Hollywood Reporter

Jessica Biel: ‘To be in the company of TV actresses is an award in itself’

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Noel de Souza in conversation with Jessica Biel

AS THE LINES between television and cinema begin to blur, more and more of the big screen’s stars seem to be crossing over. It is easier to tell a story over several episodes than in two hours as the characters can be better defined and the storyline more deeply explored. One cinema star currently seeing success is Jessica Biel, who is both producing and acting in the crime drama The Sinner. The series explores the inner workings of the mind as a detective delves into the past of a young mother who stabs a man to death but doesn’t remember why.

How do you define a sin or sinner?

It’s an ambiguous label in many ways— all human beings have been sinners at one point and have done things and treated people in ways they are not proud of. I also feel that [the series] has taken my judgement away: it is easy to point a finger and say ‘You did that’ and ‘You are a sinner.’ There are moments in my life that I can reflect on—in fact, in all of our lives—where you may not be able to label it, but it’s still the wrong decision and it was the wrong choice and it was done for a benefit or maybe it was done to be cruel or whatever. We are all human beings and we all make mistakes. And that is why there remains an ambiguity to that label.

What did you learn from producing the show?

I have learnt what I am not good at and what I can improve upon. And I think that this experience being faraway and not being on the ground everyday whether I am working or not, it’s shown me how much more engaged you have to be. And this is the way it goes in a series, right? You set it up, you produce it and put the people in place and let it go. So, there is also this ability to hand it off to others whom you hire and they continue the show with the same language, the same look and the same vibe. You have to be able to let go of control and let it run without you. So I am running all of these things and I am not necessarily good at anything yet. But I do enjoy all the creative stuff. I really do enjoy it and I feel instinctively good about it... notes on the script, the casting, and I’m getting to be quite good at that, but I still have a lot to learn.

What did being nominated for an Emmy in 2018 for The Sinner mean to you?

It is an amazing feeling. This is a project that we have seen from the beginning to the end and it was such a love affair with the character from the beginning. So it is thrilling to be recognised for something that I am really proud of. I think that some people get recognised for something that they like, but this nomination is a gift. I don’t think that actors work for awards. I know that I don’t work for awards and I have never gotten an award before, but I will continue working with or without a nomination because I love it and have to put my work out, I have to get it out. But it feels very rewarding and it’s so exciting and fun. It’s fun to be accepted into the television community like this and to be up against all these amazing actresses who I look up to. I remember watching their work and remember thinking that I would love to have a career like theirs. And just to be in the same company is an award in itself.

Will you continue both producing and acting?

Well, I want to do both. And I think honestly that the things that I have been most excited about are the things that I am developing myself. So, it’s starting to work hand-in-hand— almost naturally doing both. Putting people in place with whom I can partner and from whom I can learn and do better productions and gain greater knowledge as a producer and then do my things as an actor—but it’s just happening to work out that way. If I am inspired by a role I’m offered in a project that I’m not producing, I will accept it, and if I’m producing something that is an incredible story and I’m not right for the part, I will be happy to hand it over to the right actor.