With Without Remorse now streaming on Amazon Prime, I recently spoke with actress Jodie Turner-Smith about starring opposite Michael B. Jordan as Karen Greer in the Tom Clancy adaptation for Amazon Studios. Directed by Stefano Sollima (Sicario: Day of the Soldado), Without Remorse sees Jordan take on the role of Sr. Chief John Kelly (known as John Clark in Clancy’s books), who must figure out who killed his family in retaliation for his role in a top-secret op, while also trying to expose a covert plot that threatens to engulf the U.S. and Russia in an all-out war. Turner-Smith plays the niece of Clancy character Jim Greer and a fellow Navy SEAL who is one of Kelly’s best friends and confidants. The film was written by Taylor Sheridan (Yellowstone) and Will Staples (Sweet Girl), and also stars Jamie Bell, Brett Gelman, Colman Domingo, Cam Gigandet, and Guy Pearce.
During the interview, Turner-Smith talked about her decision to get into acting and how her first TV series The Last Ship was a huge learning experience. She also talked about the significance of playing a female Navy SEAL in Without Remorse, Sollima’s eagerness to use practical stunts and effects when possible, and what it means to be playing the niece of the iconic Tom Clancy character Jim Greer. She also talked about her upcoming performance as Anne Boleyn.
Check out what she had to say below.
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COLLIDER: So during the pandemic, I ask everyone the same two questions to start things off. What TV series would you love to guest star on?
TURNER-SMITH: Ooh, what’s it called? Succession. Succession!
I’ve heard that at least maybe 92 times.
TURNER-SMITH: It’s brilliant. I love it, I’m a big fan.
Yes, as am I. What movie or movies do you think you’ve seen the most?
TURNER-SMITH: Well, at this point now, I have seen Moana probably about 75,000 times. I mean, my daughter loves that movie.
Image via Amazon
So I read a story that you used to be a banker and that you were introduced to Pharrell Williams and he suggested that you move to L.A. to model or act or something like that. Is that true?
TURNER-SMITH: Not completely. I mean, he didn’t suggest that I move to LA, but he is the first person who seemed so convinced that I should be living my life in front of the camera. And that inspired me. That definitely inspired me. I thought if this random person believes so much in me, why not believe in myself and see what I can do?
Had you been thinking about doing something like that, or was this a completely out-of-left-field situation?
TURNER-SMITH: I mean, I hadn’t really been thinking that I could make something like that a reality. So maybe somewhere in there, it was kind of like a far-away dream, but it was never like, ‘Oh yeah, I should maybe do this.’ It was really that moment that made me be like, ‘Right, I should see what’s here for me if anything.’ Or at least I should know that there is nothing there for me because I tried and it didn’t work out.
I completely understand that. You worked for, I believe, two seasons on The Last Ship, and I think that was your first real gig in terms of a weekly show type thing.
TURNER-SMITH: Yeah, 100%.
What did you take away from that experience? Or what did you learn as an actor on that series that influenced or impacted the way you did things in the future?
TURNER-SMITH: Oh God, so much. I mean, first of all, I had such a good time on that show. It was so fun doing that show. But also, it’s always really interesting. Everything is such a learning experience in terms of… I mean, number one because it was my first role of that size, I’m on TV and when you really get thrown into just learning the basics. As much as I had done stuff before, there’s just so many elements like the mechanics of making a film or television show that you have to learn by being on set. And I definitely learned lots of those. You know what I mean? Like coverage and just understanding how to move depending on what move the camera’s going to be making and all of that stuff.
I mean, all of the things that would probably seem quite elementary and probably are that way for anybody who maybe went to drama school, but that were just so, like, I was not even thinking about these things and I feel like I went to school of just figuring out how to even just fucking be on a set. But also it was great because I think I got to work with some really cool actors who just really inspired me. Bridget Regan, an actress that I’m just so… I love her so much, and just seeing how she worked and operated and existed in this world, I think it was really good. I love to watch other female performers and just see how they navigate this world, especially in the genre of action because it’s so male-dominated.
In Without Remorse, something that’s a little Easter egg that I think a lot of people might not realize is that you’re playing the niece of James Earl Jones’ character in The Hunt for Red October. So what does that mean to you, to be playing Jim Greer’s niece in this movie?
TURNER-SMITH: Yeah. I think obviously it’s cool to have something… especially with a character that’s being originated in this film, it’s cool to have something that ties you obviously to the universe and is a nod to what came before. And James Earl Jones is a phenomenal actor, so any way in which my character might be tied in some way to any characterization that he’s made is just thrilling. But I think for the most part, it was just meant to serve as something that anchored my reason for being there. I really just looked at this character as a new opportunity to tell a new story with a new woman. And to just really create her specifically for that as somebody who stands alone from all that while understanding that I would be a bit further legitimized by having some connection to a character that’s already in the canon.
