Though having played Richard Nixon’s daughter Tricia in the commercial blockbuster “Frost/Nixon”, actress Jenn Gotzon is largely renowned for her work on the indie circuit. The actress, who has starred in no less than 30 independent features, talks to Ashley Hillard about her latest film, “Doonby”.
So tell me all about your new film, ”Doonby”
Doonby is a mysterious-thriller wrapped up in a love story between my character Laura Reaper and Sam Doonby played by John Schneider set in the backdrop of a quaint Texan town and country-singing Leroy’s bar. Peter Mackenzie wrote & directed Doonby and it feels similar to “It’s a Wonderful Life” with a modern day edgy twist combined with the last years Oscar-nom’d country-drinking movie “Crazy Heart.”
How did you become involved in it?
This may be the first facebook casting on record. If so, Mark Joseph pioneered a historical mark in social networking. Producer Mark Joseph (who is absolutely amazing) cast me through facebook. We somehow became facebook friends (probably because we have similar fb friends from those involved with the 168 Film Project), he followed my Frost/Nixon career adventures, watched my acting reel and thought I’d be a great fit as Doonby’s leading lady Laura Reaper. He sent me a facebook message and I thought it was a joke until Mark asked to send my agent a direct offer. I completely didn’t believe this was real until I was actually in Smithville, TX working with Peter Mackenzie and John Schneider. Being cast playing my dream-role is an amazing divine blessing from above!
Can you tell me about your character, Laura Reaper?
Laura Reaper is the love interest of the mysterious happy-go-lucky so called drifter Mr. Sam Doonby played by the charming John Schneider. Laura’s life is a kaleidoscope of color being spoiled by her dad (played by Joe Estevez) who is the wealthiest doctor in town, brought up in a small Texan town who explores the world but finds herself most comfortable back in the roots of her own Smithville, Texan hometown in the bar and party life until she meets Mr. Doonby who mysteriously changes her world around.
My passion is playing protagonist roles that go through a dynamic complex character arc and finds or questions redemption. Playing Laura Reaper was a dream-come-true role for me because of everything she gets to explore, question and experience through her saucy, spoiled, sassy approach to walking on the edge of danger – to hiding her inner secrets of her addiction – to realizing what true love and hope really is and what it is to lose it all.
Is there a message that you hope the audience gets from the film?
For me, the message of Doonby aligns directly with my passion as an actress: to entertain, inspire and impact audiences through the art of storytelling with uplifting and redemptive messages. The coolest thing about Doonby is everyone may walk out of the theater enjoying a cool and edgy story and think the message is completely different than the friend they came with. For instance, after production one day back at The Auberge Bed & Breakfast, John, Will Wallace and I sat around eating yummy food chatting about the meaning of Doonby. We soon discovered that each one of us had a completely different interpretation… we then chatted with writer-director Peter Mackenzie to obtain his British perspective on his Texan movie he wrote to learn he had a very different meaning than we even thought of. Therefore, Doonby’s story is fabulous allowing all audiences to find a different message and meaning in the story that relates to them. I believe the story is about how each life impacts another through love and friendship.
It seems more and more productions are leaving California for Texas. Must be good down there!?
Filming in Smithville, Texas was the best experience filming ever! This small town of less than 5000 people all rally’d around the production of Doonby creating the making of the film feel like a community picnic. By the end of shooting, we felt like we knew everyone in town and months later I still keep in touch with my friends from Smithville Texas.
How has it been working with the cast and crew?
Great! John Schneider (or also known from my character Laura Reaper’s heart as the charismatic Mr. Doonby) and I enjoyed surprising each other bringing British writer-director Peter Mackenzie’s story alive in front of the camera from moments of love, hope, rescue, purpose, hurt, jealousy, rage and mysteriously learning the truth. Ernie Hudson captured the musical vibe as the owner of Doonby’s country Leroy’s Bar playing the saxophone, headlining great musicians and discovering Sam Doonby has a real musical guitar-picking and lyrical singing gift. Robert Davi who plays our Smithville Sheriff and Laura Reaper have a bit of a face-off in down his local police office after a unfortunate event turns mysterious. Jennifer O’Neill and Joe Estevez play my weathly parents who spoil me from their country-club high life style to cover the Reaper family’s hidden pain. Will Wallace plays my character’s best friend Liz Waters boyfriend allowing all three of us to celebrate life together as a so-called family living life up at Leroy’s bar to late-late in the morn hours rivaling against the naughty bartender played by Brandi Blevins. To wrap up Laura Reaper’s lifestyle of high rolling Mercedez, blinged out clothing and sleeping into noon daily, she rolls with a hot tub swingin’ couple played by Tom Lagleder and Jolyn Janis. All the cast was fabulous and truly gave their all making Doonby.
You have worked in both TV and film, do you have a preference for one or the other and why?
Working in film allows an audience to experience a story from start through an emotional, fun and adventurous arc all within one sitting of two hours. I love that a feature film or short story can leave a quick impact on the soul that may benefit the viewer the next day or years down the road. For me, I feel television has a different journey in the viewers life. This audience is loyal to their show tuning in weekly. That is fun because you grow up or live life vicariously through your favorite characters feeling like you know them personally. When I met Christina Applegate, I felt like I knew her personally because growing up watching her on “Married With Children.” My preference is working as the protagonist in film portraying a variety of characters vs one ongoing character in television. I’d love to have short-term recurring roles on television allowing me to do both.
In addition to starring in the recent “Sumo Joe”, you also produced it. Do you have any plans to produce another film?
Sumo Joe was a really cherished experience working with the friends in our community in the competition confines of the ‘168 Film Project.’ It was exciting to receive a few nominations including Best Comedy and winning Best Festival Trailer at the ‘168 Film Festival.’
Ah, what is next then?
I’m thrilled to work with my writer-director husband Chris Armstrong. Chris is dynamically brilliant as a creative and an intellect. Watching him combining those gifts into making cinematic stories is extraordinary. Last year, his first commercial he ever wrote & directed was aired on the Superbowl ad reel throughout national television shows rewarded as a winning-finalist for the Doritos Crash the Superbowl competition and continued to air nationally throughout the season. Through our company Elysian Pictures, Chris and I are working with New Orleans based Steve Doherty and Walden Media’s assistant Loren Brock creating an action-thriller about the significance of life through the eyes of genetics. The working title is ‘One Small Life” and is scheduled to go into production in 2011.
After wrapping Doonby, a month later I was cast in leading roles in the following films: ‘Dragon Day,’ ‘September Skies,’ and ‘Miracle Underground.’ Dragon Day wrapped principle photography this past Sept coming out early 2011. It’s about a cyber-political war docudrama of China overtaking America because of our debt.
‘September Skies’ begins shooting mid-November and is musical light-hearted fantasy comedy with a faith twist. ‘Miracle Underground’ will go into production next year and is about the recent miracle news story of the Chilean miners being rescued. I’m currently shooting an epic period piece about a true story similar to ‘The Last of the Mohicans” releasing theatrically fall 2011. My character is dramatically heroic.. love it!