When you hear Jena Malone’s name, most likely the first thing to pop up is Hunger Games. While many may know her as Johanna Mason, Malone has had a lengthy career, especially in genre fare. Appearing in genre films like Donnie Darko, The Ruins, and The Neon Demon, she is no stranger to our horror viewing screen. Jack Huston himself as steadily made a name for him. Most of us stateside would be more familiar with his role as Felix Babineau in “Mr. Mercedes” or as Richard Harrow in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. Now Jena Malone and Jack Huston are stepping into more villainous territory in the psychological horror film, ANTEBELLUM.
For the release of ANTEBELLUM, I got the chance to chat with Jena Malone and Jack Huston, where we discussed everything from what initially drew them to their roles, what it was like working with each other, and how important ANTEBELLUM is right now.
To start things off, I know both your characters are shrouded in mystery but can you tell us a little bit about them? And what interested you in taking on these roles?
Jena Malone: Well, we’re husband and wife and sort of, just white humans of privilege. Sort of, stuck in the past. Living in sort of the Antebellum South. Yeah. It’s a very interesting examination of what we would consider a power couple in this day and age and how it sort of reverberates even back into the Civil War times like, what was considered powerful. What was considered important.
And how was it working together?
Jack Huston: Wonderful.
Jena Malone: Yeah.
Jack Huston: We don’t have a lot of time together.
Jena Malone: I know. We don’t!
Jack Huston: We really don’t, but we realized very early on how important that was to establish who we were and what that dynamic was. So, the little time we do have together at least you felt the history there. And, you know, this film is history. It’s based in history, but it’s as much about the present and as much about the future as it is about the past. It’s a magnifying glass on who we are today, who we were yesterday, and who we will be tomorrow. And it couldn’t be at a more timely moment. It couldn’t be more important. We were incredibly lucky to have such a brilliant script and something so different to work on. I won’t go into detail because that is sort of like what it hinges on. But I felt rather honored, to be honest, and that is saying something when you’re playing someone, two people quite as evil and as awful and as we are.
Jena Malone: Yeah, but let’s not just…for me, the evil and the awful and I think what’s so different about this moment about this film coming out now is that there is more of a cultural understanding, a societal want of really knowing that it’s not just the extreme individuals. White supremacy is a delusional, system-based thinking that, even if you yourself are doing anti-racism work, it is still a structure. It is the legislative government. It is the legislative body of our government.
I mean, even where you’re just seeing Jacob Blake, right? The dehumanization of black bodies and how long that’s been reverberating deeply into our past, it’s not just good and evil anymore. We have to be brave enough to look beyond those terms to say, like, Wow. We have the capacity for both because we are human and it’s important to be able to like this is a delusional belief system. That we have to liberate ourselves from and not sort of personalize it as I’m bad or evil. But what I like about the alchemy of storytelling, it’s sort of nice to make our fears evil. And it’s nice to make our courage heroic because we don’t always get that moment in real life. So, in the alchemy of making a film and sort of embodying these things, Amen! The villains should be white supremacists. Amen, we should be talking about this at this very specific time. But I think it’s important to not just focus on the despicable aspects. It is despicable, but it touches us all, and it’s really easy to get stuck in that villainous kind of language.
Jack Huston: I think what it’s meant to do is lead to conversation. I think when you talk about things, you’re talking two separate things here. We’re talking about film and, obviously, life, and this film does that wonderful thing that transcends both. It’s interesting because we’re talking about…[W]hen I say evil, villainous, when we talk about those terms, they are terms that, of course, we need in a film like this because the actions, what they do, and anyone with half a brain or half a heart, would understand what they are is wrong. And what Jena is saying, which is so interesting, is what were they thinking? Who are they? How are they coming from this? You know what I mean? That is the conversation that this should start.
Jena Malone: It is evil. It is villainous. You’re right.
Jack Huston: But to be able to have the conversation to find it. To root it out. Because, as always, evil people don’t think they are evil. They think they are right. That’s the scariest part. That’s the part that baffles me and has always baffled me is that what side of history are you on? Are we on the right or wrong side of history? And, over the past 400 years in America, I think when we look at it and if anyone is being truthful to themselves, we’d say we, white privilege, have been on the wrong side of history and we have a chance right now to be on the right side of it. And anybody who is against that, who is trying to prevent that from happening or is trying to prevent the conversations from happening…Yeah, in my eyes, are evil.