Very few things in life are more fun than a hot, sweet, smart chica. Fortunately for me I got the chance to chat with one such gem recently in the form of up and coming starlet Jenna Dewan. She's been turning heads as the lead in TAMARA, playing the nerd who morphs into a hottie with the help of a little hojo. So take a break from the cruel realities of life and spend some time with a girl who could be your best friend and your hottest fantasy all in one five foot three inch package.
How did you get the role of Tamara?
I just auditioned for it. My agent sent me the script and I thought it was different as far as having a female villainess and getting to play two different roles - complete opposite sides of the spectrum. So I went in to read and it went really well. Then I had a couple of callbacks and I got the part.
Are you personally a big fan of horror movies?
Oh yeah. Although it's always been a bit of a love/hate relationship. They're kind of difficult to watch. I always put the hand up, or turn away, but I always want to go see them. I love 'em, but I'm also kind of a wimp [laughs].
What are some of your favorites?
One of my recent favorites is 28 Days Later. As far as older movies, The Exorcist still freaks me out. Poltergeist is another.
Getting back to Tamara, how do you describe the movie to people who are unfamiliar with it?
I basically say it's a loose interpretation of Carrie. Meaning that it's kind of a character driven drama of a girl who is mousy, gets made fun of, and her mother is into witchcraft. She's got a crush on her teacher, and she tries a spell but it doesn't really work.
But then certain circumstances happen that cause her to get a chance at revenge against all those who've wronged her. It's really a fun, get revenge, get what you deserve kind of movie. It's gory, it's scary, it has interesting characters that you care about.
But there's no nudity. What's up with that?
[laughs] I know, that would be my fault. I made it clear to my representation when I started my career that nudity wasn't something that I was interested in doing. I mean sometimes I think it's just there to be there. It doesn't really help the story or the character.
But it was funny because when I read the script initially there wasn't any nudity in it. So I was like, "Wow, a cool, scary movie and there's no nudity in it."
You mentioned the similarites to Carrie in the movie, and of course people will probably also think of a movie like The Craft when they hear about it. What do you think makes Tamara unique from other similar flicks?
I think the biggest difference is that my revenge isn't so much with my bare hands, but that I manipulate people into hurting themselves or others.
There is a strong mind-control aspect to Tamara's revenge.
Exactly. She's much more of a villainess and she really gets to warp their minds. I think that's cooler then, "Oh look, I have a knife. Let me go kill the person who did me wrong."
She does seem to be firmly in control of her power and her goals?
Yeah, I really responded to that from the first read through, and as we went through revisions I really championed that aspect of the character. I wanted her to be in a place of power, and I felt that people would relate to her because she was in such a bad place at the beginning. It just makes her transformation so much more dramatic.
Speaking of her transformation, Tamara does have two wildly distinct personas in this movie. We've got "nerd Tamara" and then "hot Tamara". Since you didn't use the old physical standbys of the hair pulled back and big ugly glasses, how did you approach the outcast elements of the character?
Well I definitely fought for that. No glasses! My whole thing was that I didn't want her to feel like a character with glasses and weird things on her face. I wanted her to look mousy because she didn't have the money or the time to make herself look good. Or just didn't care because she's got a pretty depressing life.
They did do some discoloration with makeup, and thickened my eyebrows here and there, but it was more about how I held myself and the attitude of the character. And then when I switched over to the other Tamara, the way I walked and talked and looked at people was different.
Did they have to use color contacts or anything like that to downplay your eyes, which are obviously a striking feature, when you were pre-transformation?
We talked about the contacts because I naturally have green eyes, but really the makeup artist did a great job of hollowing out my eyes. You can kind of see the color in certain scenes, but most of the time I'm looking down and you just can't get there.
Well let's move on to "hot Tamara". She was a pretty fun character, having a sensuality that was both effortless and predatory. How did you go about creating that sense of natural power with her sexuality?
My whole thing was to create an intention. I wanted her to fulfill her power as a person. It wasn't about showing something to the other characters she wanted revenge on, so much as it was about how she wielded this power. It's what she's like with power.
It's the first time she's ever had that sensation and she's enjoying it. She doesn't have to push it, she can just be it. And it was really cool for me because I just tried to become the power that I thought she would have and delight in it.
The transformation was already going to be big, so I didn't want to push it too much. It was about being real.
It almost seemed that the sexiness of the character was simply an after effect of the fact that Tamara was turned on by the exercising of power.
That's exactly how I looked at it. A lot of times you see movies with the sexy girl, and the actress is playing sexy. And my intention wasn't to play sexy, but to enjoy this newfound power and what I was doing to the people who had wronged me.
So at heart which Tamara are you more like?
That's a tough question to answer. I think on a day to day basis I'm probably more like the quiet Tamara, but when I was doing the movie I had so much fun playing the powerful Tamara. It was amazing how easily that came to me. So it really became a part of me and I definitely have moments like that. But when I'm not working I often just want some alone time and can feel shy. At the same time I can turn the other stuff on too.
This is a project that has had a lot of internet buzz, enough to help it get a theatrical shot instead of going straight to video.
That was really exciting.
Are you seeing any recognition and/or opportunities come around as a result of people's growing awareness of the film?
Yeah, y'know like requests for interviews, or people telling me they saw the film at a festival and really liked it. I've had people sort of randomly call my agent to say they thought I did a really good job. So the buzz has definitely helped.
I had done a couple of movies after Tamara and some of the people on those movies had heard of it. People are seeing about it on the web and getting excited about it.
Do you spend a lot of time on the net?
I'm about 50/50 when it comes to technology. I can check my email and search for stuff, but if I hear we're on this and this and this site, then I need an exact link to get there otherwise I'm going to get lost.
So you're not addicted?
As near as I can tell, the last significant print work you did was for the Music Video Beauties calender shoot in 2003. Do you have any new layouts planned that fans can look forward to in something like GQ or Maxim?
Not as of right now, but there is some talk of doing that in the near future to promote not only Tamara but also some of my other upcoming projects. In the meantime, I'll probably do some photoshoots so that people can have more recent photos - because those others are old and everybody's seen them.
What are some of your upcoming projects?
I have the lead in Music High, and I'm an ensemble lead in a new movie with Antonio Banderas called Take The Lead.
Both of those movies allow you to tap into your dance background don't they?
Yes. It was really interesting because all of sudden all these dance movies were coming out.
So in your opinion, what's the biggest reason that our readers should go check out Tamara in theaters?
Because it's fun, it's scary. You'll take a date, get some release from the week. You'll have a great time.
And the final and most important question, how did you celebrate when you wrapped Tamara?
I was so exhausted, we didn't even have a wrap party. I think I slept for like three days straight because it was such a grueling shoot.
You'll have to make up for that when the theatrical release happens.
Well thanks for taking the time to chat and best of luck with your growing career.
I was lucky enough to get a chance to watch TAMARA before the interview and can say without reservation that Dewan's performance is top notch. Clearly a talent to keep an eye on. With her relaxed attitude, musical laugh and clear sense of humor, I've no doubt she'll go far.