There’s one thing one can say about screen newcomer Jess Wexler, and that is, she loves taking risks. Teeth is no ordinary film, but a dark, ferociously erotic comedy about a young woman with a somewhat unusual vagina. Sexy and over the top it certainly showcases the talents of this fresh faced actress who talked sex and movies with Paul Fischer in this exclusive interview.
Question: So when you read the Teeth script, what was your immediate response?
Wexler: Well my immediate response was that I was freaked out, because I had never done sex scenes before. I wasn’t sure if I was up for the task of these kind of sex scenes, so I auditioned for the best friend. Then when I was in there, Mitchell wanted me to read for Dawn, so I went for it and when he said he was really interested, I took another look at it and realized that he wasn’t trying to make a B horror movie, but a dark comedy so it sort of brought the whole thing into a new light. I realized that Mitchell was much smarter than I was for the most part.
Question: When did you feel that you were up to the task for doing these kinds of sex scenes?
Wexler: I don’t know what quite prepared me for doing that. I got lucky that I felt very safe with everybody that I was working with. But I started to see her as a superhero, like somebody with an anatomical uniqueness that’s had to learn how to use her power for good. It was exciting to me to get to play, that sort of mythological creature.
Question: Apart from the anatomical facets of the character, is there any aspect of her psychology or her psyche that you could identify with?
Wexler: I think I related to being a young girl who hasn’t had any sexual awakening yet and then become more and more comfortable with my body and with myself as like a sexual woman. So I related to that. But there’s a moment when you realize that you’re going to be a sexual creature and you’ve got to know how to really get into that, you know, and not shy away from it or be too freaked out by all the intense emotions that go along with it.
Question: Do you see Dawn as being an outsider in some way?
Wexler: I do. I think Mitchell constructed it in a way that was smart. She has an experience at a young age that makes her shy away from educating herself about her body, so she spearheads into abstinence because it’s a way of learning as little about herself as possible. And I think, at this point, somebody who’s a major advocate of abstinence is a little bit of an outsider in these times and then she wakes up. She’s also an outsider just because she’s not like everybody else, physically.
Question: I take it you went to Sundance with the movie when it was playing at Sundance last year.
Question: How was that experience for you as a new young actress? Doing a movie that is particularly exposing in a way?
Wexler: Well I’ve never seen a movie I was in with a large crowd before, so it was kind of nerve-wracking and thrilling to have that many people watching me. And to hear what they liked and to hear people react to it, scream at what I was doing. Or laugh or have any, you know, uncomfortable reaction that they’re going to have to this kind of material. It was actually very exciting to get feedback from it and nice that some people enjoyed it, because I wasn’t sure how anybody was going to react.
Question: It’s certainly a very kind of brazen movie for you to be and is really showcasing you in so many ways. Where do you go from here? I mean how hard is it for you to be considered for other things? And what are the challenges for you as a young actress in Hollywood these days?
Wexler: I’ve done a few projects this year, one of which I was really pleased while we were making it. I hope they have enough to edit. It might be kind of beautiful. It’s in a very different vein and not over the top. Like this movie, I think, has heart. And then I just did something that was sort of a little gritty and realistic and romantic and I hope that people are able to see me in different lights. I don’t feel like I’m taking the fast track or anything.
Question: What were the two movies that you finished?
Wexler: I just finished a movie called Peter and Randy, which was a love story that I did with Jason Ritter. I’ll be excited to see how that one turns out, because it felt pretty good shooting it. The other one I’m not sure, I didn’t get enough feel of how it would turn out.
Question: Which is what?
Wexler: A movie called Welcome To Academia that I shot. They’ve all been indies so far. I haven’t been swept up by the studios at this point.
Question: Do you want to be in fast track to Hollywood person? Or are you quite happy in the Indie scene?
Wexler: I’m very happy with the scene I’m in now. But I wouldn’t say that I have an opinion necessarily that Indie films are the way to go or studio films are the way to go. I would just hope that I can find scripts that sort of touch me in some way or something that excites me. Just scripts that I would want to do, movies that I would want to be a part of. And the people I meet who are as excited to work with me as I am with them.
Question: Why did you want to become an actress?
Wexler: Oh, why did I want to become an actor? Ooh. I guess I think that everybody has– there are the same core issues in a lot of people. And I like exploring how everybody tries to deal with all those issues in their own way. How we’re all the same and how we’re all different.
Question: Did you grow up here in LA?
Wexler: No, I live in New York and I grew up in Kentucky.
Question: So you’re a southern girl?
Wexler: Yeah, I’m a southern girl and I live in New York now. So it’s been a little bit interesting when people ask me about Hollywood because I feel like I have had zero exposure to Hollywood. I haven’t been here in LA hardly at all.
Question: Are you planning on making any kind of move to the west coast? Or are you happy to stay back in New York?
Wexler: I don’t have any plans to move here to LA. But I would definitely come here for work, to do a job, something like that.
Question: Is there anything else that you’ve signed up to do since completing these other projects?
Wexler: Right now, something that I’m going to do in April that’s based on– it’s not based on. But there’s a cult comic book artist named Jeffrey Brown who wrote a movie. And I’m going to be doing it with the director Joe Swanberg who’s kind of new. And the Band of Montreal, who’s sort of a big Indie band. And they’re scoring the film and the lead singer’s going to be in it, so I think that’ll be a really fun, interesting Indie project.
Question: What’s the name of the movie?
Wexler: Right now it’s called Save the Date.
Question: Is it a comic book style film?
Wexler: Not altogether. Even the comic books that he writes are not superhero comic books. They’re just sort of clumsy people, people who are a little awkward and are not always good at saying what they mean and they’re very sensitive.
Question: What kind of character do you play in that?
Wexler: I’m going to be playing a girl who’s a little bit of a bridezilla, somebody obsessed with getting their wedding right. Her boyfriend’s in a band and I guess she’s just extremely driven and can’t quite understand how anybody else’s life is as important as hers. I think it’s another one of those movies where it’s going to be the way in which it’s done that makes it unique, because the bridezilla has been covered quite a few times.