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Home INTERVIEWS ON THE COUCH WITH J.B. MACABRE Dealing with the Possessed ñ a Q&A with Actress Jennifer Carpenter.
Dealing with the Possessed ñ a Q&A with Actress Jennifer Carpenter. PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 09 September 2005 01:38
Reported by Joseph B. Mauceri.
{} - THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE is a compelling tale of a young womanís struggle with a desperate and inexplicable illness. Emily Rose experiences terrifying visions and endures wracking convulsions that leave her body twisted and weak. She is diagnosed as an epileptic by a neurologist, but the medication he prescribes proves ineffective. When her symptoms worsen, a second specialist makes a diagnosis of not only epilepsy, but that Emily Rose is also psychotic. However, when she turns to her parish priest, who presents the case to the archdiocese, he is granted permission to help Emily by performing an exorcism.

It is a harrowing performance that is brought to the screen with such ferocity and integrity that it sure to garner this young actress, Jennifer Carpenter, notice and acclaim. Jennifer recently starred opposite the Wayne brothers in the comedy ìWhite Chicks.î A graduate of the Julliard School, she appeared on Broadway in ìThe Crucible,î directed by Sir Richard Eyre, and shared the stage with actors Laura Linney and Liam Neeson.

FEARS: How do you like to work, in terms of your own training and how you prepare yourself?

JENNIFER CARPENTER: I think I like to work the way that I like to drive. I like to have an idea of where Iím going. You know. I like to get, officially in this type of role I had to do a lot of research. You know, do a lot of homework. I got as much research as I could on the prosecution and the defense. So I could give each of them a solid case and hopefully keep the audience and myself on the fence as long as possible. Then looked at tapes of epilepsy and what seizures looked like. And I even looked at some Kabuki theater. I wanted to put my hands in a lot of pots so that on the day I could forget it all and go in there and see what happened. Look at Tom and see what came up. You know. FEARS: This is an incredibly physical performance. Laura mentioned something about being able to scream fourteen hours a day. That takes a certain talent.


JENNIFER CARPENTER: I donít know how I could have done this part had I not been trained. I called my vocal coach from Julliard before I started and asked for a real quick Cliff Notes version keep me healthy. You know, give me a few more things that I might have forgotten. I was really glad I made that phone call. I donít do yoga, even though I do live in LA, and I think towards the end I started looking at it more like an athlete. You know, and itís amazing what aFEARSnaline can do and where it will carry you. When I finally saw the rough cut, I was looking at it thinking, ëI didnít know I could bend that way and Iím not sure I could do that for you now.í I was just surprised.

FEARS: What did you know about exorcism before you did this movie?

JENNIFER CARPENTER: Not a lot. I think I came at it, luckily, from a very neutral place, both spiritually and my beliefs in science and politics and such. At the end of the day it doesnít matter how I feel about this. What matters is am I doing Emily Rose justice in this movie. You know, which is all I wanted to do.

FEARS: Did you also look at things like epilepsy and such?

JENNIFER CARPENTER: Absolutely. And you know, epilepsy is really interesting. Thatís whatís so great. Thatís what Iíve taken from the theater to put into film. You get to learn about so many things you wouldnít normally learn about, and watching those tapes, there are so many different kinds of epileptic seizures. Peopleís bodies contort and they have repetition in so many different ways Iíve never seen before. So it was really cool to pick those apart and take them to the other side and make the two mirror each other at times to confuse people just a little bit more.

FEARS: Those werenít digital effects?


FEARS: Just you?


FEARS: Was working these scenes out with the director like doing improv?


JENNIFER CARPENTER: A lot of it, even when I just saw the slides and hadnít even read the script, notes kind of pop out and like ìyes I definitely want to play that one, but whatís going to come between that one and the other one?î I donít know. And sometimes, lying in bed getting ready to go to sleep you think, ìWhat would happen in front of me and would really scare me?î I thought, if Emilyís will is not her own, what if she just rips her hair out? Is it the devil thatís inside of her and abusing the body heís in. And you bring that to Scott and he says weíll play or it we wonít. And sometimes it makes it into the movie and sometimes it doesnít.

FEARS: That moment when youíre on the floor and all contorted, did you hurt yourself?

