WOMEN IN FILM - POPCORNREEL.COM
Career In Gear and Newly Married,
Actress Jennifer Siebel Newsom
Has No "Trouble With Romance"
By Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com SHARE
February 17, 2009
Jennifer Siebel Newsom, shown here last summer prior to her July 2008 marriage to Gavin Newsom,
the mayor of San Francisco. (Photo by Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com)
just before Valentine's Day Jennifer Siebel Newsom (pronounced See-bel)
spared time in her busy schedule to talk via telephone to The Popcorn
Reel about her role as Jill in the new romantic comedy film "The Trouble
With Romance", which opens in New York City on
February 27 at the Quad Cinema.
On a break on the set of her new feature film documentary in Los Angeles, where Ms. Siebel Newsom, 34, is currently directing and producing "Miss Representation", a documentary about the way women are represented in Western society, the actress and humanitarian talked about myriad topics. Last July she married San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who has been widely rumored to be running for the office of governor of California in 2010.
"It was so much fun to make," Ms. Siebel Newsom said of "The Trouble With Romance", directed by Gene Rhee, a film split into four stories all taking place in the same hotel more or less simultaneously. The film is produced by several people including Ms. Siebel Newsom and Emily Liu, whom the actress calls "one of my best female friends". (Ms. Liu also has a small role in one of the four vignettes.) Ms. Siebel Newsom stars as Jill in "Banged", the first story in Mr. Rhee's film. Jill is having some major problems focusing on making love to Jack (Kip Pardue) as the past literally comes squarely into focus with the present.
"I'm always trying to tackle roles that scare me," said Ms. Siebel Newsom, "and the whole sexual component of awkwardly physical comedy moments" in "Trouble" did just that, confessed the actress, who added that she was glad to work with so many talented people on the film and have the chance to "raise the voice of a girl desperately in need of love." As an artist, "it's always interesting to play roles -- where sometimes you recognize yourself but hopefully you don't," she laughed.
"It's so cool when you don't," Ms. Siebel Newsom quickly added.
"The Trouble With Romance" was shot in Los Angeles, and while the scenes in which Jennifer Siebel Newsom appears show her attired only in lingerie, the bedroom action on the set wasn't nearly as heated as the temperature in the City of Angels. Back in the summer of 2006 in L.A. during filming it was sweltering, the actress recalled, "incredible heat". With the heat of the lighting on the set it was an ordeal that Ms. Siebel Newsom, who has been in 19 films including small roles in the Oscar-nominated films "Something's Gotta Give" and "In The Valley Of Elah", was able to survive.
In her acting career there have been other moments of discomfort, such as the time, she said, that she appeared as a "dumb blonde" on the NBC television series She Spies. In one scene "I was dressed in a bathing suit and I was squatting down on the beach by the water, with 90 crew, all men, around." She found the experience to be an uneasy one, even though she said that she is "real comfortable in my body in that I'm not shy."
A woman who is anything but the "dumb blonde" she played in She Spies, Jennifer Siebel Newsom is highly accomplished. The actress-producer-director earned both her undergraduate and Masters in Business Administration degrees from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and speaks French and Spanish. In addition she worked with the global environmental organization Conservation International emphasizing the importance of preservation of the environment in numerous indigenous areas. She did humanitarian work, traveling throughout Latin America, Africa and Europe.
Ms. Siebel Newsom's career on the big screen is matched by an illustrious stage and television career, including a recurring role on NBC's drama show Life.
If playing Jill in Mr. Rhee's film had its challenges, the humanitarian who splits her time between San Francisco and Los Angeles, told of a strange occurrence on the Life set. "I came back for the second half of the first year (of the show) and the first scene I had to do was a make-out scene with my ex-husband (character) on the show. As actors we hadn't seen each other for nine months. It was such as bizarre job," she said, laughing once again.
Jennifer Siebel Newsom has faced far larger challenges in her personal life, losing her elder sister Stacey in a tragic accident in Hawaii when the younger Siebel was literally days away from her seventh birthday. On her website Ms. Siebel Newsom dedicates everything she has done in her life to her older sister, saying that on a personal level "I think I just want to be the change I know Stacey would have made in the world."
In the aftermath of Stacey's passing, which the actress blamed herself for, young Jennifer participated in just about everything she possibly could, including singing, dancing, acting, downhill ski racing, ice skating, riding horses competitively and being part of the varsity tennis, basketball and soccer teams.
Jennifer Siebel Newsom got her film career started relatively late for an actress in the business -- at 28. She was promptly told by people in Hollywood that she was "too old".
