Her passion for telling women’s stories has won her a Best Actress title, inspired a production company, and made her a bold-faced name within the industry. But the Hollywood heavyweight isn’t stopping now.
Jessica Chastain isn’t shy about loving The Real Housewives. During recent talk show appearances, she’s declared her love for a Beverly Hills star and gleefully dissected a Salt Lake City housewife’s hot mic drama. It’s less common knowledge that the Oscar winner also enjoys Southern Charm, Summer House, and Winter House. Yes, Winter House—the low-rent spinoff in which the gang gets wasted for 17 days straight at Vermont ski chalet. “It’s not great thinking, the television I watch,” she admits, burrowing into a loveseat in a chilly subterranean sitting room at a beachside Los Angeles hotel on a Sunday afternoon in November. “But most of the time, when I watch it, it’s because my life is stressful and I need to just not think for a while.”
Turning off her brain has never been Chastain’s strong suit. She’s one of the most respected and powerful players in Hollywood, known as much for her work ethic as that cut-a-bitch chin. In just the last few months, she’s released the Netflix hit The Good Nurse, co-starring Eddie Redmayne, and announced she’ll be headlining Broadway’s A Doll’s House. She’s been nominated for three Oscars and won once–just this year, the best actress statue for her compassionate reimagining of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker in The Eyes of Tammy Faye. “She’s always, like, three or four things deep,” says Kelly Carmichael, president of production and development at Freckle Films, the company Chastain founded in 2017 with an eye toward female-led projects, including The Eyes of Tammy Faye. “There’s no part of our industry that she doesn’t see as a learning opportunity.”
Their latest, the Showtime miniseries George & Tammy, out now, tells the whiskey-soaked love story of ’70s honky tonk power couple George Jones and Tammy Wynette (single mic duets and all). But unlike other portrayals of the birdie best known for singing “Stand By Your Man,” Chastain’s Tammy radiates main character energy. “The song isn’t about being a doormat. And the reality is Tammy Wynette was married five times.” Chastain says. “She made decisions in her life. To be a producer, and to have a production company, means you get to police that in the writing. You get to say, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. We need to honor women as human beings. And they make their own choices—just like men do.’”