Canadian actress Jane McLean hits the big screen in the upcoming drama The Time Traveler’s Wife
Starting a career on the small screen suited Toronto actress Jane McLean just fine. But as the budding Hollywood actress gained momentum in her career on the small screen with plum roles,including the role of Masuka’s sexy girlfriend with anger management issues on Showtime’s cult hit Dexter, the big screen came calling. Her major debut in the upcoming drama The Time Traveler’s Wife—based on the best-selling novel by Audrey Niffenegger,starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana—follows the lives of a couple, Clare (McAdams) and Henry (Bana), who struggle with your not-so-average relationship problems. Henry is a time traveler—cursed with a rare genetic anomaly called Chrono-Displacement Disorder that causes him to involuntarily travel through time, skipping back and forth through his lifespan with no control, often leaving Clare alone.
In the film, McLean stars as Charisse, Clare’s best friend. Recently from her LA home, Tribute’s Toni-Marie Ippolito talked to McLean about how she left a job in Toronto’s financial district to follow her Hollywood dream and what it was like meeting the film’s producer and working with her co-stars, including one of the biggest stars on the planet, Brad Pitt.
It’s fascinating that you went from finance to acting. How did that happen?
McLean: You know, I took a very traditional route, and here’s the thing, I have been performing since I was a kid. I’ve always had a love of singing, dance, performance and all that stuff. I really didn’t pursue it apart from school and high school plays and community theater and so on and so forth. And when you come from a fairly conservative Catholic family, well it’s considered a hobby! So right after school, I took my Canadian securities and then went right into financial services. But I really felt like something was missing. And it took getting sick with an inner-ear cold infection that kind of knocked me out for a couple of weeks that made me realize, “Hey, I’m super young, I’m super healthy, why is this happening to me?” And it was the stress. It was the stress of doing something that you’re not passionate about. So I really did a lot of reevaluating. I decided to go to theater school and spent a year doing that. It was scary and I had a lot of people thinking that I was just crazy, but I did it anyway because I thought, you know, I have to live my life for myself.
You’re living the dream!
McLean: Oh totally! I thought to myself, “If I can do well at something that I kind of like, then I wonder what would happen if I pursued something that I really, really, really love?” I’m not saying it was an easy transition, but it was an exciting one. For me, whatever was perceived as being bumps in the road weren’t really bumps in the road for me. I mean I went at it with such a positive attitude. That carried me forward, and that was one of the most helpful things when I started out was having that sort of being like a kid in a candy store with you know, twenty bucks to spend and having all of these choices and heck, if that one doesn’t taste good then get another one!
I know you’ve done a lot of TV stuff; what was your first professional job?
McLean: My very first job was a movie called Dorian, and that was with Malcolm McDowell, and I did a tiny, tiny role and it was one of the things to help me get my union card. Then when I actually signed with my manager, the very first job, the one I can really consider the one where I was like “Okay, I’m totally doing this, there’s no more, you know, “Let’s-see-how-it-goes-kind-of-thing,” was when I got the part in the TV movie Guilt by Association that I did with Mercedes Ruehl. It’s still airing! Can you believe it?
What was your reaction when you got the part in The Time Traveler’s Wife?
McLean: Oh boy, what was my reaction? I was really excited about it. When the opportunity first presented itself it was supposed to be cast in Los Angeles and I wasn’t in LA at the time, I was in Toronto, and I hadn’t moved there yet. My first thought was “Okay, well they’re going to read every girl for this, so whatever. “My manager, because he was so excited about the project said, “You know, the director is in Toronto, location scouting, we have to set this up. You have to meet him.” It was so serendipitous that we were both in Toronto, and they set up a special session to cast my character. I read the script but I hadn’t read the book at that time. I bought the book two years before, but I didn’t read it. I started to get really excited about it because the script is just phenomenal. I remember thinking to myself, “Okay, you are not reading the book until the deal is done” because I didn’t want to jinx myself! You know! I got the offer. I was one of the very first after, obviously, the main leads, Rachel and Eric.
How did you approach playing Charisse, Clare’s best friend?
McLean: In terms of preparation for it, a lot of thought was put towards prior experiences of my own. Specifically those of my relationship with my sisters, you know, like the relationship that Charisse has with Claire. They’ve got a very strong sisterhood bond. Also too, we were very fortunate; Ron Livingston and I, to have had an opportunity before we even started shooting, to go shopping for each other’s characters in Kensington Market. We were picking out clothes for each other’s characters. It was the director’s idea. He said “You know, I really want you guys to spend time together” and he did the same thing with Eric and Rachel’s characters, specifically with Eric where they brought the child that was playing their own child, Alba, to the ROM. So there was just a lot of care put into developing these characters.
And did you guys film here in Toronto?
McLean: Yes, and some parts were shot in Chicago.
You and Rachel McAdams are both Canadian. What was it like working with her?
McLean: She’s wonderful. She’s a good Torontonian gal and super down-to-earth. It’s no surprise that she is where she’s at right now because it would be hard to ignore somebody with as much talent and beauty as Rachel. She’s very, very approachable, very easy to work with and very, very generous. As an actor, you sort of dream of working with people like that because they really pull you in. You know what I’m saying? They call “cut” and you forget that there are even cameras rolling. So the experience was fantastic and we had a lot of things in common. We both like clothing!
What was it like working with Eric Bana?
McLean: At first I was a little intimidated. I thought he might be a little bit intense. But those were my perceptions because I watched him in Munich and Troy. But he’s a funny guy! And he’s wonderful to work with and very easy on the eyes!
