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An Interview With… Jena Malone on Adopting Audrey



Adopting Audrey has a really interesting subject, were you aware of the existence of
adult adoption before you became involved with the film?

No, but half of the family that I have I’m not related to by blood, because I was raised by two
women and then they split, but I still kept in touch with all of my family. So I’m very well
educated on the fine art of your family being chosen. l love when legislature catches up with
real human needs and I think this was a thing that finally I’m like “oh they’re legalising it,
great” because it’s something we’ve all been experimenting with for thousands of years.

In your career you’ve played a real range of characters and some of your most
memorable have been these really assertive and confident women. Audrey isn’t just
as intense as some of these characters, so what was it in particular that made you
want to portray her?

Well I’ve known this character so many different times in my life: she’s some of my best
friends, some of my family members. I quit acting when I was eighteen to just learn how to
be a human in my own way and I studied photography at this small community college in this
little mountain town. It was full of people who had these very transient existences where they
spent summers in Antarctica as a chef, and then they would go to Montana in the fall. I had
always grown up making films which is very much a circus life. But to know there was this
whole other subculture of people who were very happy in not building a steady secure job
and placement, they lived paycheck to paycheck and sometimes in their car. I feel like I
got to know that story very intimately so when I read Adopting Audrey, I was instantly like I
know who this woman is, and I need to play her. No one else in the world can do this, I need
to do this.

Audrey starts to rely on YouTube videos for company and companionship. Do you feel
this is reflective of much of society and how we’ve become disconnected from each
other, especially in the wake of the pandemic?

Well it’s a disconnection through connection. We’re now connecting through devices. I know
that for me when I was eighteen and I bought a house it felt very overwhelming because I
didn’t have a lot of the skills. I remember going to hardware stores and, you know, basically
my YouTube educators were people who worked at hardware stores that didn’t judge me
and try to mansplain to me.

I just feel like previous to YouTube there was a whole dis-empowerment to education and
what I love about YouTube is that it’s such a non-discriminatory empowerment. Anyone and
everyone can pick up their thing and figure out how to install a grey water system with their
washing machine, like amen honey, get in there and do it. I love that.

Yes it creates incredible disconnects but that’s not a human problem that’s a societal
problem, right? Our society is in need of repair. The way that it’s built, like literally it creates
harm as it runs; the way it runs disassociates us, disconnects us. But I don’t think it’s
YouTube’s problem, I think that YouTube has formed a very deep and beautiful solution to
repair harm in a very harmful society. I think that now it’s up to us to kind of realise the
parameters that we want YouTube to live in. You know we don’t want it to be everything; we
need it to be free college, free expression because then we can come together and still go to
the hardware store and still meet those wonderful people that are not gonna mansplain to
us. Form connections and still utilise this beautiful democratic free educational tool.

There is a real theme of chosen family in the film as well as a person’s sense of
belonging, were you able to relate to these to enhance your performance?

Yeah, I mean I think that I have a chosen family, we’re not related by blood but they’re
absolutely my brothers and sisters and cousins and nieces and nephews, and I would never
question that they’re not. I guess that I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve been in a
hospital and my god mom can’t come in because she doesn’t have the same last name as
me or something, do you know what I mean? I feel like if I got to that situation I would see
the confines of having a chosen family that’s not legitimised or legalised.

But I just know that for me growing up, you can’t just have your parents. I feel like I was
chosen by two or three adults that really saw me and wanted to treat me like I was special
and that I had something to say. It’s through those relationships that I was able to develop
my own identity and expression. I think it’s very hard to metamorphose in front of people that
know you. So sometimes it’s really nice to have someone come in like mid-journey, like when
you’re thirteen, sixteen, eighteen that gets to just see you for who you are and get to believe
in you. In a different way than the people who, you know, wiped your butt and your diaper,
and saw all of your tantrums. It’s just harder to change in front of those people, so I do think
that we need sort of auxiliary adults in our life to come in and be these beautiful mentors that
believe in us. It just gives us more, more than our parents can at that point.

Talking about the idea of chosen family, what was your experience like with your
Adopting Audrey family, your co-stars?

I loved them. I mean I just felt like he [director M. Cahill] brought together such an incredible
cast. You know Robert [Hunger-Bühler] was a joy every single day. I mean that man is so
funny and so sweet, and so completely opposite of his character Otto. It was nice to see him

Audrey does a lot of building work in the film and you’re very convincing at it. Is that
something you are good at in real life or had to learn for the film?

I think because I grew up on sets I’ve been given this, and maybe it’s bad, maybe it’s good,
sort of, learn on your feet kind of mentality, that where it’s like I can do anything, I just have
to learn how to do it. Like there’s nothing I don’t think I can’t do, which could be hubris, it
could be ego, I don’t know. I have felt dis-empowered in moments in my life but I feel like I’ve
pushed away from that so I think that’s something Audrey and I 100% share. I think Audrey
has more confidence in that than I do, I think I’m still like a toddler but I like that part of
humanity. I like when people can just sort of have a puzzle put in front of them and then
regardless of their strengths or weaknesses they’ll just try to meet it with curiosity and

You’ve had such a varied career so far. You’ve done the smaller independent films like
Donnie Darko, the arthouse pictures like The Neon Demon and blockbusters like The
Hunger Games. Does your approach to a project differ depending on what kind of film
it is?

No, I think I’ve sort of had a trifecta. When I first started it was just the role, I just wanted
great roles and I didn’t really know what a good script was, I was too young. Then it was
great scripts, I wanna just have a whole story that’s really good and I don’t really care about
the character. Then I think in my mid-twenties I realised that none of those things are
important and the only important thing is the director. And so even if I’m playing a blackbird
on a fence, if it’s a good director it’s going to elevate everything and it’s much easier to grow
once you push yourself and trust that experience. So now I think I’m very much director

And sometimes money comes into it. A lot of people don’t talk about that, because it is like,
your job you know, and it’s the only job I’ve ever had. So sometimes you’re like “oh I can’t do
that because there’s no money and I haven’t worked for two years,” or you can say “great I
can do this amazing project because there’s this other thing that’s going to be a little bit
more.” You do have to figure out your budget. You do have to, it’s the not pretty thing to talk
about, but I think it’s a really healing thing to talk about. All of us struggle with finances and
the economic burden of just being alive and how to transcend that. I think that a lot of actors
get shit for doing projects just for money, but money has to be a part of it at some point you
know. And so it’s definitely something that you have to consider, but luckily if there’s enough
work out there it doesn’t have to be the only motivating factor.

And lastly, can you tell us anything about your upcoming projects and are there any
films you’re excited about?

I can’t say a thing, but I think there’s a film that you’ll really like that’s going to be coming out
this year called Love Lies Bleeding. It’s Rose Glass who did Saint Maud. It’s her next film
and I think she’s going to be one of the most interesting filmmakers of the next twenty years.
So I’m really excited to see what that film does.

Adopting Audrey is available on Digital Download now

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