"It's an industry run by fear," she said
of Hollywood. "If you don't fit into a particular box or have a
certain look then you are told you don't belong. But I'm
stubborn," Ms. Siebel Newsom cited of her persistence of battle against
the ageist attitudes she encountered in Tinseltown.
Even with her un-self consciousness and comfort with her own physicality in love scenes, Ms. Siebel Newsom acknowledged that "I'm cautious . . . even though you're always aware that the sheets are covering." In "The Trouble With Romance", Ms. Siebel Newsom's Jill runs toward and then past the camera with the bedroom sheet wrapped around her naked body. "I am very detail-oriented. I guess it's the producer in me."
Asked about which of the three performance media she prefers, Jennifer Siebel Newsom isn't immediately forthcoming. She said that in film "editors can make or break a performance," recalling several times where she was "really bummed" that scenes which she spent time on were cut in a certain way, leaving her to wonder why an editor chose to cut her performance in a particular way. "It's disappointing to me," she commented, pointing to the hard work and effort Ms. Siebel Newsom put into a character, whether on film or television, the latter of which she talked about being on the set of Mad Men in a dress and garter belt for hours and hours for one episode, only to have two quick takes and be sent home.
"I love the stage . . . but I hate walking out of the theater afterwards to find out what people said about your performance," said the actress, mentioning that the immediacy of theater lets the thespian know right away what they think. "It's a challenging craft," said Ms. Siebel Newsom, who has appeared on stage in such plays as "Six Degrees Of Separation" (at the San Francisco Playhouse), "Sex & Work" (The Lillian Theater) and "The Twin Sister" (Santa Monica Playhouse), among others.
Despite some misgivings, Ms. Siebel Newsom commented that "in theater you are in charge, and it's an incredible feeling."
"I love TV -- it's automatic gratification. I find it pretty exciting to see myself a month after. TV can be -- is a writer's medium.
The actress took a moment to talk about her husband Gavin Newsom, the San Francisco mayor whom she married in July 2008. "Sometimes when things get rough for him I have to remind him that it's just the nature of the beast." Trying to understand the American media, Ms. Siebel Newsom said of the press that "our culture loves to go after people and tear them down after building them up."
"It's sad. It's very petty and small. Some people are small-minded that way," whether it's some in the media or Hollywood, stated the actress-producer-director, who last year appeared in actor David Arquette's 3D short film "The Butler's In Love".
Ms. Siebel Newsom's "Miss Representation" tackles the misrepresentation of women in the popular culture and political office, looking to counteract the perpetuation of unhealthy stereotypes of women. "The U.S. ranks 69th in the world for the number of women it has in its national legislature," said the actress. "Only 17% of Congress are women," said the wife of San Francisco's mayor, speaking of the precious few women at the top of the rungs of political power in the U.S.
By contrast, Ms. Siebel Newsom observed, 56% of the Rwandan parliament is comprised of women.
Of "Miss Representation", the filmmaker said that "it's gonna be a . . . film that challenges the norm (for women as they are portrayed and depicted) in Hollywood and other mediums. "We are so accustomed to looking at women as just objects of beauty. Rarely do we get the opportunity to really see women in a complete way. Women have to be seen in their true strength and embraced as beings with brainpower and leadership," San Francisco's First Lady commented.
"Miss Representation" is expected to appear on HBO cable television sometime this year.
With the Oscars coming up this Sunday, the actress was asked about which films she fancied to take Oscar home. "Slumdog Millionaire" was mentioned without hesitation by Ms. Siebel Newsom. "Danny Boyle is a genius," she said, referring to the "Slumdog" director. "From the score to the editing to the structure, I thought it was an incredible film." While she said she hadn't yet seen Kate Winslet in "The Reader", she was clear about Northern California resident Sean Penn's work as Harvey Milk in Gus Van Sant's "Milk".
"I think he deserves an Oscar."
"The Trouble With Romance" opens on February 27 at the Quad Cinema in New York City. Gene Rhee's film stars Ms. Siebel Newsom, Kip Pardue, David Eigenberg, Emily Liu, Coby Ryan McLaughlin, Josie Davis, Jordan Belfi, Portia Dawson, Valeria Hernandez, Gurikayi Mutambirwya, Roger Fan and Sheetal Sheth.
Copyright The Popcorn Reel. PopcornReel.com. 2009. All Rights Reserved.
Note: On February 19, 2009 it was announced
that Jennifer Siebel Newsom and
Mayor Gavin Newsom are expecting their first child.
Jennifer Siebel Newsom in a fashion pose photo from her website. (Photo: JenniferSiebel.com)