Olivia Brooks is a Stanford-obsessed, seemingly perfect senior at an all girls prep academy. As if the end of high school isn’t hard enough, she also is dealing with the recent loss of a friend. As she settles into her final year, Olivia then finds out she is deferred from her dream college and experiences increasingly frightening panic attacks. She works to gain some sense of control and rekindle an old friendship , but ends up on a social media-fueled rampage against those in the way of her success. As she spirals, Olivia is forced to embrace her darkest impulses or lose everything.
Starring Madelaine Petsch and written by Rishi Rajani and director Sabrina Jaglom, the cast also features Chlöe Bailey, Ian Owens, Kerri Medders, Nina Bloomgarden and Chloe Yu. Ahead of the thriller’s theatrical release on Aug. 26, Petsch spoke with LA Confidential about thriving in chaos, being a first-time producer and leaving audiences a little bone-chilled.
What first captured you about this story?
I've struggled with panic and anxiety attacks pretty much as long as I can remember, but mostly, really heavily within my adult life post-Riverdale. And I really looked for media that personified that and in a way that it felt like it spoke to me and I never really saw that. And so with this film, although it's a really heightened sense of reality, it really isn’t based in reality, and it's much much of a more dark world, being able to see an anxiety attack on camera to 16-year-old Madelaine would make me feel like, “Oh, people have these. This is normal.” So it was mostly important to me for people who struggle with that, and then also it's just a really fun, delicious dark story to dive into.
As someone who's been on a show for so long and has a limited amount of time to be able to find a role where the lead is the antagonist and you're walking into it not worrying about making her likable, this movie was really exciting to me.
You also serve as producer. What was it like balancing that role while also being the lead?
I stepped into being a producer pretty immediately. I read the scripts. It didn't really have anywhere that it belonged. I really got along with the director and… we decided to team up together and make this together. So it was a really natural and easy progression for the lifespan of the film. But I had been wanting to produce for a long time, so it just happened in a really natural and easy way. But it was incredibly hard. Do not let it fool you, my answer. Producing is very hard and I have even more respect for producers that I've had before, which I already had a lot of. It's crazy how much they handle and to star in and produce a film is a feat.
You mentioned dealing with panic attacks for most of your life. Was shooting this film cathartic for you or did you have to be super intentional about coming out character at the end of a day of filming?
Because I was producing, I really wasn't able to step out of it after I was on set… It was really like I finished shooting, I go into producer mode, so there really was not turning off. I am somebody who thrives in chaos. I thrive when I’m busy, so I almost feel like that was more cathartic for me than having time to decompress after a day of having panic attacks on set that I probably would have just had anxiety when I got home.
The ending of Jane is quite sinister. What do you want audiences to feel when the credits roll?
I don't think it's what you expect, and I hope that people walk away feeling a little bone-chilled. There's no part of us where you should be rooting for Olivia at all. And I think it's kind of rare to see that where somebody does something so messed up and they don't have repercussions for that. I hope people just walk into it with an open mind and just really enjoy the story for what it is: a story.
You were a dancer for a long time. Did you tap into that experience at all to play Olivia? I can imagine there were a lot of parallels between dance and being a student at the kind of prep school Olivia attends and her own intensity about success.
Very much so. I think dance taught me a lot about being punctual, my tenacity. I think it created that type-A personality within me, and so it was very easy to transition back over into Olivia even down to the bun.
It's interesting to watch her hair (literally) come down as the movie goes on.
I was trying to create a way because she almost lacks her own identity and that as time goes on, she becomes less of herself— whatever that is— and almost starts taking on Izzie’s identity in a really interesting way physically, like adding jewelry and having the hair down. Those were all very intentional things.
On Instagram, you’ve described this movie as being your baby for two years. Can you tell us more about why this movie means so much to you?
I think because it was just the first movie I ever really got to produce hands on. It's also important to me because it's Chloe Bailey's debut feature and she's so incredible in the film, and I will fully be championing her career for the rest of her career. It's just really exciting to be in my position, and I only have a few months off every year and to be able to have produced and starred in my own film is really exciting to me. I still really enjoy every step of my career, so it's my baby because it's part of my career.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Jane will also be available for streaming on Creator Plus starting Sept. 16.
Photography by: Courtesy of Creator Plus; Karen Kuehn