Jacinda Barrett

Aussie actress Jacinda Barrett got her big acting break playing herself – albeit, we assume, a slightly embroidered version of herself, tailored to fit the precincts of Final Cut Pro and a reality TV must-list – on the reality series ”The Real World : London”. Shortly after, having relocated to Hollywood, Barrett landed acting gigs in the likes of ”Urban Legends : Final Cut” (2000), ”The Human Stain” (2003) and ”Ladder 49” (2004). In more recent years, Barrett has emerged as not only of the most talented young actresses for hire (see her work in “The Last Kiss” and “The Namesake” – amazing!) but, judging by the amount of credits on her CV, one of our most popular exports. In most of her previous films, Barrett has either played the love interest, girlfriend, or the damsel-in-distress – in her latest, the heart-wrenching Australian drama ”Matching Jack”, she’s playing the most imperative role of all, a mother. CLINT MORRIS caught up with the actress a few hours shy of the film’s gala premiere in Melbourne.

A new mother herself when she was offered “Matching Jack”, Barrett says she was immediately taken with David Parker and Lynne Renew‘s script – the story of an understandably frenetic mother who’ll do anything to save her ill child.

“The script and the story just really grabbed me”, says Barrett, of the film, from Nadia Tass and David Parker, of ”Malcolm” and ”The Big Steal” fame. “It’s not often you get offered such an emotionally-challenging role. Also, I hadn’t done an Australian movie – I had been looking for the longest time!”

Directed by Tass, ”Matching Jack” tells of Marissa Taylor, played by Barrett, a young mother who’s previously-healthy son Jack (Tom Russell) is suddenly diagnosed with leukemia.  At the same time, Marissa discovers that her long-time husband David (Richard Roxburgh) has been unfaithful. It’s his infidelity though, in that he’s potentially fathering other women’s children, which strangely enough, may be the key to saving Jack’s life.

As the mother of 3-year-old Satine, Barrett could really relate “to both the panic, but also how Marissa goes to the end of the earth to try to save her child”.

As easy to relate to as Marissa’s plight is, and as emotionally grueling as it is to film some of her scenes, Barrett says she’s slowly learning how to “switch off” when the cameras stop rolling.

“It’s sometimes easy to turn it on and off, but then other times, it isn’t”, says Barrett, who also played a mother in the John Travolta-firefighting drama ”Ladder 49”. “It really depends on the day and your emotional state at the time. And it depends on what the character is saying at that moment, and what you’re bringing to it at that moment, and how it shifts. There’s always a shift.

“I do enjoy doing the emotional stuff though – I mean, it’s difficult, but it’s not that difficult”, Barrett, whose filmography is largely comprised of heavy dramas, says. “I’m still getting offered quite a few of them. Because I’m getting older, the characters are changing though. But more so than the characters, it’s the type of films that are available than are changing! They’re just not making many of these types of movies anymore – they’re all big blockbusters. A movie like Matching Jack would not get made in America. At one time it might have, but films like it are just not being made anymore. It’s really quite sad. There’s a whole generation of cinemagoers out there that won’t get to experience films like we did growing up. Good stories are still being told – but only on cable TV.”

Barrett yearns for Hollywood to return to the time when story came first and foremost.

“Cinema is about feeling something. Also, learning something. It just can’t keep going on like this – too many people will be out of work, but also, we’ll all be devoid of good movies!”

Barrett, who will next appear in the comedy ”Middle Men” (about the beginnings of porn on the internet), says she’s going to keep on hunting down the good stuff, though.

Barrett and husband, actor Gabriel Macht (”The Spirit”) have managed to work out a way of making sure their career’s don’t suffer too much in their relatively new positions as parents.

“We have it worked out that I’ll go away and do a movie, while Gabriel stays at home, and then he will go and do a movie when I return – I’m sure we’re not going to be able to do that forever, god forbid what happens when we’re both offered a movie at the same time”, she laughs,” but for the moment that seems to be working.”

Undoubtedly happy, and proud as punch of daughter, Barrett recalls stories of sassy Satine‘s latest exploits.

“The things they come out with at this stage – just hilarious! The other day, I asked Satine what her favourite colour was, and she said ‘Pink and Purple’. ‘Why?’ I replied, ‘Because that’s just how it is!’ she shot back”, Barrett, 38, laughs.

“They pick up on everything, too. Having probably seen me do it, she now goes through all her clothes and shoes – repeating ‘no, not this one’ – until she finds the ones she wants to wear.”

When she’s not working, or playing dress-up with Satine, Barrett likes to get on the internet. S

“I read [Moviehole] – you guys have actually done quite a bit on this and Middle Men”, the actress says. “There’s a couple of big movie websites in America, yours and Dark Horizons. They’re great. Everyone reads them.”

Barrett is now jumping on the bandwagon.

“Literally, like three weeks ago, I started a website. I’d read so many people talking about me on their blogs that, I thought, ‘why not do my own?’. For the longest time, I said I wasn’t going to start a website or a Facebook – which I still don’t have, by the way – but I suddenly realized that having a site is such a good way to connect with people, and have a relatively intelligent conversation with people about… well, anything. It’s a great way to get feedback for my movies, for instance – for better or worse.  What people say to you at a premiere about your movie is usually very different to what they say about you if they were writing something online about you.”

(In this case Jacinda, you’ve nothing to worry about : I’m again gonna go with, talented and beautiful. And your performance in Matching Jack is the reason the AFI’s exist.)

”Matching Jack” commences Thursday