JENNIFER CARPENTER: Everybody took really good care of me. You know. But, the scene where Iím lying on the floor like that, is me. We didnít know how much we were going to need or not and they built a dummy of my body and they arranged it how they wanted it and I said, ëWell I can do that so move it.í And they did, and you know if it hurts for a few minutes then itís the least I could do to show Emilyís struggle. But you know, I wish I could hold it for five minutes and then get up and walk around a little bit and I did get a little, teeny, tiny scar on my ankle and Iím proud of it. Itís like; itís better than a tattoo to remember this experience by. Not that I have any tattoos.

FEARS: You donít bring it up in the movie, but Emily Rose is spoken of as coming from a very religious background She leaves home for the first time, goes away to college for the first time, and it seems like it could be sexual hysteria. Fear of having lost her virginity in college, and she feels guilty about it. Although thatís never really brought in did you take any of that into consideration in your research of Emily Rose?

JENNIFER CARPENTER: There are a lot of different things that I considered and if thatís how you might have seen it, and something you might be questioning, you might not be alone. Thatís all I can say.

FEARS: Is it awkward to know that the real woman, who die and who inspired this story, is revered by some people as a saint?

JENNIFER CARPENTER: I mean I know a lot of movies are based on a true story, and I know that this is based on a true story and true events. At the end of the day all I could do was look at this really solid script and really interesting character and try to stay true to that. And whatever, whoever has the courage to sit in these seats; whatever theyíre think when they leave, thatís their business. You know, and I donít think this movie is trying to champion a certain cause and say this is the right way and the only way. Itís just saying, ask those questions you may have been afraid to ask.

FEARS: Have you seen the movie?

JENNIFER CARPENTER: I did see a rough cut. It was odd for many reasons. I felt like I kind of had my head in a fishbowl and I was trying to look at all of it at once. Which is just impossible. I had my mom sitting to the right of me, and so I had a bruised hand and she was popping up and down and flailing in the seats and it was more interesting to watch her at the time.

FEARS: Do you have favorite horror movies?

JENNIFER CARPENTER: I donít really gravitate toward a certain genre. I didnít really see, or have never seen, ìThe Exorcist.î I think that might have worked in my favor. Oh, I own ìThe Shining.î

FEARS: How did you never see ìThe Exorcist?î

JENNIFER CARPENTER: I heard itís really scary. I guess I havenít been in the mood to be scared in a while.

FEARS: No favorite horror film from all the films youíve seen over the years?


JENNIFER CARPENTER: I mean, seriously, a film that scares me again and again would have to be ìThe Shining.î I remember being in a hotel once and thinking about those two little thin girls looking into the hall and itís still just too much for me.

FEARS: This isnít your movie debut?

JENNIFER CARPENTER: No, I did ìWhite Chicks.î

FEARS: Who were you in ìWhite Chicks?î

JENNIFER CARPENTER: I was Letha. I played a young girl in the Hamptons who helped the Williams go undercover. I was an FBI agent. It was a lot of fun actually.

FEARS: Did you do that before or after The Crucible on Broadway?


FEARS: How has your theater work informed your film work?

JENNIFER CARPENTER: Itís cool because theyíre two totally different things. I hope to always be able to do both. Maybe not in this movie as much its definitely a challenge to be smaller for film and, but still be as loud as you are on stage. Its something Iím still trying to figure out.

FEARS: What was that experience like? Did you see it then as a pivotal role for your career?

JENNIFER CARPENTER: God no. It was the second job I had out of school. Again it was a part that I really wanted. Thatís all I ever want to do, work that excites me and invites me to be a player, you know, to come and help make it whatever. But, you know, Laura has been, in all honesty, sheís been a guardian angel to me. Her friendship, watching her work, and being able to call her when I get a little lost or lose my footing. Sheís always, always, always there.

FEARS: What kind of actress is she?

JENNIFER CARPENTER: Yeah, the best part about this for me was, I mean, I was lucky enough to get to work with her before. And in a weird way, this was shot like two movies. So when I was off, she was working and I got to go and watch her process and try to add mine to hers. You know, the great thing about her work, you canít look at her or Tomís work and say they do A,B, and C and that makes that a good choice. Its seamless, and sheís too good to steal from. Believe me Iíve tried.

FEARS: Is that the same as on stage?

JENNIFER CARPENTER: Absolutely, and I was really lucky too, because in the third act of ìThe Crucibleî its Laura and Liam and myself on stage. And those were the best rehearsal days, to watch them ask their questions and get what they needed from Richard Eyre.

FEARS: ìThe Crucibleî was actually a story too.

