Fans who know Jessica Biel from her role as Mary Camden on "7th Heaven" may not know that she began her career as a vocalist performing in musical theatre. Biel starred in stage productions including "Annie" and "Beauty and the Beast" before turning to modeling and commercial work.
In "The Rules of Attraction," Jessica Biel plays Lara, party girl and roommate to Lauren (Shannyn Sossamon) the virgin.
JESSICA BIEL (Lara)
Was the script a turn-off or did it make you immediately want to be in it?
Actually, they sent me the script a while ago, way before I even started filming. They said, "Look at the role of Lauren." And so I read 30 pages and I was like, "I don't get it. I don't get this. I think it's kind of..." I didn't really like it at first actually. I was reading it for Lauren and I was concerned about the scene with the sex and the throw up. I'm like, "I don't know. I don't know." We didn't do anything about it and then a couple months later they said, "Well, Shannyn's gonna play this and James is gonna play this, but how about... Are you interested in Laura?" I read it again for Laura, and I was into it. I think maybe I really liked being a smaller part in a larger ensemble piece.
How did you feel about changing your image?
I don't really care about, you know, changing my image. I just wanna do different things. That kind of was the draw for me - when I thought about being an actor as a little kid - is that I can be a princess, I can be an archeologist, I can play this person, I could be anything. It doesn't have to be me and that's the great thing about the job. It wasn't so much I wanna change my image, it was just that it's different. This is not me as a person and I'd like to try to create a nasty, horrible character who's insecure and has all this stuff going on because it's not me. And it was scary. It was challenging to do that.
How difficult has it been to get past the wholesome image from TV?
I don't know. I don't really think it's been that difficult. I know that might sound weird, but the roles that I've been doing...for example, "Summer Catch," I played an older girl. I played somebody who's gotten out of college. She was smart, she was mature, and I think that was really the same as Mary's character because Mary's a really independent, cool, smart girl, but this girl was a lot older. I haven't been held back by [directors] thinking, "Oh, she's so innocent and so whatever." I don't feel like that's been the case. It's a hard question because sometimes I feel that it has been hard. There have been some roles that I've been really interested in. There was this one role where she was supposed to be almost beatnik, dark, and an almost homeless kind of thing. They wouldn't even see me just because of the way I physically look and how I looked on the television show. So, that's a little difficult. I look back at it now and it doesn't really seem like it's been that hard.
Did anything crazy happen between takes?
It was all crazy. Maybe not crazy, but just fun. It was really fun. Just like laughing and goofing around, making jokes, having fun.
Who lightened the mood?
Who lightened the mood? Joel [Michaely]. Joel lightens the mood. He's just a goofball. He is a big goofball. Who else? Kip [Pardue]. Kip was really fun.
What's James Van Der Beek like?
He's great. We actually got along really well. We had a lot in common and [he's] just a nice person. He's one of those guys who's always really calm, really collected, and really wonderful to work with. [He was] really supportive, especially in our sex scene because I had never done one of those before and he just made me feel comfortable. He was really nice.
Does a feature film set feel different from your work on the TV series?
It's the same in that we sit and we wait. The logistical stuff about it is pretty much the same. It's different because I know the crew on "7th Heaven." I know the cast; I know everybody there. I've known them for seven years and I know them very well, so it's comfortable. It's really comfortable when you're all old friends and it's like we get right back into the swing of things every time I see them. On a movie set, it's like a really intense experience for a really short amount of time. Well, not really. It's just it's really intense for a couple months and then that's it - you're done. You have to get there and you form good relationships right away because - I don't know why. You're just there and you kind of have to be comfortable when you want to be friends with everybody. It's definitely more nerve-racking. The first day on a new movie, for me personally, is nerve racking.
Which do you enjoy more?
That's a good question. I don't know. I mean, I enjoy doing television because of "7th Heaven," because I know everybody so well. When we have a really emotional scene or an intense scene, it's so comfortable that it's so easy to get there. It's so easy to be in a vulnerable spot. Everyone's so supportive and fair. "Do you need a few minutes? Do you need to stop?" Or whatever, you can keep going. They just know my pattern, you know what I mean? They know how I do things. But it's also really, really fun because I get to meet different people and I get to work with so many cool people and be on location, which is really fun when you're doing a movie. It's also a challenge to not be in the supportive, comfortable place. Be in that, "God, I hope, you know, I'm okay." Get there and you feel good. You feel proud of yourself like, "All right, you know. I can be in a kind of new situation, a new place and still be okay, and still be good, and still make friends."
Have you gone to college?
I went for my freshman year two years ago, took a year off, and then I'm actually going now.
How does this movie capture the college experience?
I think on a realistic level, it hasn't captured my college experience. I go to Tufts University, which is a pretty small private school where it's difficult to get in. Not to say that parties aren't going on, but it's not crazy. It's not anything like what we depict.
Is it hard to be in school with your career?
It's pretty good actually. People treat me pretty normally. I think most of all, people just won't talk to me. That's the kind of thing that happens. I wouldn't necessarily say that they're ignoring me on purpose, just I think it's kind of like they don't really know what to say and I sometimes don't know what to say either. So I'll just sit there. If I'm in a class where I don't know anybody I sometimes just won't talk to that many people. But people treat me really cool and they don't bug me. They're great. They're really great.
What have you learned about yourself from doing this film?
I think that I've learned that I can create a new person. I can create a character, which is [something I] really haven't had to do before. I felt that I've been able to be me a lot in the last couple things that I've done, in everything that I've done. This character's really different, so I've learned that I can create something from nothing and have it work. I learned that. I guess that's it. I don't know. I'd probably have to think a little bit more.
What do you think is the film's message?
There's a part in the movie where Shannyn says, "You're never gonna know me." I think that's kind of an interesting message. Do you ever really know anybody? I thought that was interesting. I also think that maybe it doesn't have so much of a message as it's just representing what it's like to be a kid and be at school, not have a clue what you wanna do and have your life kind of planned. Like, you think this is how you want it to go and it just doesn't go that way. It's like everything's against you at the moment. I think it's just kind of representative of what I think sometimes a lot of people go through in college. Bad stuff happens, good stuff happens, and sometimes it just really sucks, but that's kind of what you have to go through. I don't know. I guess the characters kind of go through almost a cathartic like... the crap hits the fan and then you're all right. It's not a really happy thing at the end of this movie. It's just kind of realistic about what's going on. So, I don't know exactly about a message.