A Conversation with Jenn Gotzon
Jenn Gotzon, who portrayed Pres. Nixon’s daughter Tricia Nixon in Ron Howard’s Oscar-nominated “Frost/Nixon” two years ago, is starring in eight feature films coming out this year.
The first things I’m struck by are her openness, her willingness to laugh even in the direst of circumstances, and her humility. She’s garnered high praise from her peers, worked with some of Hollywood’s most esteemed actors, and remains steadfastly grounded in her faith. Here’s a glimpse of Sonoma Christian Home’s conversation with actress Jenn Gotzon.
On movies and all things acting…
SCH: Let’s start at the beginning. Acting—was it always something you wanted to do?
JENN: Yes! I knew I wanted to act even from a young age. It was my dream ever since I was 15 years old, and I’m thrilled that God’s allowed incredible opportunities for me to pursue that dream.
SCH: On set, how do you balance your work with your faith? I’m guessing some think that Hollywood is a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah.
JENN: There are more Christians than you think! I try to make it all about how I interact with others. I try my best to serve people, to do my absolute best, to be prepared, to walk with grace—basically how Jesus interacted with people by loving people unconditionally without judgment. I try to be like him, loving and serving in a grace-filled way.
SCH: Does your work ever conflict? Have you ever turned down a role?
JENN: I got word that I was up for a part, and it was pretty exciting news. However, when the script came and the content came through, it was incredibly perverse. Way too perverse. My husband and I struggled with the “the money vs. the role,” and I prayed. I really felt like this part wasn’t right for me. I said no, and my agent ended up dropping me a few months later. It looked on the surface like a mistake, but I knew we’d made the right choice. A few months later Doonby came—and it was confirmation that we did.
(“Doonby” Producer Mark Joseph noted of Gotzon, “She was one of the first people we thought of for the role. And when we sent her the script she fell in love with it as I had. It was a perfect fit.” –ASSIST News Service, Dan Wooding, June 23, 2010)
JENN: I try to look for a common thread—directors or producers that are of the same belief—even if the movies themselves aren’t “told through a Christian World View.” There are Christians in the movie industry, good people doing good work, and whether on screen or behind camera, these people are making a difference.
SCH: How do you approach a movie? And how do you interact with a director?
JENN: I like to look at it as a canvas. If you have one painter, you have one picture from one perspective. In a film, I feel as though there are many painters, all creating. I’ll create—the director has the final say—but it’s up to me to bring a creative energy, to bring my hands, feet, body, voice, and presence to create the art on the screen. In Doonby, there’s a climactic scene that’s pretty heavy, with some heavy emotional work. From working on the 168 Film Project in 2008, I’ve learned to pray (right before the director yells ‘action’) that God lets me die to myself, and I’ll pray that He use me as his vehicle to show the most honest, authentic role possible.
SCH: You’ve already worked with some amazing actors. Any stories?
JENN: With Frank Langella (Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon) I was a sponge. He approaches a role from a method form of acting, so he stayed in character as Nixon the whole time he was on set. Body language, accent, everything. The cast and crew would refer to him as “Mr. President” and he’d answer him as Nixon, it was amazing. One particular story sticks out in my mind, and it had a huge impact on me. Ernie Hudson (Leroy, in the upcoming Doonby) is a well-known actor who’s done some pretty big movies like “Ghostbusters.” I’m new, practically a nobody, and Ernie comes over to me, shakes my hand, and goes on about how honored he is to meet me, to be working with me. Here he is, this amazing actor who’s worked in a ton of movies, and he comes over and blesses me! That’s what I want. I want to be that kind of support and inspiration to others who are up and coming. That really blessed me.
On food and all things edible…
SCH: It wouldn’t be a Sonoma Christian Home conversation without talking a little food. What favorite meals do you remember growing up with?
JENN: Oh my goodness, what a great question! My family is both of Polish and German heritage, so growing up I can remember the staple of our holidays was pierogi—a homemade cheese and potato dish with sauerkraut with tons of butter and onions…it would bake and come out almost like a sauce. Oh, it was so good! And I can remember as a little girl being held by my grandma, Grammy Gotzon, up high enough to see into the pots bubbling and boiling on the stove, full of string beans, goulash, cubed beef with paprika, onions, spooned over noodles…(laughing) The pierogis are totally unhealthy but totally delicious!
SCH: (laughing) That’s not your menu now, is it? What kinds of things do you do, food-wise, to stay in shape for acting?
JENN: I don’t limit myself to what I can or can’t eat, but I do maintain portions, portion control. Two weeks out from working on a movie I’ll cut my carbs down to about 10%.
SCH: What’s your go-to snack?
