A Conversation with Jasmine Haver
Actress Jasmine Haver (‘18) returns to the stage after a hiatus caused by the pandemic. By speaking honestly, Haver dispels myths that plague artists, reminding us of the ups and downs of working in entertainment.
Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
You just got back onstage in LA. Tell me about this show.
It was a show called Bell, Book, and Candle. It’s been on Broadway, and there’s a movie with Kim Novak and Jimmy Stewart, which I saw as a kid but haven’t seen since…I didn’t want any hints. The audition notice was on Back Stage, and one day at work, at my day job, a lightbulb went off, and I said, “I want to do a play.” I picked up the play at The Academy, went to the open auditions, and was the last to leave the callbacks; I got it! My character, Gillian, was a witch. When Gillian learns her college rival is engaged to her neighbor, Shep, she casts a love spell on him. But when witches fall in love, they lose their powers. So it’s this thing of “Do I want to keep my powers or be with Shep and be mortal?” It was a great part that ended up having a lot of range as Gillian has to navigate through the fear and the loss and confusion and wonders how she’ll do it.
The play is about 70 pages; a three-act play with a lot of dialogue. I really wanted to know if I was up to the challenge. I work a full-time job, and the rehearsals would be every day–every night–after work. I wanted to see, you know, can I do this, or did I peak at The Academy?
That’s something we all wonder, “Did I peak at The Academy?” What lessons did you learn at The Academy and then also with this show?
That the work will always speak for itself. There were five of us in the cast; two were members of the company. We all had very different-looking resumés, mine being the greenest of the group in film and TV, but I felt empowered by my theatrical background and was excited to work with and learn from each of them. My co-star Andrew was a film actor, primarily in film and TV, I should say. He has a lengthy resume of screen credits but has never done a full-length play before. We spoke at the auditions and then again at callbacks, and it was a magical, charismatic experience when we read together. We were really cast together, and we learned a lot from each other. I had a high caliber of expectations for myself, kept myself on a timeline with memorization, etiquette during tech week, and just that professionalism that The Academy instills in you. That training reads from a million miles away. There’s a certain grounded energy that actors trained at The Academy bring.
We rehearsed for only three weeks and performed for six weeks. My director knew I was stressed about that, and he reminded me that I wasn’t going to be perfect for opening and that I’d grow with the part…He, of course, was right, but in the moment, it felt like the roller coaster took off, and my harness wasn't all the way down yet. I was deeply uncomfortable with the idea of being a work in progress by opening night. I can play and explore in front of an audience, but I don’t rehearse in front of them. That was the night and day difference from The Academy. There was a comfort zone that I was quite anxious to step out of. You don’t always know exactly what’s going to happen, but in 17 performances, along the way, that fear evolves, and in a lot of ways, you become fearless.
There were also times my director trusted me more than I trusted myself, and times I think I was grasping for a Tim Landfield, a Diana Brown. "Please, tell me exactly what to do! What does this scene mean? Is what I'm doing working?" Brandon's approach was different, and he wasn't going to do that. He allowed us to really do our thing, and he had total confidence in how that evolved.
The Academy backbone that I have is what I leaned into to be able to survive, if you will, until I was able to breathe, and trust myself. I had to lean into what I know, what I know to be true. Listen, connect, moment-by-moment, hear things for the first time, discover things, let things land with you, and let things resonate. Those basic instincts I learned at The Academy carried me through.
The Academy definitely provides such a foundation…gives that sense of “grounding” you mentioned. What about other roles you’ve looked at or hope to delve into someday?
I mean, I think in some ways I’m still thinking about Gillian [laughs]; this was wonderful, getting back on a stage. I feel lucky, and I feel really proud. I will never forget running into a grocery store in the Palisades, grabbing the newspaper, and reading a rave review after opening weekend–in the newspaper! I grabbed a whole stack of them. I did the same thing a few weeks ago when I tied for Best Lead Actress. I actually have a scrapbook of all the clippings. There are so many roles that provide just a glimpse of a character's story, just a brief moment in their life. Their point of view, their lens, and their emotional state are very specific. While working on the play Gloria at The Academy…that was so specific. But this, this was the most human I ever had to be. I didn’t need to act so much, but just be a person. I would love to do another Shakespeare play…I would love that. I suppose the next challenge is what I’m excited about.
And is there additional work you’d like to share with us? And, of course, how might people get in touch with you or find you?
Upcoming projects are to be seen, right? I’m evolving my concept of success in a nonlinear way. I’m writing, I’m painting, I’m writing some poetry, just doing some different kinds of art. Some are shared, and some aren't. There are some things going on, and we’ll see how it evolves.
Jasmine, it’s been so wonderful catching up. And I’m delighted to hear you’re back on the stage.
I’m excited, too. We’ll see where things go.
You can find Jasmine Haver on Instagram.