Jessica Chastain likes acting in a time when gender is being redefined.
“I think every woman is a strong woman. I think that in the past, we’ve connected strength, leadership, ambition, power, as masculine traits,” Chastain told CNN in an interview for her upcoming film “The Zookeeper’s Wife.” “We’ve connected compassion and emotion and kindness and softness as feminine traits. The great thing about today is the boundaries are being blurred.”
Chastain said she embraced the mix of gentility and power in her role as Antonina ?abi?ska in the film, based on the true story of a husband and wife who helped people escape the Holocaust in Warsaw, Poland during World War II.
“It was a great responsibility to play this character. I definitely felt the weight of history. I felt the weight of the family,” Chastain said. “There are incredible examples of women in history who have created paths that we walk on today. Antonina is an example.”
Chastain credits the women in her family for her success.
“I look up to my grandmother and my mother. My mother raised us, she was a single mom, and it was really difficult,” she said. “I’ve seen my grandmother and my mom sacrifice so much for their children. I am where I am today because of the sacrifices they made.”
“They didn’t have the opportunities to go to college and to create these careers,” she continued. “I think because of that, I’m very protective of single mothers out in the world and what they do for their children. I think we should support them as much as we can.”
Chastain hopes that audiences will feel uplifted by “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” despite the horrific time period in which it’s set.
“This is a film that also focuses on the light,” Chastain said. “Yes, there is a dark side of humanity. But, also, there is beauty, love … and those who really stick their neck out to exhibit love and to show compassion.”
“The Zookeeper’s Wife” debuts March 31.