JENNIFER CARPENTER: Well some girls were, you know, they claimed to be possessed. I was Mary Warren and she certainly didnít believe it at first.

FEARS: Have you ever had any supernatural experiences?

JENNIFER CARPENTER: You know, I thought I might get asked that question when all this rolled around, you know. During the filming of this, I donít know if there was shortage of the wiring in the hotel or what, but like three different times my stereo in the room came on loudly and Iíd put it in a different plug and it kept happening. One time, and I didnít realize it until actually talking about it, but Pearl Jam came on really loudly playing ìIím Still Alive.î

FEARS: Whoa!

JENNIFER CARPENTER: And I didnít realize it, or pay attention to that song title until we started talking about this. But itís still a good song though.

FEARS: Was it turning on at three oíclock in the morning.

JENNIFER CARPENTER: I didnít say it turned on at three oíclock in the morning. I was born at three oíclock in the morning.

FEARS: I never knew until this movie that it was like some strange time. I just thought three was a lucky number.

JENNIFER CARPENTER: I was getting my chart read, which is another thing you do in LA sometimes. And my Mom had to check my birth certificate for three a.m.

FEARS: So is it important to you, having done something like this, to stay away from the genre for a while because youíre so early in your career?

JENNIFER CARPENTER: I know I feel really comfortable in anything. Like I said before, Iíll play an old man if itís a good role. You know, I just want to do stuff, hopefully Iíll get the opportunity to do stuff thatís exciting and that I can help make better. So if that means doing a horror film next, great, if it means doing a comedy, great. I donít care.

FEARS: What made you decide you wanted to act?


JENNIFER CARPENTER: My aunt, she used to baby sit us sometimes, my sister and myself. I think she dropped us off at an audition thinking that if we got the parts they would watch us during rehearsals. And I accidentally fell in love with it and never considered doing anything else. In fact, I think my Dad really wanted me to have a backup and I told him, ëIf I thought I really needed a backup Iíd do something else.í

FEARS: How old were you when you were dropped off?


FEARS: From then you knew.

JENNIFER CARPENTER: It was Tiny Tim. I walked in and I said, ëIf you need a Tiny Tim Iíll do it.í They said ëOk.í

FEARS: So you played Tiny Tim.

JENNIFER CARPENTER: Yeah. God bless us everyone. I still remember my line.

FEARS: Were your friends calling you up when the trailer for EMILY ROSE began to turn up in theaters and on television?

JENNIFER CARPENTER: Yeah, well the producers were saying, ìëyou better hurry up and get a boyfriend before it comes out.î And you know, I missed the boat because Iím still looking.

Itís funny, my sisterís in town too and we went shopping the other day. The woman who was working at the store said, ìYou look like that girl from that exorcism trailerî. And I said, ìWell if I wasnít her, that might not be a nice thing to say.î

FEARS: Since EMILY ROSE, howís the acting process been in terms of films, getting scripts, and going on auditions?

JENNIFER CARPENTER: Yeah, Iíve been auditioning and one just ended. I did a pilot for Fox, a comedy, which was really fun and nice to go to immediately after this.

FEARS: Nothing happened with the recent Fox pilot?

JENNIFER CARPENTER: It was called ìQueen Bee,î with Alicia Silverstone and Danny DeVito directed. I played the brains behind the operation. Weíre all trend spotters and sheís the front woman and I do all the work. There are a few films that I really like a lot and weíll see where they go.

FEARS: And do you know what youíre doing next after this?

JENNIFER CARPENTER: I just did this Showtime show called ìDexter;î itís with Michael Seton Hall whoís on ìSix Feet Under.î And Iím very excited about it. We shoot the pilot in Miami next month.

FEARS: And who is Dexter and who are you?

JENNIFER CARPENTER: Michael Seton Hall is Dexter and I play his sister Deborah.

FEARS: Whatís it about?

JENNIFER CARPENTER: He is in the homicide division in Miami and he studies blood splatter. Iím his sister who is just a cop in regular blues trying to get on to homicide. And he has this really dark way of solving these murders and Iím asking for his help to clue me in on some clues to get my foot in the door. Even though I may not be, its kind of comical, qualified for the job.

JENNIFER CARPENTER: No it didnít, they didnít pick it up.

FEARS: She was really excited about that.


FEARS: What did you play in that one?

JENNIFER CARPENTER: I played the brains behind the operation. Weíre all trend spotters and sheís the front woman and I do all the work.
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