Interview: Jessica Whitfield Discusses Her Acting Journey

Jessica Whitfield’s acting career began in middle school when she performed as Lenora in The Long Christmas Dinner by Thornton Wilder. She continued her stage acting career throughout high school and college where she earned a BFA in Theatre/Acting from Drake University. Jessica quit acting for a while and tried to live a traditional life; she took on a 9 to 5 office job and a house in the suburbs but was unhappy with that lifestyle. A little over a year ago she quit her day job and started acting again. Cast in two feature films and several other acting projects, Jessica has found plenty of acting jobs in the Kansas City area.

Q: Jessica, what was the turning point for you? When did you know it was time to let go of the security of a nine to five job and pursue your dream?

Jessica: Does anyone actually just work 9-5 anymore? I know I was working way more hours than that, plus, there was the half hour drive to work (when there was no traffic) and if there was snow or ice it would sometimes take me 2-3 hours to drive home, and then I would have domestic responsibilities to take care of once I got home.

I was living the ‘American Dream,’ and I was completely miserable. A corporate job and house in the suburbs may be fine for some, but it was not for me. I had no creative outlet and I had a passion inside of me that was dying to be let out. I knew I had to quit my job in order to be happy, but what next? I looked into some grad schools but wasn’t sure what I would study. I applied to some jobs across the country thinking I could escape my old life. Then I decided I would go to an audition for a film project. I had only done some stage acting years ago and had no film experience, but I got cast! They thought I was good! I couldn’t believe it. I stopped looking into schools and jobs across the country and decided I would try acting again in Kansas City.

Q: How would you describe your acting style?

Jessica: I have acting experience in both scripted and improv projects. I mostly get cast in comedic roles, but enjoy acting in dramatic roles as well. I like to create backstories for my characters and develop histories with the other characters in the project. You probably won’t find out my secret backstory while watching my performance, but it is there.

Q: As with anything outside our comfort zone, there are those times we experience hesitations, or fears, even, and we have the choice to face them or run. Can you think of a time you experienced a hesitation or fear and how you overcame it?

Jessica: I have fears and hesitations anytime I watch myself on camera. I started out acting for the stage and acting for the camera is very different. I started taking some acting for the camera classes and feel I am getting better and I’m more confident now. I know now that watching myself on camera is a way to learn what is working and what is not working and is a great way to improve.

Q: What kind of roles do you feel you would do best in?

Jessica: I play a lot of girlfriend roles, but I play character roles as well, like the quirky girl.  I often get cast in roles that require an accent or period roles.

Q: What’s your dream acting project?

Jessica: My all-time favorite play is Miss Julie by Swedish playwright August Strindberg and there are a couple of recent movie adaptations. It was written in the realism era in the late 1800’s. It’s about the way men and women manipulate each other and the themes are still relevant today. I would love to play Miss Julie someday.

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Q: It is clear you’re driven by your passion. You have done very well and in a short time. What’s it like doing what you love verses the office job?

Jessica: I don’t make as much money now that I don’t have an office job, but making money didn’t make me happy. I love that I get to be creative and that I have an emotional outlet. I like playing characters that have a troubled past or have had a recent tragedy because that allows me to use my own personal pain and release it into the character I am portraying. It is therapeutic and healing for me.

Q: Do you have advice for people that are sitting on the fence; they want to go for it but they are hesitant to jump off the fence?

Jessica: My advice is to cut the negativity out of your life. There will always be people telling you that acting is a hobby. That acting is not a career. That you’re not good enough and that you’ll never make it. Don’t let other people tell you how to live your life. Acting is not for everyone but it may be for you. You’ll never be a success if you don’t even try.

To learn more about Jessica Whitfield and follow her career, go to her website, Facebook or  IMDb page.