A Woman You Should Meet: Jeannine Kaspar

None of Jeannine Kaspar’s characters get rattled very easily. Two of her most recent roles, in fact, find her portraying women who simply refuse to go quietly into the night: in the Julianne Moore-led drama Freeheld, she plays an equality activist who organizes protests in her spare time; and in Supermoto, an upcoming thriller Kaspar helped produce, she’s a leather-clad, motorcycle-riding badass.

Much like those ladies, the North Carolina native isn’t afraid to get tough—she’s drawn to darker roles, does all her own stunts and has the scars to prove it. And it’s exactly that hard-nosed determination that’s quickly propelling Kaspar further and further up the Hollywood food chain.

Photos courtesy of Ricardo Vimercati

Freeheld came to TIFF this year. Did you have a chance to attend?

I did! Toronto is so beautiful. I didn’t get to see as much of it as I would have liked, but I had a great time. I was able to catch The Martian and just loved it.

What were your first thoughts when you read the script for Freeheld, which tells the real-life story of a same-sex couple fighting for pension equality?

It was such a mix of emotions: extreme sadness that this ever actually happened because it must have happened a lot in that time; happiness knowing that we’re hopefully moving forward after situations like this and moving towards equality. They just wanted what any other couple would have had rights to like their home and benefits.

You’ve been working on another film called Supermoto. What’s that one about?

My character wakes up in a motel room and, along with the audience, I figure out that I’ve been left with $5 and a motorcycle. I’m sick of my life, pregnant and alone, so I decide to just keep running and figure out what to do with myself. I’m almost the hero of my own life. I was really attracted to it because people need to be their own heroes.

Did you have to learn how to ride a motorcycle for the role?

Here’s the thing: I’ve been licensed for five or six years now. I had to learn how to ride this bike, though, because it’s a big Suzuki DRZ 400SM and the engine placement is completely different. I’m used to riding what you might call a street bike, where you’re basically bent over the bike. With this one, you’re sitting upright and really have to use your arm strength to turn. It was intense. I still have to learn how to stay upright though. [Laughs.] It was fun.

Do you have any battlescars from it?

A couple! But I also did my own stunts and have a fight scene and that’s where I ended up cracking a rib because I kept falling on someone. Thankfully I only dropped the bike once, which I’m proud of.

Did it fall while you were on it?

Yes! But it was the gentlest fall I’ve ever had. I’ve crashed a bike before and it hurts, but this was a slow fall into a grassy knoll. I just went [raspberry]and fell.

You were also a producer on Supermoto. What’s difference between just acting and acting while producing?

I think that working as a producer was a learning experience. I needed to find people who believed in the project. I really liked being able to create something with like-minded people. I had so much faith in the director.

Let’s go back a bit. I read that you were a huge fan of SNL and Will Ferrell. What was your favourite skit?

Yes! When he plays the cheerleader. He and Cheri Oteri were so funny. I just believe him in any role he plays. He has incredible timing and is so quirky.

Is that what initially helped push you into acting?

I like to be entertained and have always loved comedy. I’m drawn towards darker, more intense characters. But it was definitely something I could see myself doing. I started off doing TV commercials, spent time studying method acting, and then got involved with indie films.

You mentioned darker roles. You’ve been a guest star on some great shows like Law & Order & Nip/Tuck. Have any of those guest role experiences really stuck with you?

I would say Nip/Tuck. There were some amazing one-liners that were so controversial. I knew that if I played true to the character, it would be okay. I found sympathy and empathy with her. My character fell in love with her brother…without knowing he’s her brother.

Man, that show had some weird story lines.

I know! It was so much fun, I had a great time. Ryan Murphy is a genius. Definitely a lot of crazy.