Raised by a single mother who struggled to make ends meet, Oscar-nominated actress Jessica Chastain dropped out of high school because of too many absences before enrolling at Sacramento City College, where she joined the debate team and became involved with the drama program. It was at Sacramento City College that Chastain continued to pursue her love of acting.
Kim McCann-Lewis, a former adjunct theatre arts professor, said Chastain was a very driven drama student, she was sure would succeed in the business, whether on stage or in front of a camera.
“The No. 1 thing I remember about Jessica was that she was quiet, but incredibly smart,” McCann-Lewis said. “No. 2, she made the decision to be an actress and there's was no fall back, no Plan B. She was very dedicated and there was no doubt that she would be successful.”
Indeed, Chastain’s determination put her at the forefront of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements and an advocate for women’s rights in Hollywood and beyond.
After attending Sacramento City College, completing her education at the American Academy of Theatre Arts and making her professional stage debut as Juliet in a production of Romeo and Juliet produced by TheatreWorks in the San Francisco Bay Area, Chastain went to Julliard on a scholarship funded by actor and comedian Robin Williams, who is an alum of both Julliard and the College of Marin.
Soon after graduating from Julliard in 2003, Chastain started working in television and earned roles in television movies and television series such as “ER,” “Law & Order” and “Veronica Mars.” She made her first feature film in 2008, followed by others the following two years. But it was 2011 that would prove to be Chastain's year. She appeared in six feature films — including “The Tree Of Life,” “The Help,” for which she received an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress, and “Take Shelter.”
That was followed in 2013 with “Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” Her starring role in the latter, as the woman responsible for helping find Osama Bin Laden, earned her a best actress nomination and a Golden Globe award.