Jenn was recently featured in Constellation Magazine! Read the interview below, or at the source here.
Jaclyn Bethany: Hi, Jenn! Where did you grow up, and where are you currently based?
Jenn Murray: I grew up in Belfast, in Northern Ireland. I went to drama school in Dublin and then I moved to London. I spend a lot of time in Los Angeles and I love New York, but I am based in London at the moment.
JB: How did you get into acting? Was performing always a part of your childhood?
JM: I loved to play dress-up as a child in my home. I would do impersonations to make my family laugh. I enjoyed drama in school, but I was quite shy, never putting myself forward for school plays. In school acting seemed to be about the loudest people in the room, which I was not. I knew as a teenager that I would love to be an actor. But that was all it was: a sentence, an idea. However, when I was 18 and filling in my UCAS forms I had to ask myself a serious question: Was I really going to try to be an actor, and if so, how? I deferred a place at university to keep my parents at peace and in my gap year, I auditioned for drama schools. With the offer on the table, it was easier to convince my parents that I was serious about acting.
JB: Who are some performers you admired growing up and why?
JM: Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Holly Hunter, Joe Pesci, Goldie Hawn and Daniel Day Lewis. In my house, we regularly watched Sleepless in Seattle, Moonstruck, The Firm, My Cousin Vinny…. watching films was an event in my house. I remember if I was unwell or upset over something at school, I could watch Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan and everything would feel better.
JB: You made your feature debut in Dorothy Mills, which went on to receive numerous accolades. What was it like to take on such a challenging, disturbing role?
JM: The day I got the phone call—the moment I got the offer for that role—I still can hear my agent at the time saying, “You got the role of Dorothy.” I was thrilled. And it just kept getting better. The costume fittings, the voice coaching, the set design, the other actors! Playing the scenes! I knew how lucky I was. It was a role in which I could delve deep and find creative fulfillment…. The challenge and the unknown are so exciting. You are vulnerable and exposed; you lean on your scene partners and the director. You have to trust in one another quickly. All these things make you feel brave and free and like you are making progress every day.
I never looked at my director, Agnes Merlet, as a woman. I just saw her as my director—a director who had given me a golden opportunity—and a person from whom I could learn. The fact that she was a woman did not define her mission, her creativity.
JB: You followed up this performance with roles in short films and various television series, which then led to your role in John Crowley and Nick Hornby’s Brooklyn. I loved your character, Dolores. What did you learn about young immigrants during this time? Being from Ireland, did you feel that the film was a bit of a love letter to your home?
JM: Colm Tóibín’s a favorite writer of mine. His novel, Brooklyn, was etched in my heart years before a screenplay came into my email account! This story was so important to me: My grandfather had gone through Ellis Island in 1932, my brother was living in Brooklyn at the time, and I was and am in love with New York! The moment I set foot in New York, I felt at home. I went there for the first time when I was eight and returned for a prolonged period of time when I was 18. For the first time, I felt that my Irish identity was clear, without question marks…. A common thread in each person’s life is saying goodbye, moving, grief, and choices—choices that will define your destiny. It was a privilege to be a part of this story.
JB: What’s the best film you’ve seen recently?
JM: I really enjoyed Arrival. Denis Villeneuve is a director I have admired for many years…. The story was simple yet gripping. The actors carried the urgency and magnitude of what was happening in their faces, and the cinematography was breathtaking. Every actor in the film, whether they led it or had one or two lines, was top class.
JB: What inspires you to act and to continue the pursuit of your dreams?
JM: Acting for me has always felt like a vocation…. When I was growing up, films shaped who I was and what I wanted my future to be. They gave me confidence and conviction, and I still feel that I want to be part of a medium that can do that for myself and others.