Photo: Nadja Klier © 2020 Paramount Pictures
The military only recently opened up eligibility for women to train to become Navy SEALs, and so far there are no women yet who are Navy SEALs. In Without Remorse you play a woman who is a Navy SEAL. Can you talk about the importance of taking on a role like this? Because I’m sure a lot of people in the military are actually going to watch this movie.
TURNER-SMITH: Yeah. Listen, I think that it’s really cool to envision the world the way that we would like to see it, in the way that it seems like it’s moving towards. I think it’s cool to enter some thoughts into the collective consciousness like, look, here’s a woman in this role. I mean, it’s obviously something where, because that doesn’t exactly exist yet, it was completely for me to just imagine it completely and not base it on a real person. But what I did feel like I was doing was trying to pull from what are the emotional characteristics of a real person who does this, a man who does this.
And I thought it was so interesting to find how when I talk to men in this role, how many of them didn’t have that machismo or that they were not afraid to seem sensitive or vulnerable. And I thought that it was really special to see that manifest in a man. And I thought it was really great to see that and then, in a way, have permission to bring that element to my character. I think it’s always… women are given permission more than men are to be sensitive, but I’ve found that when men are doing this job that’s this tough, they are fiercely loyal to the people that they are going into battle with, and they are so sensitive to them and love them deeply. And I just wanted to bring all of that to Karen.
Something about Stefano Sollima is that he always wants his actors to do their own stunts and he’s looking for a way to do things practically in the moment. Can you talk about working with him and maybe what surprised you about working with him?
TURNER-SMITH: Yeah. I mean, it was cool to see him gravitate more towards doing practical effects versus everything being CGI. And I think there’s definitely a sense of when things are practical, it allows the actor to get further outside their head because you’re really in an environment. I think that kind of supports us in bringing a certain level of reality to our performance. I mean, he’s certainly wild. He’s certainly wild. It’s always really interesting to work with someone who is just like, ‘Yeah, let’s do some wild shit in a practical way.’ And it’s definitely inspiring.
What did you think when you saw the sequence when Michael enters the car that’s on fire?
TURNER-SMITH: Oh, so cool, that sequence. Very, very cool. And I remember Michael actually showed that to me on his phone after he had done it. And I’m so happy with how that turned out in the film because it is a very cool sequence.
Originally this film was getting a Paramount release and now it’s obviously going to be on Amazon, which I think is going to make it that way more people see this movie, especially over the opening weekend. What’s your take on the movie going to Amazon in streaming?
TURNER-SMITH: Listen, I think we have to move the way that the world around us is asking of us and demanding of us. And I think it’s awesome that we’re able to adapt to the current circumstances. Right now, people aren’t going to the movies. At least I know personally for myself, it feels much more comfortable to me to stay at home, to distance, to continue to observe certain ways of being until we get this virus under control. So hey, that means as an industry, we have to shift with that and we have to make it available to people to be able to just stay away from others and to keep socially distancing and stay in their pods.
But they can still see us and now in the privacy of their own home. And I was just saying this earlier in the press conference, it’s really cool that now you’re seeing how everyone being at home and watching this, it’s almost uniting us in a way. Because you go on Twitter or social media, anywhere, everyone is just talking about it at the same time. And it’s fun to be in a dialogue as a community of people who are all watching stuff at home.
A hundred percent. I’m looking forward to your performance as Anne Boleyn, which is coming out soon. Can you talk about what drew you to that role and why you’re excited for people to see that series?
TURNER-SMITH: I was really drawn by the scripts. I love the human story that was being told at the center of it. Beyond the fact that this is a woman who obviously is very different from me is why it comes from a different class. But it was the human story at the core of it and I think that’s also why I was approached to even tell the story. It was like, how can we tell this story differently than it’s already been taught? It’s been taught so many times. What about this story do we want to examine?
Image via Amazon Studios
And because we’re examining things that are just about what a woman has to go through that are very … I feel like it’s been said that Anne Boleyn is a feminist character because so much of what she was doing and who she was represented pushing the narrative forward for women in a way that was not seen at the time. What she demanded, what she asked for, who she was, how she showed up. And so we’re just hoping to have a little bit of that story in our own way.
I am a big fan of sci-fi and I believe that you have After Yang. I don’t know too much about it but I think it could be considered sci-fi, right?
Can you talk about that movie, who you play, what it’s about?
TURNER-SMITH: Yeah. I mean, After Yang, obviously, it does have that sci-fi element to it but I think at its core, it’s really a story about family and love and connection. And I think family in an age of technology and the way in which that distances us from each other, but the way it can bring us back together. So yeah, I’m in that film with Colin Farrell, and a really beautiful young actress, a little girl, Malea Emma, who was just so wonderful in this film, and Justin Min who plays Yang, and Kogonada, the director. It was just a really incredible environment that Kogonada created to tell a story inside of, and I’m looking forward to people seeing that.
Without Remorse is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
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