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'Paste' Magazine Q&A with SVA's James Strouse About His New Comedy

From Paste Magazine: “The Incredible Jessica James was a much needed dose of humor, levity and heart at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Starring Jessica Williams in her post-The Daily Show break out role and Keith Stanfield, who’s been one of the best parts of Atlanta, the comedy is a refreshing look at the collision between artistic and romantic journeys.

From Filmmaker James Strouse (People Places Things), The Incredible Jessica James centers on Jessica James (Williams), a young playwright living in New York who’s going through a bad breakup with ex, Damon (Stanfield). As much as she’s dreaming about Damon, she’s hustling to get her first play produced and teaching children writing and theatre. When she meets an unexpected fling, she has a new outlook on both her artistic pursuits and love life. Maybe they’re more symbiotic than she had believed?

Paste had a chance to sit down with both Strouse and Stanfield on separate occasions to discuss their own connections with the film and beyond. With the film exploring ideas around success, struggling and validation, Strouse and Stanfield opened up about how they navigate the fine line that separates art from the reality.

On Jessica Williams…

Strouse: There’s a line in this movie: ‘Jessica, I really like you.’ ‘Yeah, no duh, everyone likes me, I’m freakin’ dope.’ It could be incredibly off-putting, but I knew with Jessica saying it, everyone would be like ‘Yeah, yeah.’ I just love the way she filters the lines and I love the way she puts things. She’s just so fun.

I had done three movies with male protagonists. Someone asked if any of my films have passed the Bechdel Test, and I said, ‘No.’ I thought that enough’s enough—I need to try. One thing I found super inspiring was Annie Baker’s The Flick. What a portrait of, well, many things, but male friendship, [of] these two very different men and the minutiae of how they relate to each other. I thought, ‘How did she see into our souls?’ It was so inspiring.

I tried my best to see through a female’s eyes and I was talking to Jessica a lot. I think it was a little bit of a leap, and I told Jessica, ‘Look, there are things I don’t know, so help me and if it feels wrong, tell me.’…” (continue reading)

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