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Carrie-Anne Moss on Jessica Jones and opening up to #MeToo: ‘I didn’t want to be a victim’

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‘Now we have a platform. There’s an opening for us to be having these conversations’

Image: Netflix

Season 1 of Netflix’s street-level superhero show Jessica Jones had one primary villain: Kilgrave, a mind-controlling monster whose ugly history with the heroine drove most of the action. But season 1 had another, more complicated villain: Jeri Hogarth is a high-powered attorney played by Carrie-Anne Moss, best known as Trinity from the Matrix movies and the duplicitous Natalie from Christopher Nolan’s Memento. In the original Marvel comics, her character was a fairly bland and reliable older man, but in Netflix’s version of the story, she’s a scheming power player who keeps working to get Jessica under her control — and keeps causing disasters in the process, including a number of deaths.

Like everyone else in season 2 of Jessica Jones, Jeri Hogarth is dealing with the fallout of her season 1 choices and trying to define who she is. But while Jessica Jones is struggling with the past, and her best friend Trish is concerned about the future, Jeri is dealing with both. A diagnosis of ALS means she’s facing the loss of physical control and eventual death. Her season 1 affair with an underling has her law firm partners trying to oust her from her own company on a morals charge. And her initial choices in season 2 just lead to more conflict — between her and Jessica, but also for the show in general. I spoke to Carrie-Anne Moss about the new direction Jeri is taking in season 2, but the conversation rapidly turned to something that interests her more: the ways things are changing for women in Hollywood.

Image: Netflix

The focus of the show shifted this season, from being centered on Jessica to a more ensemble approach. How did you approach the expanded focus on your character?

There was more range for sure. I was happy about exploring some of the other characters a little deeper. And then being on a show like this, with Krysten really carrying so much of the show on her shoulders, allowing the other characters to take up more room gives her a bit of a break because she works so many hours and works so hard.

Did you have a favorite moment this season?

What I appreciated getting to have is when Jeri’s with people, she’s very together, no matter what. You may see a moment of covering emotion, but I love that I got to have some moments where I didn’t have to follow that protocol. So the scene with the hookers, or the moments when no one’s watching her, you can see the mask coming off. I liked getting to explore what that would be like for her.

She’s such a selfish, ruthless character, but this season, she’s also suffering. How do you approach finding sympathy for the character?

I don’t think I ever thought about making her sympathetic. I just try to find something truthful, you know? What I loved about her this season was that she always wants to come across as really having it all together. And as she’s dealing with this very traumatic news, we get to see the unraveling of her. When she’s with other people, she knows how to play that confident role, “I’ve got it all figured out, I’m good.” So I got to have some private moments which allowed me to do whatever I wanted, because in private, we are many people, right? Especially dealing with incredibly stressful situations.

Image: Netflix

It seems like any woman who’s had an acting career would relate to that character, the need to pretend complete confidence in front of the camera or the crowd, no matter what you’re feeling. Are there things in your personal life that make Jeri particularly relatable to you?

Well, you’re always bringing yourself to everything you do, right? All you really have is yourself. [Laughs] I think women do have that pressure, to really look like we have it figured out all the time. But I let that go a long time ago. I’m pretty forthright in my private life, with my people. There, I don’t claim to have it all figured out. But then the persona you have to put out there, as an actor…

Looking back on your career, you’ve played a lot of women like this: strong and self-contained, but visibly vulnerable. Are you consciously attracted to that kind of role?

I was thinking about this the other day. Somebody was asking me. They were doing an article where I went through my career and all these things I’ve done. I was thinking about how it’s like having a photo album. Being in movies and TV is like having a photo album of your whole life, not even because of the movie, but because I can remember what happened in my personal life on the day I shot scenes. “Oh, that’s the day that happened. Life is happening while you’re making movies and doing television. And it’s amazing because it’s a reminder that my life isn’t just about what I’ve made, about my work. I have this multifaceted world. I’m a mother and a wife, and a daughter and an actress and a friend. I have so many layers to my life.

