill Hoversten’s family [Bill Hoversten interview - click here], I wanted specifics. Bill and I spoke a lot about his relationship to this particular time in his mother’s life. I have great admiration for his approach to this very poignant and personal story. A good deal of my dialog was the actual verbiage used by his mother. Very daunting for us both, especially while filming.

 

How did you get involved with the project in the first place?

 

An actor friend of Bill’s, and mine also, suggested Bill contact me. We met, along with Matthew the director, and had a great compatible lunch. I truly was honored to be included. Think about it, I was being asked to portray someone’s real life mother. Quite a delicate decision.

 

What can you tell us about Mother's Day Memories' director Matthew Michael Ross, and what was your collaboration like?

 

At that first meeting with Bill, the three of us seemed to have a common ground for filmmaking. I must say that it was lovely to be allowed and encouraged to share ideas and suggestions. And if you knew me, you’d know that I would be doing just that! (teehee). On the set, Matthew respected the different ways that each of we actors wished to be adjusted, or worked with. Good directors understand that each actor responds differently to redirect etc. With me, it’s simplicity. “Please don’t start explaining why you want something… one or two descriptive words is enough.” We did well together… and he let me stretch a moment longer to see where I would go, thus knowing that he could choose what he loved and needed in the editing.

 

Do talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere!

 

Oh my goodness… well there was minimal crew. Everyone was on their game at all times. I never heard nor felt any complaints from anyone about anything. We filmed at three locations. Two homes, and the nursing facility. Matthew was able to surround us with a young talented crew. The director sets the mood for each and every day… plus we were all so close in proximity that respect and consideration was prevalent from everyone. Our darling Bill, was the creator/writer/actor and first time producer. He had his hands full, that’s for sure. He did a great job… and still is, with the screenings and setting up interviews, and all that goes with promoting a film.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

I have several areas of creativity and projects: Actor. Writer. Director. Singer. Private coach. My acting is airing on two different national commercial spots at the moment; I have two shorts in post, and one film waiting for the pandemic to allow us to return to work on set. I’m deep in rewrites on an action/fantasy/romance feature film, Return Of The Sacred. I’m obsessed with tightening up the story/sub-text etc. Directing a film is not on the horizon at the moment, but I’m keep busy directing/taping/editing my actor clients in their self-tape auditions, demo reels and professional image. Plus since the pandemic, instead of teaching at home, I teach acting privately on Zoom, and am hired by theater companies to coach their members, also on Zoom. Of course, any singing gigs or jam sessions are done on Zoom.

 

What got you into acting in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?

 

Wow, that goes back to grade school! I always wanted to act, sing and dance the very moment I saw photos of kids in the Sunday papers wearing costumes. My parents were understanding and generous enough even though we had meager monies, to allow me to take a variety of lessons throughout my school-age years. Training was only in theater acting, stage craft and production at Will-O-Way Apprentice Theatre in Michigan, but not for film nor television. Of course I read up on technique and other’s experiences and terminology. I visited the home of Lee Strasberg and his family, back in the day, as an aspiring young actress wanting to audition for the Actors Studio in NYC. Unfortunately at the time, Lee realized that I was too young to join the group. He said to please come back in a year. I never did.

 

As far as I know, before you got into movies, you did a lot of theatre - so what can you tell us about that aspect of your career, and what prompted your move into the filmworld?

 

Right off the bat, movies were my focus… even in grade school. I sat in movie theaters every weekend. I lived on that screen no matter what! My parents knew nothing about who, where, how to help me, other than seeking out the best theater training nearby. And I’m so happy and fortunate that they did. To me, theater is basic to an actor’s growth, understanding, concentration, consistency and career development. I earned several awards, and was honored by Sir Basil Rathbone [Basil Rathbone bio - click here] when he requested a command performance from me as Kate in Taming of the Shrew. I was fortunate to work with amazing actors such as George C. Scott, and William Holden’s son, dynamic actor West Holden, in Equus. West received Best Actor, and I was nominated as Best Supporting Actor. My acting abilities seemed to become instinctual and logical as I finally moved into film and television after I moved from Michigan to Los Angeles. I have never adhered to a particular style of acting other than to be real… don’t get caught acting. I do my very best at the time.

 

What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Mother's Day Memories?

 

I need to be very honest with you. I have difficulty in answering interview questions. I’ve lived so many lives in my life, it’s hard to know what’s interesting to readers or not. What to exclude or include. Okay… a few films that I absolutely adored working on before Mother's Day Memories were: Chain Link, an award winning, gritty feature film written/directed/edited by Dylan Reynolds [Dylan Reynolds interview - click here]. We ended up becoming a true extended family of filmmakers, and we’re still in each other’s lives today. Rare indeed. Another award winner, Fragile Storm is an amazing production directed/edited by Dawn Fields. This short stars Lance Henriksen, myself and Mackenzie Mason and is about my husband living up to a promise with a devastating and unexpected twist on an ailment. I loved going to New Orleans and filming 2Bedroom 1Bath, a horror film by Stanley Yung. FYI, I was NOT the victim! Horror comics and films were one of my favorites growing up. I’ve worked with iconic Oscar winning directors; Mike Nichols for one on Charlie Wilson’s War; worked with Oscar awarded actors; Adrien Brody, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Timothy Bottoms, Ernest Borgnine, etc. in films such as Hollywoodland, Chinaman's Chance and others.

 

Working in the movies for quite some time now, how do you feel the filmworld has changed over the years?

