In The Name Of Badass Women: Carla Gugino Talks "Jett" On Cinemax
Cinemax’s latest series Jett is slated to premiere on Friday June 14th. “Jett” follows the titular character, a world-class thief who’s fresh out of prison from serving a 5-year term and seeking a to live a normal, clean life as a mother. But she is lured back into her past occupation for one last job. This decision will lead her down an unexpected path of crime, drama, family and blurring the lines between friends and enemies as she navigates between a cast of crime lords.
Decorated actress Carla Gugino stars as the “anti-hero” Jett. Gugino boast numerous T.V. credits appearing Chicago Hope, Entourage, Californication, and The Haunting of The Hill House. On the big screen, she has starred in Sin City, Night at the Museum, American Gangster, Mr. Popper's Penguins, San Andreas, and many more.
I spoke with Ms. Gugino about preparing for Jett, her experience being an executive producer for the first time, and why Hollywood needs more badass women on screen.
AllHipHop: Thanks for taking some time out to talk with me. I watched the first couple episodes of Jett and I loved it. You didn’t hold back anything in the first episode. I think it set’s the tone for the rest of the series.
Carla Gugino: Yeah, I know right? It takes no prisoners. I’m glad it has that effect. When I read the script for the first time, I got to the end and I literally yelled out “No!” Just as an audience, it was so shocking.
AllHipHop: I was totally caught off guard. What initially drew you to the role of Jett**?**
Carla Gugino: Yeah, you know, I was really taken by the fact that she is unsentimental, pragmatic, and really good at her job. She’s very much a woman, but she functions more like how we're used to seeing male characters. Oftentimes as actresses, you're asked to come in to bring humanity to something or an emotional component. With this character, I love that there's just a lot you don't understand about her. She's not a woman who's been wrong, who's rising from the ashes, you know, she's really just pretty simple and straightforward. She’s excellent at her job, and her job happens to be being a thief. She's kind of screwed up, had a kid, and now she's a liability. Now, she's no longer untouchable. She’s trying to figure out how to be a mom, and she doesn't really have any natural maternal instincts. Of course, they're in there somewhere. All of those elements made it such an interesting character for me to play.
AllHipHop: As you said earlier, a woman being centered in this role is something we don’t see enough of. In this genre, the thief is usually a male. So, for you to give life to this role was fantastic.
Carla Gugino: It was interesting, because I always love to watch different things that might be inspiring to me, and performances that I think are interesting. With this one, it was watching much more male performances like Clint Eastwood stuff, some Steve McQueen in there, a young Denzel because those male characters, so often, you're compelled by them, but you're not sure yet. You don't know if you can trust them yet, but you want to get to know them. And that was interesting to me.
AllHipHop: Wow. That’s a great description. Now, is this your first time in the executive producer chair?
Carla Gugino: I produced a couple of little things, but this is the first television series that I've been an executive producer on and this was the show that I have been absolutely the most involved on in my career in the sense of casting, helping cast the other roles, and being there with the script from the beginning. That's been really fulfilling. I think, because more than anything, you got the best shot of delivering what you want to deliver, if you can be that involved. So often, as an actor, you kind of show up on set and do your part. I always love being able to help a director express their vision. But oftentimes, by the time you see the movie, or the TV show, it might be very different than what you thought you were doing, just because that's the nature of the beast as an actor, you know. So, it was really fulfilling on this one to be able to just have a more active hand in it.
AllHipHop: You said, you had your hand in the casting. When I saw Giancarlo Esposito was on board, I thought you two would be a dynamic team on screen. How was it working with him? Is he as intense off-camera?
Carla Gugino: I love working with him. He's got such an artistic quality, because he has this playful nature but then he can come off very lethal. I've noticed with a lot the great actors that I've worked with, who are amazing at playing villains, are some of the kindest, largest hearted, most magnanimous people that I know and so is Giancarlo. He and I both share a big love of alternative like natural health. He takes really great care of himself. We were comparing juice recipes, and supplements that we like to take. So off camera, he's as charismatic, dynamic, and all those things that he is on camera, but he is just a huge heart. We connected right away, and it felt like we had known each other. We had mutual friends, but we didn't know each other at all. It felt like we had from the moment we started.
AllHipHop: Most definitely. The chemistry between you two comes across on the screen.
Carla Gugino: It's really fun when you have natural chemistry with someone because my job is to make that happen whether it's naturally there or not. But it makes it so much easier when you don't have to with that person and you know it's there.
AllHipHop: Now, you said you went to a lot of film work in preparation for Jett**. Was there any special master thief training you did prepare for Jett?**
Carla Gugino: It's interesting, because the people I watched were not necessarily thieves but what I wanted for Jett, and what I realized about her is that she’s meticulous, and specific. There's no wasted movement. I'm Italian and so I talk a lot with my hands. I'm much more gregarious, and I laugh a lot. You can read my face in a second, and know however I'm feeling, which is, you know, usually a good quality as an actor. But with Jett, she's so enigmatic, like you don't know what she's thinking half of the time. So, for me, it was really about making sure that when she was breaking into places, and when she was doing her job, it looked like something that she's been doing for many, many years, and was easy, clean, and specific. It was almost like learning how to put a puzzle together. It was a very interesting to prep in that way. For me, it was less about being a thief, per se, and more about being able to be invisible, because you're so precise.
AllHipHop: Now to my final question: How do you and Mr. Sebastian Gutierrez keep the magic as partners off screen while working together on screen?
Carla Gugino: Boy, I don't think you can ever figure love out or relationships, right? Because I think as soon as you think you have it, right, that's the mistake right there. I think it's really just about staying alive in the moment and mutual respect. When you get in an argument, just try to get to the source of it and move on as quickly as possible. The fact that we're we have a personal relationship is almost like nonexistent onset other than the trust element.
In the same way, for any director that I love, I want to be able to help them express their vision. Also, I'm super appreciative that he wrote me this badass role. We need more badass women on screen. So, in that way, I think, one the good things is we don't have to be apart from each other for a month at a time, which is the case when I'm off working on something else. So at least we get to wake up in the morning and be like, “Good morning, let's go work 16 hours a day together.”