Jessica Chastain is considered to be one of Hollywood’s most talented actors. Her work in The Help and Zero Dark Thirty put her on the map, but it’s her activism off-screen that is also getting her noticed.
Chastain was at the forefront the pay gap issue, #MeToo and Time’s Up movement way before these stories were the headlines. She’s fought for women’s rights in Hollywood and beyond.
“The great thing about modern feminism is that women can define what it means to them: it can mean being ambitious, it can mean being emotional, it can mean being sensitive and compassionate and also a leader,” she told Tablet in 2017. “It can mean all those things.”
Her constant push to make things better for women in all industries makes her one of our favorite actors to talk about — and learn more about.
Here are some of the coolest things about Jessica Chastain you should know (and tell your friends about).
She Understands Loneliness
Her school years weren't easy. Chastain felt isolated from her peers in high school, so the theater became her outlet for self-expression. In her senior year, she had too many absences from school, so she didn’t qualify for graduation. She went on to get her diploma through an adult-education program.
She Got Help From Robin Williams
After one year at Sacramento City College, she was cast as Juliet in TheatreWorks’ production of Romeo and Juliet. The show inspired her to audition for the prestigious Juilliard School, where she was granted a scholarship that was funded by Robin Williams. She graduated from the school in 2003.
She Was Initially Discovered Early On
Chastain's talent was recognized early on. She was signed to a talent holding deal with The West Wing and Shameless TV producer John Wells before she even graduated. She relocated to Los Angeles and made her television debut on ER.
She’s Very Private About Her Childhood
Jessica Chastain was born in 1977 to teen parents, Jerri Renee Hastey and rock musician Michael Monasterio. Chastain is pretty private about her early years, and her father is not listed on her birth certificate. She was raised by her mother and stepfather, Michael Hastey. It was her maternal grandmother, Marilyn, who inspired her career in entertainment.
She’s Had Some Pretty Famous Roommates
Can you imagine your roommate being actor Michelle Williams? That’s exactly what happened to Chastain when she lived with Williams during a summer production of The Cherry Orchard at Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2004.
"We became like sisters," Chastain reminisced to Marie Claire in 2012. They still remain friends to this day.
2011 Was Her Breakout Year
Chastain struggled for years to break through in TV and film, but 2011 turned out to be her big year. Not only did she have six film releases that year, The Help was a huge hit with audiences and with critics. It earned over $216 million at the box office and earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
She’s a Lasting Hollywood Star
Chastain proved that her Oscar nomination was no fluke. She followed up her 2012 nod with a 2013 Best Actress nomination for Zero Dark Thirty. It was tough to play the role of the unsympathetic CIA analyst who was a proponent of torture after the 9/11 attacks and who led the charge to find Osama bin Laden.
She Married a Count
Chastain began dating Italian count Gian Luca de Preposulo in 2012. He’s an executive in the fashion industry for the brand Moncler. Their wedding on Preposulo’s family estate in Italy in 2017 was star-studded. Guests included Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt and Zero Dark Thirty costar Édgar Ramírez along with countless Italian socialites.
She’s an Avid Animal Lover
Chastain rescued a three-legged pup named Chaplin, but she told People magazine Chaplin doesn't need anyone's sympathy.
“He is so excited to be there with me going on a walk down the pavement, hopping along with the biggest joy you could ever see,” she said.
Besides being a Humane Society of the United States volunteer, she's also a vegan who prefers to live as close to a cruelty-free life as possible.
She’s Not Just Talk
Chastain isn’t just tweeting about equal pay, she’s taking action. Octavia Spencer told a story to Sundance TV about how Chastain helped her earn way more than her usual pay rate for the upcoming holiday comedy film they are shooting.
“She was like, ‘It’s time women get paid the same as men!’” Spencer shared. “We were dropping f-bombs and getting it all out there. And then I said, ‘But here’s the thing, women of color, on that spectrum, we make far less than white women.' She was quiet. She had no idea that that’s what it was like for women of color.”
They negotiated their contract together and Spencer revealed, “We’re making five times what we asked for.”
She’s Incredibly Compassionate
When Chastain was criticized by another woman on Instagram for posting a photo of herself in a T-shirt reading, "We Should All Be Feminists," the actor refrained from hitting back.
Karin Schulz wrote in the comments, "Yes, feminist that believe in God and stand up for The Unborn. I would be for that kind of feminist."
Instead of being nasty, Chastain was nice. She visited the woman's profile and learned she was struggling to conceive and had a GoFundMe page to raise money for her infertility treatments. Chastain was classy enough to donate $2,000 and offer her words of encouragement.
She’s Slated to Star In the ‘It’ Sequel
The best casting news of 2018 came out in February when it was revealed that Chastain was joining the cast of the It sequel. She will play the older version of Beverly, who was played in the first film by Sophia Lillis.
Lillis was hoping Chastain would play the grown-up Beverly, as was director Andy Muschietti, who is also signed on for the sequel. He told Variety in 2017, "Jessi is an amazing actress and a very good friend, and I would love her to play Beverly."
He got his wish. Now we just have to wait for that Sept. 6, 2019, release date.
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