Interviews: JACINDA BARRETT (Maggie James) Q&A

Jacinda Barrett plays Maggie James in the new adventure blockbuster Poseidon. She is one of the few hundred survivors of a luxury cruise ship hit by a rogue wave. She and a few others must forge a path together through layers of wreckage as the ship continues to sink.

QUESTION: What was it like spending so many hours in the water?

JACINDA BARRETT: It’s intense working in water. You deal with a whole bunch of stuff that you couldn’t foresee. All your senses are shut down under water, which is fine if you’re just frolicking in the pool. But if you’re doing a scene where you’re swimming to one point under a tunnel, and there’s only one access, one way you can get out. It, it can be a little scary because you’re totally blind. I had Mike Vogel swimming in front of me, who had steel-cap Fry boots on. So, I don’t know how close I’m getting to him. Is he gonna hit me underwater? The only thing you have to reassure you is that water safety people are looking out for you. So, if anything happens, they’ll pull you out. But it’s just the idea that you’ve got your safety in someone else’s hands. You have to let all your fears go and just dive in.

QUESTION: You did most of the stunts yourself. How was it going down the hallway flat on your back?

JACINDA BARRETT: That was really hard, learning to do those stunt jumps, because I had a space of about this wide to do it in and obviously, it’s upside down. There was a steel-covered light right there and corpses here and so you’re doing it in these confined spaces and that was a little hard.

QUESTION: Your character has an intense moment with her son in the film. How is it to do emotional scenes underwater?

JACINDA BARRETT: In that scene, I just connected to the fact that no matter what, I have to make him feel like he’s gonna be okay because if he panics, he’ll drown in there. That overrides everything else. Because your mother instinct kicks in and you’ve got to protect your child. Nothing else matters. You risk your life for your child. So, it must be horrible for any parent watching that scene to think about their son being trapped like that. Um, so that’s just how I approached that stuff. Forget everything else and just stick to the most important thing, which is to make him feel safe.

QUESTION: How much do you surrender into the genre?

JACINDA BARRETT: We would have discussions in the mornings and what was written would always become a totally different scene once you saw the set because it’s all related to the situation. What are the obstacles you’re dealing with in that situation to stay alive? We did a lot of discussions and Wolfgang was really open. That dialogue with my son is mostly made up. It’s what I was saying to him – “I’m here with you and you’ve got to be strong. And I’m not gonna leave you.” It was all stuff I was just making up with the actor, Jimmy, who played Conor. And the bit where he gets pulled under, that just happened. He went under in the scene. And they left it in because it worked; it was just an accident. Something happened where he lost his balance and Wolfgang was really open to seeing what the honesty of the situation would be once we were in it. But there are so many things that I’d never done in a movie like this that you’re dealing with. You’re shooting with always more than three cameras, which changes everything. If I move so much for camera A, I screw up camera B’s shot. You can’t overlap as much. You have to be mindful that you’re in close-up while you’re also in a wide shot, while still also over the shoulder. You couldn’t move because of the safety issues, of how far your harness would let you go or what CGI thing was actually going to be put in there. So, you are very much a small piece of the puzzle as the actor, unlike a character-driven drama where you get to decide, you’re gonna go here and go here and do. You very much have to work within all the other elements and actually, I enjoyed that, seeing my place in the picture differently and surrendering to the bigger picture of the movie. I learned a tremendous amount about filmmaking.

QUESTION: How did you act while doing all that?

JACINDA BARRETT: In every scene, it’s up to you to make it truthful. So, in that way, no matter what you’re doing, you’ve got to be honest. But you have to surrender to a lot of different situations. You’ve got to go with it. Kurt said to me early on, “You do as much as you can, and you’re always finding the truth and then there are certain situations where the stages are as they are. And the effects are as they are. And you have to learn how to get in there and accept it make that honest for you.” Right before that, I’d done this movie called The Last Kiss up in Montreal, which was all about the characters and I had five-page scenes where we could move wherever we wanted and it was all about our emotional intent in the scenes. And, so, I literally wrapped that one night and the next morning was on Poseidon. And It was so different. It was a such a bigger movie in every single way, from the five sound stages to the enormous crew that was involved, all the stunts, all the CGI people. So, it is an adjustment so is doing a comedy; so is doing a period drama. Every time you walk in, you have to surrender your preconceived ideas and go with whatever this director envisions. And if you don’t, you don’t get very far forcing your will.

QUESTION: Are you losing your Australian accent?

JACINDA BARRETT: I know. I know. It’s sad.

QUESTION: You’re actually from Brisbane, right?

JACINDA BARRETT: I am.

QUESTION: Your dad’s a firefighter?

JACINDA BARRETT: He is. Well, he was. He’s retired now.

QUESTION: Did your background prepare you at all for the role?

JACINDA BARRETT: Growing up in Australia, water is such a part of your life. You learn to swim almost before you can walk. You have the swimming lessons from such a young age; people don’t do that here.

QUESTION: It’s more important than walking and, and reading.

JACINDA BARRETT: Almost. Yeah. So, so for that, the water part, I was so comfortable already. And the fire stuff, well that’s all regulated and watched and stuff. As far as my accent goes, I’ve been living away for so long, ever since I was 17 and a half. One month out of high school, I left Australia.

QUESTION: You went to Japan and England?

JACINDA BARRETT: Yeah. All over Europe. And the thing is, I didn’t lose my accent until I started acting and had to play American in so many roles and then I married an American. I’m sure that has something to do with it. So, it started to go away a little bit. I’ve got to get it back. I’ve got to go back and live in Australia for a little bit, get it back.

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