JENN: Definitely popcorn. I’m a popcorn-a-holic. Butter, salt, a little flavored olive oil. My favorite on-set meal is an egg-white omelet, onions, cheddar cheese. I also love sliced uncooked avocado and strawberries. And Mountain Dew or an energy packet from EcoQuest’s “Revive” keeps me alert.
On working with her husband and everything else…
SCH: Your husband is a director. Two creatives in the same lane, in the same household, even. How do you get along?
JENN: I admire him. Big-eyed, mouth-dropped admiration. I am constantly amazed how he works, how he choreographs a scene, the creative way he can tell a story with the camera. He’s one of my favorite directors, by far. There would be times [during God’s Country] that I couldn’t concentrate on my character because he’s so amazing. I’d have to snap myself back to reality, to what I was doing!
SCH: Tell me about God’s Country, was there any thought to favoritism, him being the director and you as the starring role?
JENN: It’s so funny, Chris [her husband] got hired as the director. A producer saw my work and asked him, “Who’s that actress?” and Chris answered, “I’m married to her.” The producers in general were a little apprehensive; they didn’t want a husband-wife “package,” which can lead to problems on the set. I went through a long audition process, the longest of any movie I’ve ever done, and eventually everyone agreed that I was right for the role of Meghan. And that movie turned out to be the type of story that got me hooked on acting as a career in the first place!
SCH: Any last thoughts?
JENN: (I can hear her smiling) On set, I serve by example, and I hope to be as much like Jesus as I can. I try to remember that we’re all a work in progress.
Indeed we are, Jenn Gotzon. Sonoma Christian Home was blessed to have chatted with Jenn, she’s an absolute delight, down-to-earth, and passionate about her craft and her God.
Jenn Gotzon was named 2008 RISING STAR for film ‘Chemistry’ at Wildwood By The Sea Film Festival is congratulated by CHUBBY CHECKER. Festival director Russo described GOTZON as “having the acting depth of Kate Winslet and the charisma of Reese Witherspoon.
Photo Credit: Paige Flori
Gotzon is repped by attorney Harris Tulchin, who exec produced 2011 Sundance thriller and Lionsgate acquisition “The Devil’s Double,” and was managed by late Scotty Dugan, former editor at The Hollywood Reporter who was also her publicist and the inspirational backbone to her acting career, and now is working with Face’ at Face2Face Entertainment Talent Management and PR Manager Mike Rinaldi.
“Doonby” is a mystery-thriller with country music and romance. It’s a story about Sam Doonby (John Schneider), a mysterious, handsome drifter gets off a Greyhound bus in a small Texas town and finds work at Leroy’s Country/Blues Bar where his great musical talents make him very popular, especially with Laura Reaper (Jenn Gotzon), the beautiful but spoiled daughter of successful doctor Cyrus Reaper (Joe Estevez) and mother (Jennifer O’Neill). Sam always seems to be in the right place at the right time to avert disasters befalling the town and its people until suspicion, town’s sheriff (Robert Davi) and jealousy drive folks to ask who he is and where he comes from. Even Laura starts to question him and then he disappears as quickly as he came and things start to go terribly wrong. His rejection results in a series of shocks for the whole town, and especially for the town’s doctor as Cyrus’ past comes back… and the mystery begins.
“Doonby,” thought-provoking and entertaining, has been described to have the impactful heart of “It’s A Wonderful Life” with the dysfunction and country music vibe of “Crazy Heart” and M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Sixth Sense” type twist ending. “Doonby” is brilliant British writer-director Peter Mackenzie’s passion project.
Gotzon’s character Laura Reaper is the spoiled Texan love interest with a secret (she’s an alcoholic) to Schneider’s do-gooder-drifter-with-no-past Sam Doonby in the 97 min. narrative. She shares the screen with Robert Davi, who plays the local sheriff; Joe Estevez and Jennifer O’Neill as her country club-set parents; Ernie Hudson as the proprietor of a country/blues club who plays a mean sax where Sam tends bar, and Norma McCorvey who plays a cameo as a minor character but who, in real life, was leading lady in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion in America.
This mystery-romance-thriller starring “Smallville” and “The Dukes of Hazzard” Bo Duke icon John Schneider represents her first major film as leading lady and it unspools for audiences as a sneak peak limited release week of Fri. Feb. 17 in Mississippi cities Hattiesburg, Meridian and Madison, Fri. Feb. 24 in Chattanooga, TN and cities near Dallas, TX: Denton, Plano, Grapevine and Grand Prairie (theater listing: http://doonbythemovie.com/doonby/press-room/theatre-listings/
Doonby trailer: http://doonbythemovie.com/doonby/
Jenn Gotzon on red carpet talking about her upcoming starring role in Doonby at the 20th Annual Faith and Values Movieguide Awards 2012 which also includes sneak peak scenes from the film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-AFr28zGf4&feature=colike