Jessica Chastain on being sensitive and a loner

Acclaimed for her performance in “Zero Dark Thirty” (she garnered an Academy Award nomination) as a CIA analyst named Maya who untiringly pursues Osama bin Laden, Jessica Chastain has talked about some aspects of her personal life that may have helped her create such powerful characters.

In an interview on the Charley Rose Show, Jessica Chastain talked about being somewhat a loner as a child, and with an active imagination – like many artists. She also says that at age seven she discovered her identity as an actor.

[Audio clip is from video: Charlie Rose – Jessica Chastain (12/13/12)]

In his article about her work in “Zero Dark Thirty”, Fred Schruers writes, ‘Chastain finds a turning point for her character in Maya’s friendship with her colleague Jessica (Jennifer Ehle), an almost equally dedicated CIA “targeter.” Until the women work together, Maya had been something of a loner.

‘Says Chastain: “She didn’t have a boyfriend. Didn’t have any of that. It was a calling that she had…. Everything was about Maya trying to get what she wants by using her brain and not her sex.”

[From Jessica Chastain gets her character in ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, Los Angeles Times, December 20, 2012.]

The Week magazine summarized an article about her early life [“Why Chastain was a loner” by  Jonathan Heaf in GQ (U.K.)] :

Jessica Chastain‘Jessica Chastain has spent much of her life feeling like a fraud, said Heaf. While studying theater at New York’s prestigious Juilliard School [she had earned a scholarship], the actress was terrified that she’d be exposed as a talentless hack and sent home.

“It’s really why I never partied with the other students,” says Chastain. “There was a bar called Malarkeys that almost everyone would go to. I probably went twice in three years. In fact, I’ve never really been wasted. I’m not a fun person.”

‘Chastain was so fearful of failure that she gave up a social life to focus on schoolwork and acting. She’d dreamed of becoming an actress since early childhood, but was never encouraged by the adults in her life—a lack of support that still stings today.’

“I knew I wanted to be an actor. That was it for me. But whenever I would say that to an adult, they would be like, ‘Oh yeah? Well I wanted to be a ballerina.’ It’s kind of sad that we crush children’s dreams in this way. Now if someone tells me something which I feel is impossible, I just say, ‘Go for it.’”

In other interviews, Chastain has talked more about her qualities – like being a “loner” – that indicate introversion and high sensitivity – personality traits shared with many other gifted performers.

“I was the girl who cut school to go to the park, and the other kids would be smoking and drinking and I’d be reading Shakespeare.”

“I’m very sensitive in real life. I cannot not cry if someone around me is crying…even if it’s not appropriate. I have that thing in me, a weakness or sensitivity.”

Psychologist Elaine Aron, PhD says that highly sensitive people “do cry more readily than others. It was a strong finding in our research.”

From post: Jessica Chastain and High Sensitivity.

> Note: being highly sensitive is a personality trait, not a “weakness.”

Also see more of her quotes in post I’m not an actor to be a personality.

Another related article: Shy or Introverted or Highly Sensitive in the Arts.


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Originally posted 2012-12-20 20:28:56.


  1. Great to hear Ms Chastain articulate her journey so well. It can be such a challenge for creatives to understand themselves and find their niche.

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