 

Well, change is good. It’s necessary, even though we sometimes say, “If it works, don’t change it.” Do I like or am I comfortable with all the differences… yes and no. For instance: Back in the 80s, 90s as an actor our audition process was very personal. Casting, directors, producers were in the room, not on computers or in another state on Zoom. Most actors like myself miss that real live connection. The relationship, the bonding in getting to sense their energies, attitudes. Being able to “read the room” was for the filmmakers advantage as well as ours the actors to better evaluate whether or not you want to work together. It’s not just talent that gets you the bookings. On the other hand, this new technology has opened up more opportunities for actors and the filmmakers, because there are now no initial limits when seeking out talent, or even locations. The romantic process of working as a craftsman shooting on film, was amazing, beautiful, delicate, slow, limited and nearly extinct now. Thank goodness there are still young and old filmmakers intrigued with this vintage process and are excited to learn the craft. Of course, they use today's digital technology also. And why not. Time is money… digital is fast, with a growing amount of creative functions. 

 

Decades ago, I was not so politically aware regarding the discontent over the hiring of men over women etc. Or ageism, etc. Women have been directing films from the beginning of cinema — Alice Guy is credited with directing one of the world’s first narrative films in 1896, and women have continued to break new cinematic ground, overcoming plenty of resistance in more than 100 years since. I knew that in the 1800s, the 20s, 30s and 40s there were more female directors, writers, certainly more than are talked about today or even acknowledged. Dorothy Arzner (1927) directed Paramount's first talkie, later directing Katharine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Lucille Ball; Lois Weber, highest-paid director in Hollywood (1917); so many others too! Oh yes, we all know about Ida Lupino (1949) famed actress and just as famous for her many film noir directing techniques and screenwriting career, especially The Hitch-Hiker (1953); Chantal Akerman (1975), etc. Well, we’ve had set-backs and up-swings, and maybe that will balance out, whatever that means. I just want opportunities for everyone interested. Whoever is the best for the particular film’s genre, is the one that ought to get the job. Each generation brings their new technology and passions. That’s as it ought to be. That’s how we have gotten to where we are… and that’s good.

 

Besides being an actress, you're also a very accomplished jazz and blues singer - so do talk about that aspect of your career, and your musical influences?

 


My mother wanted me to be a singer more than an actress, I think. I really enjoyed singing and performing live. I was twelve when I recall starting to sing country western music at fairs, horse shows, Elks clubs, Knights of Columbus etc. Also, with Mother as guardian, I was allowed to sing with the bands at some local bars, as long as they served food. Eventually, I spent many years entertaining our, the USA, service men and women on naval ships and at camp sites. For those years, I was awarded the prestigious USO pin. A beautiful honor. I suppose my country music meshed into American Standards, when I was let go as a regular singer on a local Los Angeles country western music television show. I wasn’t “country” enough they said. Oh well, onward I go. I ended up as a jazz dancer at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas for a couple of years… and would jam as a singer with the Ink Spots at the New Frontier. Absolute fun! Let’s see, after a marriage and two precious children, a divorce, and a tragedy no parent ought to bare, I had more life to cry about sharing it in my singing I guess. I began connecting to the pain I heard in Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin, Nina Simone and my singing took a turn. I’m a stylist. A story teller, whether it’s in films or live on stage singing. After more years of singing, what some called jazz and blues, I became one of the favorites in the Los Angeles jazz venues. One particular night at the famed Hollywood Studio Bar and Grill, blues icon Linda “the kid” Hopkins, approached me and said “Honey, you know how to sing the blues. Yes, you do.” I’ve now been honored by UNESCO on International Jazz Day, by the Duke Ellington Society, NAACP Beverly Hills and Hollywood, Jazzabration Foundation, and the City of Los Angeles, for my years performing and contribution to the jazz and blues community. I’ve been inducted as a Jazz and Blues Living Legend as I continue to inspire others to achieve their passions. Their dreams.

 

How would you describe yourself as an actress, and some of your techniques to bring your characters to life?

 

Oh my, I’d like to hear how “others” would describe me as an actress! I must know what the story is truly about and then I can figure out my purpose and responsibility in the story. I like having some backstory if possible, or make it up for myself. I study the script like a detective would delve into a case. Totally curious about everything. I must trust my instincts. Being real is the key. I don’t focus on memorizing the dialog, just understanding it: Like, if I lived this life from start till now - and made those choices in my life - how would I, Jody, respond to the circumstances in the film’s story. I’m me. I’m not becoming someone else.

 

Actresses (and indeed actors) who inspire you?

 

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Such a long list! The usual: Katharine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Anthony Hopkins… I don’t know. So many. Character actors as well. Some inspire me for just one particular film, but not for most of their work. There is something I learn from nearly every actor I watch… from excellent ones to “how the heck did they cast this person”-bad (in my opinion).

 

Your favourite movies?

 

Again, there are many. A few: Gilda, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Dark Victory, most film noir, Arsenic and Old Lace, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Moulin Rouge.

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

I’m not certain that I have any. When Howard the Duck originally came out (1986), it was the first time that I ever walked out of a theater because I didn’t like the film. But today, I like it! Different times in your life, like food, your tastes change. Although, I’m not a great fan of Blazing Saddles. Oh, and I don’t like films on the order of Dumb and Dumber, etc.

 

Your website, social media, whatever else?

 

Official website: www.jodyjaress.com

Filmography: www.IMDb.me/jodyjaress

Personal page: www.facebook.com/jodyjaress

Amazon: www.amazon.com/s?k=jody+jaress

YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/results?search_query=jody+jaress&sp=CAMSAhAB+18

 

Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

Oh my, let’s hope not at this point, eh?! You had great questions. Thank you for your interest.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
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shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD