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Born in Illinois and raised on the stage, Jamie Bernadette’s journey to the big screen started out in theatre before relocating from her hometown of Kankakee to the bright lights of Los Angeles. Starting out in short films, music videos and television shows, Bernadette soon began to cut her teeth in the world of B-movies, making her a staple on the straight-to-video scene. A regular collaborator of cult filmmaker Ulli Lommel, the two have worked together on low budget titles including Absolute Evil, Night Stalker and Son of Sam.
Outside of the horror and fantasy genre, Bernadette appeared in the American Pie-style comedy Milf from visual effects artist-turned-filmmaker Scott Wheeler and the drama Apart, for writer/director Afdhere Jama. Bernadette’s more recent projects include the humorously titled Steampunk Samurai Biker Chick and is soon set to appear in the horror flick Lake Death and the web series NYPDM.
Jamie Bernadette discusses modelling, horror movies and ballet.
Having performed in theatre before becoming a film actress, have you returned to the stage in recent years and do you prefer acting in front of a crowd to the filmmaking process?
Yes, I returned to the theatre last summer in a sketch comedy show called One Night Stands in North Hollywood. It was amazing to go back to the stage and this show was truly a blast to perform. Theatre will always be special to me because that’s where I started. I do love film though because of the intimate quality of the work – everything shows on camera – and the work lives on forever and has the capacity to permeate into all different parts of the world.
How comfortable are you with the modelling aspect of being an actress and do you feel that magazine articles often focus more on your looks than your work?
I did do some modelling out here in Los Angeles before my acting career really took off, so I’m comfortable with it. Glamour is very much a part of Hollywood. This is true of the past and today and I’m sure will be true tomorrow. I don’t feel that magazine articles have focused more on my looks than my work. I think the work that I choose to do prevents that from happening. I gravitate more towards the layered roles rather than roles that focus only on my body.
Having collaborated several times with cult filmmaker Ulli Lommel, is he as eccentric as his reputation would insinuate?
Ulli was the first director to work with me and I am forever indebted and grateful to him for giving me that first opportunity. Ulli is a joy to work with. He is completely professional, kind and patient, and has never been anything but.
Did you find it an uncomfortable experience playing a rape victim on the TV show Vindicated and did you meet any real-life victims in preparation for the role?
No, I did not find it to be uncomfortable, though it’s always a delicate situation playing the role of a real person in a true-life situation such as this tragedy. No, I didn’t meet any real-life victims in preparation for the role. I already knew some; unfortunately too many people’s lives are affected by this crime.
Have you had the chance to incorporate your ballet experience into any of your acting projects?
Yes, which still surprises me. Ballet really helps with the aptitude to learn fight choreography. I’ve had to work with three different trainers for three different roles and I still have that flexibility and power of a dancer that incorporates into fighting. I am often cast as the stronger female, so having the skill to duplicate fight choreography is very valuable to me.
What do you feel are your greatest strengths and weaknesses as an actress and how do you overcome these?
My greatest strengths are positivity, optimism, supportive of the needs of other actors and crew, and overall just a great attitude on set. You can have a very talented actor but that actor will have a hard time making it and sustaining a career with a bad attitude. I’ve heard directors say that they’d rather have a good actor with a great attitude than a fantastic actor with a bad attitude. I’m producing two feature films right now and from a producer standpoint, I’d say I have to agree.
I have the weakness of taking my work home with me; always giving myself a hard time about how I could have been better and always criticising myself when I see myself on film. It can be very disheartening and I do it to myself. I hope one day to get over that, but from what I understand a lot of actors are like this, so this perfectionism and meticulousness and downright maddening, obsessive character trait I may have to learn to live with.
Steampunk Samurai Biker Chick conjures up numerous images but reveals very little about the plot or what kind of movie viewers should expect?
It’s a futuristic sci-fi film. I can’t say too much about the film because I’m under a non-disclosure agreement, but I can say that Boss Reeby is a no-nonsense business owner who gives an assignment to her two best mechanics to save her shipments from getting taken by pirates, bandits, marauders, or any of the others who will try to steal fuel and sell it on the black market. Many adventures ensue with those two mechanics on their journey.
Have you had many dubious incidents with sleazy or untrustworthy producers and do you have to lay out rules of things you are not willing to do while working on a film?
I’ve heard about things like that happening in the entertainment industry, and fortunately I have not had anything like that happen to me. I can honestly say that each project I’ve worked on has been a joy to be a part of.
I haven’t needed to lay out rules of what I’m not willing to do because that has always been laid out before I’m even cast. In the casting notice, the projects I’ve done have said outright ‘kissing, nudity, etc.,’ so it has always been known beforehand and I’ve never had someone try to get me to do something on-set that I didn’t agree to.
What has been your most challenging role to date and do you constantly try to push yourself with each project in an effort to avoid merely repeating yourself?
The most challenging role by far was the role of Catherine in 365 Days, which is a very dark drama. Sometimes when the actor is emotionally ready to do a scene, the crew is not ready, and when it’s an indie film and you cry all your tears out, there’s no ‘blower’ to make you cry as in some of the higher-budget films.
So, take after take of real tears, day after day, crying at the exact right time when ‘action’ was said was a great challenge. But, I grew so much as an actor and cannot put a price on what I learned doing that film.
I do try to push myself with each project by creating unique characters. But, sometimes I am cast, as all actors are, in very similar characters to what I’ve already played. This happens and it’s okay too. But when I get a very different character to play, like Boss Reeby in Steampunk Samurai Biker Chick, I get very excited to create an interesting character that is so outside of myself.