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INTERVIEW: The Cast of ‘The Starling Girl’ Explore Jem’s Story

Eliza Scanlen praying in The Starling Girl

Jem Starling is a girl who has been abandoned by all the people who should be helping to guide her. In The Starling Girl, we get to see as Jem (Eliza Scanlen) struggles with her relationship to the church, her family, and her new found romance with Owen (Lewis Pullman) who is an older Youth Pastor at her church and is married. For Jem, she’s struggling to understand a lot of things going on in her life and I was lucky enough to talk to the cast about the film.

For Scanlen, I asked her about Jem’s mindset and how she got into the thoughts of her as a character. “I think that it was really important to not fall into caricature,” Scanlen said. “And in order to do that we had to understand how fundamentalist churches operated or values or behaviors they were kind of imbuing into the people of the church. And you know, Jem is so infatuate infatuated with Owen. I don’t think she would’ve ever spoken to her friends or had conversations about desire and longing. And I think, you know, in secular society, young girls talk about it all the time. Being close to someone you like or kissing them and things like that, she wouldn’t have had any of those conversations. And so when Jem and Owen find themselves together for the first time alone, especially that scene when they’re in the woods together finding firewood and they get very intimate with each other.”

She went on to talk about Jem’s reaction to her relationship with Owen. “Something in her body knows naturally what to do, but she’s has so much sexual shame and has repressed those feelings continually up until this point that I don’t know, it’s like finding, navigating that sort of struggle I guess was difficult for me. But it was something I was always thinking about. She couldn’t be too sure of herself. She didn’t know what she was doing, but I think that she naturally, Jem is an expressive central person. So it was just sort of navigating those two things.”

You can see our full interview here:

Talking with the cast

While Scanlen was the power behind Jem and her mindset, I also got to talk with the rest of the cast about their work. One of the most fascinating aspects of Laurel Parmet’s film is that she brings all these characters together and they each have their own arcs while we’re still following along with Jem’s story.

I was lucky enough to speak to Jimmi Simpson as well for his role as Paul Starling and you can see our interview here (where yes, we do end up talking about Logan Delos in Westworld):

As a fan of Lewis Pullman, watching him as Owen was a reminder of just how good Pullman is. Owen is not a character you should connect with but Pullman brings him to life in a way that you forget what he’s doing and it makes his actions hurt that much more when you realize what is going on in the film. I was lucky enough to talk to him about his role as Owen!

I also talked with Wrenn Schmidt about playing Jem’s mother Heidi, a character who is stuck in her own way with the church and struggling with what to do to keep her family happy in the midst of Jem and Paul’s issues.

The Starling Girl is in theaters.

(featured image: Bleecker Street)

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