And I think sometimes, being in this business, it asks so much of us, in terms of the hours, and you’re often traveling, you’re often away. So we miss a lot. You’re on location all the time. You miss weddings and funerals, babies being born, kids growing up. This was before I had my own kids. But you also have a rich life happening. So I look back and think, “Wow, I’ve had a rich life in terms of intimacy and friendships. When I work, it’s very important to me that I connect deeply with the crew. The more connected to them I feel, the more vulnerable and confident and comfortable I can be. Everyone’s different. Some people don’t need that or want that. They want to just be an island unto themselves. But I actually really appreciate knowing about the crew, knowing about their families, knowing about who they are. It makes me feel like really a part of something. And in that inclusion of that collective energy, I feel free. And I feel supported. So a lot of times when I look back at a movie, I mostly remember the crew.

You know, I haven’t seen the crew from The Matrix in 18 or 19 years, or something like that. And I had intimate friendships with so many people there, but now they live in Australia, and I live here. So going back and revisiting my work does bring back this nostalgic feeling, but it’s a very good feeling. I’m so grateful.

Image: Netflix

So much has been made of how this season on Jessica Jones, all the directors were women, and the crew was a 50/50 gender split. Did that change anything about how you related to the crew?

No. I think I am who I am. What it did for me — I realized how few women I had ever worked with as a director. And I don’t think I really realized that until for every episode, I walked in and there was this woman at the helm. For my generation, at least in my personal experience, I’ve had very few. Krysten, who’s younger, has had so many. So look how much has changed already. I think this progress is happening. It’s been slow to happen. I think women live in a lot of gratitude. Not all women do — definitely not Jeri Hogarth — but for myself, I feel so grateful that I make my living as an actor, that I get to do what I love, that I never wanted to complain that men make more money than I do. I didn’t want to be a victim, so I’ve never participated in that conversation. I haven’t even really thought about it. So as it’s all come up, I’ve realized how under the pretense of being grateful, I wasn’t really looking at some unfair stuff.

One of the things I love about Krysten, and why I think she’s an incredible human being and a role model for young women, is that she’s unapologetically confident. It’s not ego, it’s just that she has a great deal of self-worth. I do, too, but I didn’t at her age. It’s something that has grown. And so it’s only now, seeing all these women directing, that I’m realizing I’d only worked with two women directors before, in my whole career. There’s a real imbalance, and I wasn’t participating in that conversation.

But did it make any specific difference this season, or are you just appreciating the fact that women are facing less discrimination?

I think it did in some moments. I definitely felt met in a different way. But I’ve also worked with incredible male directors, so I definitely felt met and supported. So I don’t know, it’s so complicated. I don’t think there are black or white answers for that. But the thing I’m excited about is that we’re talking about it. That we’re all having these conversations, so we can unravel some of the very subtle ways sexism is at play without us realizing. Even within our own selves.

It’s like when you think of racism. I’m not a racist person, but I’m coming from this incredible place of white privilege, and it’s mind-blowing to open your mind and really look at it. I can’t articulate racism because I’m not experiencing it. So I have to be open to understanding it on a deeper level, instead of just saying, “I’m not racist!” There’s so much at play, and women have so much to say about it all. And now we have a platform. There’s an opening for us to be having these conversations, whether they’re happening at the kitchen table or around a show you’re premiering or in politics. It’s an interesting time to be alive, for sure.

Marvel’s Netflix shows are unusually conscious about including ethnic and gender diversity, without necessarily foregrounding it in the narrative. Jessica Jones seems very natural about inclusion. As you’re waking up to these issues, is it becoming more important to you to make sure you’re part of projects that are conscious about equal representation?

Yeah, I think that conversation is just so important. Every job is unique, in terms of what all goes into it. I don’t really intellectualize much of the processes of it. But it’s just unfolding right now in a way where I feel like I’m learning, and I’m open to understanding the different layers of dysfunction. I’m not just talking about men and women. Just the world in general, so many of the old constructs are just falling down, falling away. You can see the truth. As all this sexual harassment news started to unfold, and you hear woman after woman after woman say, “Me too, me too, #MeToo.” It levels the playing field. Now everyone can say, “Oh you mean if you’re rich and famous, life’s not perfect?” I know we all know that, but this is another level. It’s leveling the field for humanity, in a way.

And then that ripple effect creates conversations that I’m grateful are happening, so younger people don’t have to deal with that in the same way. Of course, they’ll be dealing with something else.