You also worked closely with Ron Livingston.
McLean: Ron is fantastic to work with. Just a blast, we had such a blast. I have to say that the first couple of days of hanging out with him, I was so tempted to, you know, call him Berger. I kept thinking “Berger” from Sex and the City! (Laughs)I’d say to my girlfriends: “Do you know that I’m playing Berger’s wife?” We had a great time. We played a lot of cards like in between scenes and stuff like that; whenever we had a break we’d always go into a corner or his trailer and play cards. I would win!
It’s tricky, making a book into a film. Everyone has his or her own imagination. And so here you are, cast in a best-selling book. Did you worry what people would think?
McLean: Yeah, at first I did. I thought to myself how are they going to do this? This is such a complex story and how are they going to be able to condense it into two hours? And again, like you said, everybody’s going to have their own version of what these characters are like, and how the story unfolds. Everybody views it differently because you base it on your own experiences. But I trusted a lot in the script. And the script is absolutely beautiful. It’s not exactly the same as a book, there’s a lot of stuff you have to be really crafty with how you develop it as a movie, because again you’re trying to condense what was 500 pages into two hours. And that can be very, very hard to do.
I think audiences tend to forget that sometimes.
McLean: Yeah, people do forget that. And I was worried, to some degree, at the very beginning because I thought to myself, “Oh wait a second here, you’ve got an enormous fan base for this book,” but then you realize afterwards that you can’t please everybody. I had to look at it like a completely separate entity. And at first, I will admit, I did go on a couple of blogs. I’ll never do that again, ever, ever, ever!
Well, sometimes curiosity gets the best of you, and it’s tempting!
McLean: I’ll tell you, I read a couple of blogs and the minute it was announced that I was going to be playing Charisse, they filled up with “Oh my God who’s this Jane McLean?” Blah blah blah. Under posted pictures of me I remember a couple of comments saying “Well we don’t think she’s plump enough, we don’t think she’s fat enough, and they’ve gone the Hollywood route and she’s looks kind of mean.” I thought,”I’m not mean, why would you say something like that?” But you know what you realize? You can’t take that stuff too personally because they don’t know you. And again you can’t please everybody.
Brad Pitt is one of the producers of this film. Did you meet Brad?
McLean:I sure did!
And how is Brad?
McLean: Well, you know what? It was not as eventful as I thought it would be. It didn’t dawn on me that it was him. I had already had my Eric Bana moment where I met him and I thought, “Oh he’s so cute” but then after you’re like “Whatever, he’s Eric and he’s the guy that’s in the movie that I’m in.” You totally get over it. So I think we were already two weeks in and Eric and I were finishing up a last shot, and this guy comes up to me and he’s wearing a hat, and comes over and says “Hi Jane, I’m Brad, very nice to meet you.” So I said “Oh, it’s very nice to meet you, Brad.” So we finish our shot, and I’m leaving and Brad says, “It’s very nice to meet you, Jane,” and I say, “Oh, it’s very nice to meet you too.”I take off in the car and the lovely driver says to me, “Oh, that Mr. Pitt’s a really nice guy” and literally there was like a strong heart beat. Then it hit: “Oh my God, I just met Brad Pitt. Holy shit!” (Laughs). So I got on the phone and called my brother and I’m like “Oh my God, I just met Brad Pitt” and he’s like “Oh my God, that’s amazing!”
You were also in one of my favorite shows, Dexter!What was it like playing Masuka’s girlfriend?
McLean: Oh my God! Well, the thing is, is it’s also one of my favorite shows too so I was thrilled. I was so thrilled.
You had a good little part there.
McLean: Yeah, well you know what’s interesting, you guys unfortunately missed the full storyline between Masuka and I, and you know, you kind of learn this when you get into this business that, especially with television and hit shows, they overshoot everything. But the whole setup was that I had serious anger management issues and by the last episode we were supposed to break up and we shot it! I was throwing biscuits and cookies and cake at a waiter during the wedding scene, and ready to punch him out. And then before that with Masuka, there was all this stuff that we had shot at the bachelor party and so on. I thought, “Wow, they really trimmed it down.”So I was sad!
I would’ve liked to see that!
Maybe we’ll see on the DVD! But you’re too hot for Masuka anyway.
McLean: Ha ha ha! You’re so sweet!You are too sweet. I had such a blast on that show and afterwards I was like I don’t really care. Totally fine. The fact that I was on that set and that I could play such a fun character was the exciting part. And just to be part of a show that I’m such a huge fan of.
Will you be back on it at all, do you think?
McLean:Maybe! It was actually fun to be part of the comedic relief in a very serious show, you know.
So what’s coming up for you next?
McLean: I am doing a play here in Los Angeles at the Edgemore Centre for the Arts. It’s this wonderful theater in Santa Monica that Steven Spielberg is on the board of directors of, and his wife, Kate Capshaw. So I’m doing that in July and then I head to Toronto and northern Ontario to shoot a movie called Running Mates, a comedy feature. So I’m really excited about that. So I’ll be back there at the end of the summer, early fall.
Okay, because we’re talking about The Time Traveler’s Wife, if you could time travel, what time period in your life would you go back to?
McLean: Hmm, that is tough! Do you know what? I would love to go back to the Philippines. I was born there. I came to Canada when I wasn’t even a year old, so how fun would it be to go back to that time when you were a baby when you didn’t have a worry in the world, you know what I mean? So I think it would be a great experience to go back and see through the eyes of a child. I’d go back to that time and just try and soak in what it was that I was soaking in at that time as a baby opening my eyes to all my new surroundings.