Throughout her career, Jane Levy has played a wide variety of different roles: an idealistic scientist willing to do almost anything for the greater good in Netflix series What/If, an aspiring writer that cannot seem to escape a dark destiny in Hulu’s Castle Rock, a snarky teenager longing to escape to the big city in ABC’s hit show Suburgatory, and a modern scream queen in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead remake. Despite the vast differences in each of their personalities and portrayals, Jane says that all of the characters she’s played are like her in some way. “I guess the least like me is my character in Evil Dead,” Jane muses, “because in Evil Dead I played the Devil.”
Jane’s diverse filmography only makes sense considering the way the actress chooses her roles. “I am more drawn to good writing than particular kinds of roles,” says Jane. “I guess I try to avoid cliches. I am definitely drawn to humor. I like peculiar stories and characters.” Jane finds inspiration in a variety of sources as well, citing a long list of influences: friends Jenny Slate and Mae Whitman, Holly Hunter, Viola Davis, Lucille Ball, the films of Jonathan Demme, drag queens, and her acting coach as well. “The list of people I’d like to work with is also very long,” Jane says. “But to name one, Paul Thomas Anderson!”
“I dropped out of college in 2008 to pursue acting,” Jane explains, reflecting on getting her start as an actress. “I had no idea what I was doing and no reason to think it could work. My parents were skeptical but supportive, and I enrolled at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting less than a year later. When we were about to graduate we sent our headshots and resumes to various managers and agents. I had a really great headshot, apparently, and I got a meeting with a manager. He started sending me on auditions and I booked the leading role in an independent movie. The casting director Deanna Brigidi championed me and sent my audition to agents in Los Angeles, convincing them to sign me.” Thinking back to what she would call her “big break”, Jane has trouble deciding. “I played Mandy in the first season of Shameless before leaving the show to work on Suburgatory on ABC,” she says. “I guess those both in conjunction?”
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10 HQ photos of Jane on the set of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist in Vancouver last week have been added to the gallery
An afternoon with the actress talking Hunger Games auditions and working with Renée Zellweger.
The internet has made a certain correlation in the past decade and three quarters: Jane Levy and horror flicks are a match made in gore heaven. “It’s in part because of my athleticism,” she surmises as to why she keeps getting cast for the genre. “Final girls are sort of warriors, and I think I have a really good scream.” But despite all of this, Levy still has pretty diverse (and impressive) IMDb credits. She landed her first gig in Suburgatory in a very serendipitous fashion (more on that below), simultaneously had a recurring role in Shameless, and on top of racking up double-digit film and TV credits in the horror-thriller category—her most recent alongside Renée Zellweger in Netflix’s What/If—she was just confirmed to star as the lead in NBC’s new musical drama, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. We sat down to chat with Levy about the audition that started it all and the audition that didn’t work out but made a hell of a good story, and what it was like to work with Renée Zellweger.
On how her first role came from a series of perfect events:
“I was 18 and I had just finished a year of college in Maryland, where I was playing soccer. I was a serious jock, working out twice a day. I wasn’t really passionate about my studies, and I just didn’t feel excited to be at school. I thought, When was the last time I did something that really interests me? And that was when I was onstage. I remember feeling that was the most at home I’ve ever felt while doing something. I told my parents that I was dropping out of college, and they were surprised and scared for me, but they were supportive. I auditioned for theater school in New York and did that for two years and then moved to L.A. right as I graduated.
“[Suburgatory] was the first time I ever auditioned—the stars were aligned; something was happening in my favor. I had a general meeting with ABC, and I showed up, and the person who I was supposed to meet with wasn’t there. So some other executive was like, ‘Hey, sorry about that. Why don’t you come into my office and talk to me?’ I sat down—was wearing Frye boots and a ’90s dress that I bought thrift in New York. [Laughs] And she was like, ‘You know, you actually look right for this part, for this pilot we’re developing called Suburgatory.’ She had me read the script right then and there. She put me in touch with the creator, and I ended up getting that job.”
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You might know Jane Levy from her comedic turn on the gem of a sitcom Suburgatory or from that time she scared the bejesus out of you in Don’t Breathe. It could be that she caught your eye in Showtime’s Twin Peaks: The Return, or maybe she had you on the edge of your seat binge-watching Hulu’s Castle Rock. Or perhaps it’s her latest project, Netflix’s Renée Zellweger–led suspense thriller What/If, that has you buzzing about the 29-year-old. Whatever it may be, one thing is for sure: The actress is a force on screen.
Ahead of the What/If premiere, we caught up with Levy to talk shop and all things fashion. In addition to dishing on Zellweger’s surprising car choice, Levy let us in on her affordable T-shirt secret, made a strong case for jumpsuits, and told us who she thinks nailed the Met Gala theme. Don’t miss our conversation with the actress below.
How would you describe What/If to your friends?
Our show is a sexy melodrama. There are a lot of storylines, but the root of the story revolves around a young couple who, because of desperate circumstances, decide to make a deal with the devil and then have to suffer the consequences. It’s the ’90s-esque thriller you’ve been waiting for.
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2 posters and 8 production stills from What/If have been added to the gallery
Television > What/If (2019) > Posters
Television > What/If (2019) > Stills
What/If is an upcoming American thriller anthology web television miniseries, created by Mike Kelley, that is set to premiere on May 24, 2019 on Netflix