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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“What/If” is streaming now on Netflix. This segment aired on the KTLA 5 Morning News, Thursday, May 30, 2019.
The stars also discuss working with the “intimidating” Oscar winner Renee Zellweger in the anthology series.
Revenge creator Mike Kelly and Netflix have just debuted the anthology thriller What/If, which stars Renee Zellweger as a venture capitalist who makes a deal with a married couple that sets off a series of dramatic events.
Two of the series’ stars, Blake Jenner and Jane Levy, spoke to The Hollywood Reporter In Studio about what drew them to the show and why audiences will be binge-watching each episode.
“I was just crazy about the whole thing when I first got the pilot episode. I felt ready to binge every script, like people are going to feel watching this show,” Jenner told In Studio.
“When I first read the script, I was fascinated by the character of Anne Montgomery (Zellweger), and I wanted to know why she chose this couple to screw with,” Levy added. “I was really excited to tell this story because there’s a wow moment in every storyline, and I think in every episode.”
Levy also discussed what it was like working with Oscar winner Zellweger, summing it up with one word: “intimidating.”
“She’s really a kind, welcoming person, but, I mean, the scenes that we have together are basically intimidation scenes anyway, so she is so much fun to work with. She’s so great in this role, playing a character that’s the diametric opposite of herself.”
What/If is streaming on Netflix now.
Watch the video above to hear Jenner and Levy discuss their favorite episode of the season, bonding over bottles of wine and more.
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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When celebrities hang out with Bustle writers, we want to give them the chance to leave their mark. Literally. So we hand them a pen, a piece of paper, a few questions, and ask them to get creative. The rest is up to them. This time, actor Jane Levy from What/If is leaving her mark in the Bustle Booth.
Jane Levy knows that her name is synonymous with spooky stories. As the star of horror hits like Evil Dead, Don’t Breathe, and Castle Rock, even Levy’s own mother has noticed a trend in the projects she picks. “My mom is like, ‘OK, is this a scary one?'” she admits.
This time, though, the answer is no. But even if you’re not watching Levy’s juicy new Netflix series What/If through laced fingers, you’ll still be shocked by what goes down on the show. While getting the rundown of the psychological thriller’s twists and turns from series creator Mike Kelly, there was a moment when Levy says she “audibly gasped” at the revelations.
Chances are, when you watch What/If, you will, too. The steamy, suspenseful series stars Levy, Reneé Zellweger, and Blake Jenner in a present-day spin on the 1993 neo-noir film Indecent Proposal. The series gender-flips that film’s roles, with Zellweger’s high-powered businesswoman offering Levy’s character the money she needs to save her business in exchange for a night alone with her husband, played by Jenner. It’s a refreshing reverse of the film that allows both Zellweger and Levy to take on more complex roles, while Jenner’s character becomes the object of affection at the center.
“I think this show actually does explicitly sort of objectify the male characters in a way,” Levy muses. “That is not necessarily, I think, the goal in giving women a bigger platform, or giving women better meatier roles. But I think in the style of this melodrama, it works — and we have such a handsome lead in Blake Jenner and the show sort of like explains his sexiness in a way that often happens to female characters.”
It’s also just cool to see two powerful women absorbed in their work lives without it being considered a bad thing. “My character’s whole goal in the series — beyond holding onto this relationship [with her husband] — is to build her company and save lives and be a successful CEO,” Levy says. “Renée’s character is there sort of as this like evil guide telling her how is she can achieve those things.”
The paranoia that results from these secrets and lies is also different viewed through the lens of a female protagonist. Nobody wants to be the “crazy wife” who’s checking her husband’s GPS, and Levy’s character is aware of that stereotype even as the stakes are raised. The emotional labor that women perform for themselves and for others factors in to how she reacts to this increasingly twisted situation. “She is emotionally and quite literally trying to hold together her family and her workplace,” says Levy. “I think that that is common for women.”
Ready to dig in to this dishy drama? Before you do, check out Levy’s answers to our Bustle Booth questionnaire below.