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  • Writer's pictureAugust Sorenson

An Interview with Jessica Pimentel, Los Angeles Commencement Speaker 2020

Updated: Oct 13, 2020

The Pages: You gave a wonderful Commencement Address all the way from Sweden. You mentioned this isn't the 2020 anyone has imagined, so true. So what has your quarantine looked like?

Jessica: I did an audition at the end of March, March 13th. Most of my auditions were already on film, so I wasn’t too worried about being exposed to too many people. When I heard that the borders from Europe were closing - someone called me up one morning and said, “They’re closing them! They’re closing them tomorrow!” I grabbed a suitcase, threw things in it - missing half of things, you know - I need this board game, I need these shoes, and I definitely need this diamond necklace! I flew out March 17th, and landed on the 18th. I’ve mostly been home since, in our music studio, our recording studio. When we do go out, everything is outside, people are outside, people are pretty good at maintaining social distance. We always have our masks, our sanitizer, and we do our “elbow hello.”

The Pages: Where might the silver lining be in all of that?

Jessica: For my relationship, my love life. It’s done wonders for us. It pushed a fast-forward button for a lot of people on their romantic relationships; you’re seeing people for who they are when times are difficult. How do you deal with spending day-after-day with each other, especially if you have no other routine? Your only routine is each other. This is the longest we’ve been together, and it’s really made us reevaluate how we want to live and where we want to live, which has been great. 

The Pages: What advice would you give to future actors? 

Jessica: It’s so hard to say. What can I say to you now because everything is so uncertain? This always has been a very uncertain business; there are no guarantees. If you love art, and you do this for the sake of art, continue to do it. Whether you do it with friends; get together, have a zoom call, some improv or whatever, have a glass of wine and be silly. Or you market yourself out there, to be available for all these zoom readings that are happening. These playwrights are stuck at home, and they’re creating some awesome stuff. Start doing that. Film yourself doing monologues... post them on YouTube. Just keep doing your art, keep being creative, and you will be successful. 

The Pages: There’s such a craziness to graduating, and I can’t think of a more appropriate person to ask; what did you do post-graduation? 

Jessica: Post graduation I went right to work. I was lucky enough to be part of Company. I had several meetings with agents and managers, and I started auditioning right away. I had been ready to go for years at that point… I jumped right in. I wasn’t trying to take a break, or to figure things out. I jumped in the deep-end, and I think that’s a great way to do it. Especially right after school when everything is so fresh, and you’re really pumped, you’re really excited.

The Pages: What things did you learn at The Academy that you’ve kept with you; training, lessons, connections you’ve made?

Jessica: The number one thing was discipline. There’s a great discipline you need to be at The Academy and stay at The Academy. And secondly, don't take things personally. Criticism isn’t personal, criticism is to help you. You’re gonna get a hundred “no’s” before you get a “yes.” You just keep doing it and you keep doing your best, and know that whatever doesn’t happen is because it wasn’t meant for you. Not because you weren’t enough, but because it wasn’t for you. What is meant for you will come to you, and no one can take that away. So there are no worries, everything is the way it’s supposed to be. 

The Pages: You are an esteemed musician. Can we hear a little bit about that? 

Jessica: I’m currently in several bands. The closest to my heart - my ‘baby’ - is Alekhine’s Gun. We’ll be releasing new music at the end of the month. We’ve been slowly releasing singles the past few weeks, this past year, just because we felt like it; we were bored, we missed playing, we missed each other, so we just released something. This new one that we’re going to be releasing is about spirituality. It’s in everything I do, Buddhism, spirituality. The first thing that we released was a prayer to the 21 Taras, which is the 21 aspects of divinity that you hope to conquer in your life - illness, fear, poverty - this particular prayer will help you get over the 21 different types of suffering. Another one that’s going to be released soon is about preparing for death. The only thing certain in life is that death is certain… the hour of death isn’t. 

The Pages: You’ve received a ton of recognition from Orange Is The New Black. Can you tell me a bit about that experience?

Jessica: It was like none-other. I was at the end of my rope as far as acting was concerned, because I’d had my hundred-and-one “no’s”! I was fed up, I’d found myself being typecast. I wasn’t really getting the roles that I wanted; ‘I am an artist! Let me play Lady M!’ The roles were so stereotypical. I called my manager, I said, ‘This has got to be the last audition of the year.’ I just didn’t want to be there, usually you’re so happy at the audition, you’re a little nervous. But because I went in with that attitude - I didn’t care - I let go of all that, that thing, that person that watches you as you’re doing it. I just wanted to get out of there. From that attitude, Maria was born. I got the job the next day and was on set the next week. 

The Pages: What have been some of your favorite roles-- and what do you have in the works?

Jessica: Everytime I do a project, that’s my favorite project. I did a short-film; I did as a love project, a passion project because the story was so intense for me. It’s called “Get’s Good Light,” and was accepted to the Tribeca Film Festival this year, but unfortunately we were not able to celebrate it properly because of COVID. The story is about a family that is running from ICE, one of the family members is running from ICE; you have an American-born Latin, an undocumented Latin, and their daughter. They hide by spending their nights hiding in these “show apartments,” these luxury condos. It’s so beautiful. It’s such a human, raw story. I think we need to start focusing again on those stories that are just the human condition, because we’re all overdosed on politics and hate and fear. Maybe we need to get back to those love stories, those family stories. Even if there’s some politics sprinkled in there, the point of the story isn’t the political statement, but the humanity of it. 

The Pages: As we go back to a sense of “normalcy” what do you think needs to shift or change?

Jessica: As far as the positive things that can happen, we can look at the environment. What a huge, radical difference - cutting out all this travel, staying home, cooking at home and traveling by bicycle, and shopping locally - what a wonderful thing it did for the planet. A breather, so to speak. You can see it around the world. Also bringing to light the political and the racial tensions in the US (especially), that’s been the main focus. Now people are having open conversations - the young children, teens, early twenties - are starting to see that things have to be changed, and things can be changed. Hopefully that’s now in their minds when they see an injustice, they don't just swallow it and hope it doesn’t happen to them. They see that change is possible. All human beings just want to be happy… and I hope that people have learned new mental health routines. I’ve spent more time in nature than I ever have before.

The Pages: What would you like for your legacy to be as an artist?

Jessica: Oh man that’s rough- can you get back to me in twenty years? Legacy as an artist? That I always did everything from the heart. That I always did everything with sincerity, and I didn’t do it for my own adulation. I did it to help humanity, and to connect to someone, to do it for others and not for yourself. That is what art is; once it is created it, it belongs to the world. And hopefully, it will help others experiencing the same pain, happiness, or joy, and they become better people. It's a gift.


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