Jessica Biel: A Hollywood actress making it much darker


JESSICA BIEL This character, from her point of view, from the moment she commits this act, it’s a profound original, terrifying experience which fascinated me. Why do we do the things we do? Trying to get into the mind of someone who doesn’t know if she’s lying or not, whose ability to process means the truth and distortion walk along together side by side. Do you believe her, do you assume she’s lying? Is part of it coming from genuine sincerity? Can you delve through the mire and understand her motives? Are there any motives? The terrible complexity is something I’ve never experienced as an audience member, something so cerebrally intricate and detailed. It’s a masterpiece of the mind. I wanted so desperately to discover the psychology of Cora’s mind.

This was done with your own production company. Does it make it all the more special for you?
Definitely, I mean producing is a relatively new hat for me. Being there from the beginning, I love being part of the development from inception to release. As an actor, I’ve never really had any involvement in the early process, the writing, casting, the building from the ground up, and I loved that control. Not in a controlling sense but having a strong hand in the process. I really appreciate that.

It’s a brilliant team we’re working with Antonio Campos, and Derek Symonds, my producing partner Michelle Purple – there’s a lot invested in this emotionally, physically, so it means a lot to me, especially as I’ve never been in this role before, producing for television.

There’s a stunning cast involved, Bill Pullman who I’ve long been a fan of his work forever, he’s amazing, so too is my on-screen husband, Christopher Abbot, all the cast, the crew, everyone is so dedicated and pushing to do their above and beyond because it’s a project we’re all very passionate about.

This is a role that’s completely different for you and the image of Jessica Biel that we know. Was that your intention, to make us see you a different way?
I always want that one-eighty from the last role, I always want to be so scared I think, how am I going to do this? What have I got myself into? Those butterflies where you know, this is a risk, a challenge but I’m pushing myself. That’s what I want from my work now. I want to look different, feel different, and emote different. And I want to be so scared and nervous on my first day, I want those nerves, if I don’t, I’m going in the wrong direction. And I definitely had it on day one of The Sinner [laughs].

And I feel that if I’m continuously challenging myself and stretching my personal boundaries, I’m still always learning because I never want to stop learning. My work is my education.