Spotlight: An interview with Amanda Lamberti ("Jane Doe")

When Amanda Lamberti first read the screenplay for "Jane Doe", she had concern around playing an archetype ("My initial thought was I cannot play a victim"). She knew she needed to make some different choices for Jane about how and why she got there.

"Jane Doe" tells the story of a victim uncertain she wants to be saved. The film examines the loss of identity when mental, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse occurs.

Last month, Amanda won Best Performance of Fest at the Actors Awards, for her role as Jane. The judging team praised her performance: “Amanda Lamberti portrays a woman who is sexually abused, to the point she becomes apathetic, loses her self-identity and even her desire to be saved. With extraordinary sensitivity and deep understanding of Jane Doe’s background, fears and motives, Amanda creates a fascinating character. She makes the viewer want to jump into the screen and save her. A powerful performance with an impressive use of subtext.”

We invited Amanda to join us for an interview.

Before we talk about the film, please tell us a bit about yourself. What made you interested in acting and how did you start out?

I’ve been drawn to acting as far back as I can remember. I was an only child, so make-believe was my world. I’d play “commercial” as if a tv crew was following me around the house, pretending to sell everything. MTV was my babysitter, and so I joke music videos had an influence. All those impassioned plots, scored with the dramatic look and music of the 1980s. HA! But in all seriousness, it wasn’t until I turned twenty that I got curious and daring enough to begin real training. Soon after, I started booking local theatre and commercials. One of my first acting workshops happened to be producing a 35mm feature film, so that landed me a pretty unique opportunity with a small role. From there, other local Detroit filmmakers began casting me in their projects. That’s how I booked Trap, which then brought me to Los Angeles.

Who are your role models and what do you like about their work?

Jessica Lange, Julianne Moore, and Mira Rooney to name a few. They’re beautiful and interesting, yet not afraid to dive in and get messy. And Brad Pitt; he reminds me to have fun and not take it all so seriously.

You trained at the Neighborhood Playhouse, as well as The Actor's Workshop and other courses. What were your main takeaways from these classes?

The Neighborhood Playhouse and Actor's Workshop in Detroit really encouraged the "Method". They nurtured you while you experimented going to some dark places. They taught me that there can be strength in meekness and probably established my love for the underdog. Inside Job Acting Studio in Los Angeles was a perfect continuation of all that learning brought to screen; how to work deeper, not bigger.

How did you come on board the project? What were your thoughts when you read the screenplay, from a producer's standpoint and from an actress's standpoint?

Brett Rickaby and I had been wanting to work together for some time. Brett says he likes to lift up the rock and see what’s underneath. Well, perhaps that’s how he found me. Jane Doe was sort of birthed out of a scene he had written for an actor’s scene book. It was originally inspired by Paola Deocampo and I working together at Inside Job many years ago. Brett and I had a few other projects we stopped and started before firmly deciding on Jane Doe.

As an actress reading the screenplay, my initial thought was "I cannot play a victim". I had concern around playing an archetype and something too on-the-nose. I knew I needed to make some different choices for Jane about how and why she got there. My favorite thing in storytelling are subtleties and surprises. I love when you take stereotypes, especially gender roles, and exchange the expectation.

As a producer, I was all in. No hesitation. I’ve known the talents and determinations of Brett, Paola, and John for a long time.

How did you prepare for this extremely complicated role, and what was the most tricky thing about it?

First, I would just like to say how much I love Jane. And complicated, she is! My favorite line in the script is, “How did we get here, Jane?”. That line is everything. How DID we get here? Any of us. What series of events led to such varied, often destructive, behavior. And, how do we get BACK. I prepared for the role mostly by the desire to tell a different story. It was such a perfect time with light being shed on the ‘Me Too’ movement. Lots of conversations as well as my own history to dissect and pull from. There are so many colored and complex reasons why we do and tolerate things. The trickiest part came in the interrogation scene with the detectives. Like in real life, defending and or admitting out loud to someone else is very different than holding onto our secrets.

Tell us about your experience shooting the film. Where there any challenges you encountered on set? What was it like to work with director Brett Rickaby? How many days were you shooting?

Shooting Jane Doe was wonderful. We had a very small, but experienced crew. My scenes were shot in 2 days on a rental studio set. We definitely encountered some challenges. Like most independent filmmakers, compromises had to be made because of budget and time. My first day of shooting was the interrogation scene, so that was working with Brett solely in the actor/director dynamic. Brett is very thorough and prepared. Yet, flexible enough to toss an idea out the window should something else be discovered in the moment. He had some tricks up his sleeve to get us where we needed to be at times. He was playful and supportive. He is also wise enough to make the performances a priority. Getting to work with Brett as an actor was the cherry on top. He’s intense and gives you everything he has. We are very similar in ways and I think we complimented each other in these two roles.

You performed in film (Trap, Knights of Swing), theatre (Delusion, Suburban Motel 'Problem Child), music videos (Rascal Flatts 'Everyday', Leona Lewis 'Bleeding Love'), and even online sketches. Is there a medium and/or a genre you feel most comfortable with.

For me, performing live vs taped each have their pros and cons. I love the flow and length of theatre. The scenes obviously last a lot longer, so there is more room to play and solidify choices. And bonds are typically felt deeper and for longer. Film, etc. is a bit more challenging, but probably my preferred medium. All the moving parts from cast, crew, production come together and work like a perfectly oiled machine. It’s really exciting. I love when things clash. Film is a very “technical” artform.

What is your dream role?

Probably a biopic of a musician. Playing David Bowie, Morrissey, or Stevie Nicks.

What do you do in between productions?

Hike, find adventures. I climbed to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite this past fall. Very exciting! I am not naturally athletic; I really have to work for it. So physical adventures always stretch and refresh me.

Tell us about your future projects. What's on the menu for 2020-2021?

Well, I hope you’ll be seeing more of Jane Doe. Clearly, Jane has some things to say. You’ll also be seeing me in Knights of Swing. I will keep my website updated as to when those episodes become available. Very different than Jane.

Is there anything you'd like to add or someone you'd like to thank?

First, I’d like to thank all of you at the Actors Awards. Truly, I’m honored. And very grateful there are people out there who appreciated this film as much as we did. People who recognized the nuances in it. I’d like to encourage filmmakers to keep making distinct, idiosyncratic work. Tell a different story! And audiences to support it. If we keep buying tickets to x,y,z, then that is what will be funded.

Where can our readers follow more of your work?

Website: amandalamberti.com

Thank you so much for having me!

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