Not My Type: Actors in Quarantine

In Joslyn Jensen's Not My Type series, actors in quarantine go beyond their perceived limitations to re-interpret iconic characters in cinema.

Eleanore Pienta
Bernard, I Heart Huckabees

All hail Eleanore Pienta, the queen of play! At the bluest moments in my life, I found a wealth of playful solace in Eleanore’s work – from brilliant performances in films like Drew Tobia’s See You Next Tuesday, Joanna Arnow’s third-wheel comedy Bad at Dancing, and so many more! But it isn’t Eleanore’s clownin’ around that makes her transcend – it’s her vulnerability, humanity and love for her fellow human beings. You can’t watch Eleanore’s Instagram segment “Mariah Mondays” (pastoral outdoor scenes of Eleanore dancing feverishly to hit tunes of the “Songbird Supreme”) and not feel something! When you see Eleanore in motion, you are witnessing the real-time outpouring of love in her heart and the complicated emotions inside her laid bare … and her performance here as Bernard from I Heart Huckabees is no exception.

Here’s Eleanore explaining her scene selection in her own words:
“In truth, I had my friend Zeb pick me a scene because I couldn’t think of one that resonated. Read, lazy. My only note to him was that I wanted to play a character opposite my identifying gender. (He originally wanted me to do a scene from The King of Marvin Gardens as Jason Staebler, Bruce Dern’s character. But I wanted to do a character that more people – including myself, until recently – might know.) In hindsight, thinking about this project, I always want to play quiet and reserved characters. And also big funny characters, think Amy Sedaris in … anything. I don’t necessarily get to play them unless I’m making my own work. But I wanted to play a dude because there have been so many scripts I’ve read that have great characters for male-identifying peeps and the female-identifying characters are pretty 2D and boring, and I’m like, yelllo, brush that female character with the same kooks and wrinkles as you painted for the male character. Luckily, that is changing because, you guessed it, more voices are finally getting a chance to tell stories.”

Watch Eleanore’s short film Ada on and Important Police Shit (Andrew Betzer) on Short of the Week! And look forward to seeing her in forthcoming films Plaisir (Molly Gillis) and Kendra and Beth (Dean Peterson), co-starring the great Kate Lyn Sheil. I understand “Mariah Mondays” are on hiatus, but there are plenty in syndication on Eleanore’s instagram: @honeydipmagicstick


Garland Scott

Rick Dalton, Once Upon A Time … in Hollywood

Antonin Artaud taught us all to see “the actor as an athlete …” and there’s no finer example of that in the indie acting world than Mr. Garland Scott. Every bead of sweat, every pain and gain is left on the screen in Garland’s work, making for kinetic and impactful performances. Whether he’s starring in an action movie or performing a new monologue every week of quarantine to stay limber, Garland trains … and it pays off! I first saw Garland on-screen in his star turn as Nolan in Cody Stokes’ Christmas action flick The Ghost Who Walks and was struck by his raw talent and leading-man energy. I stood back in awe when the film climbed to #8 on Netflix’s “Most Watched” list, cackling with delight when a screengrab of Garland from the film made an appearance in one of Snoop Dogg’s IG stories … I should have screenshotted it. You’ll just have to trust me. For this project, Garland goes against type to portray faded television star Rick Dalton from Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood. “I chose this character because it’s my favorite of Leonardo DiCaprio’s performances,” says Scott. “The character was desperate, frustrated but most of all, human.” Going toe-to-toe with the Tarantino, Garland pins this vulnerable, human character to the mat. Watch The Ghost Who Walks on Netflix and support Garland’s work … even though he maintains that John Q is Denzel’s greatest performance. <cough> Malcolm X! <cough>


Cindy Silver

Howard Beale, Network

When I close my eyes and think of Cindy Silver, I can see her dancing in a Zumba class as Cindy Akerman in her son Nathan Silver’s breakout feature film, Exit Elena. Since then, Cindy has starred in several of Nathan’s movies and most recently the docu-series Cutting My Mother, hailed by The New Yorker as “a filmmaker’s ingenious web series, made in collaboration with his mom.” Cindy shines in the series, not afraid to tell her son when he deserves to be pinched. The unflinching pincher! The unconditional maternal force! As vulnerable as she is ferocious, she is above all, relatable – particularly for me, as my very own mom is called Cyndy and comes from the same stock of powerhouse matriarchs.

As part of a disclaimer for this project, I sent participants a short note to let them know not to stress about finishing their videos given the fact we were all reeling over the global pandemic and systemic oppression of BIPOC in our country. Cindy replied to let me know to count her in, given that she’s been a fighter for justice since forever. She reminded me that our spirits mustn’t be broken, that we should stay angry and loud. “I always loved Howard Beale’s rant in Network,” says Cindy. “The scene called out to me because I am always ranting about the state of the world and the horror of living under a repressive regime.” Cindy told me the character of Beale reminded her of her dad, who “would pound the table with his fist and say, ‘If you have your health, goddammit, you have everything!’” So, here she is, world – the mother of us all, channeling her own father as Howard Beale in Network! (Very special thanks to Cindy’s husband, Harvey Silver, for directing, shooting and editing, as well as the ‘Mad as Hell’ chorus: Nathan Silver, Nicole Fuentes, Carl Kranz, Diane Lanyi, Elissa Bromberg and Joy Weinberg.)

When I asked Cindy what she’d like to plug, she answered true to fashion: “All of my son Nathan Silver’s films … including the films that I had the honor of being in (or cut from), including Cutting My Mother (2019 /, The Great Pretender (2018 / Prime Video), Thirst Street (2017 / Prime Video), Actor Martinez (2016 / Prime Video), Riot (2015 /, Uncertain Terms (2014 / Prime Video), Soft in the Head (2013 / Prime Video), and Exit Elena (2012 / Prime Video).”


Stephen Plunkett

Colonel Kurtz, Apocalypse Now

I want to describe the scene from one of Stephen Plunkett’s performances that bewitched me and turned me into a lifelong fan. In Back at the Staircase, Stephen’s character Phillip is chatting up a woman and mentions that a friend of his is producing a stage play. “It’s about three men stuck in a submarine,” he explains, as he sips coffee in the woman’s kitchen. The woman blinks, not sure how to respond. As Phillip says more about the play, he gradually draws in the object of his affection. She’s asking questions. She wants to know more. She doesn’t want to be rude, but doesn’t quite understand why he’s telling her all this. Finally Phillip confesses that this “friend” really needs a gorgeous woman to act in one of the pivotal roles. And I think I did a genuine spit take watching for the first time as he said: “It’s like the ideal role for any woman … You ever done any acting?” Rewatching this scene, I’m reminded that you don’t have to raise your voice to command attention, to be powerful, threatening, haunting, desperate. Or, at least, I should say, Stephen Plunkett doesn’t have to. Whether you get the chance to see his work on television or in acclaimed indie films like Chained For Life and The Mend, Stephen is always engaging to watch, mysterious and articulate – like the tip of an unseen deadly iceberg! Here is Stephen portraying Col. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, a commanding whisper in the dark.


Lily Gladstone
Lancaster Dodd, The Master

Lily Gladstone’s electricity defies convention. Whether she’s watching TV in bed with her septuagenarian lover in Billions or playing opposite Kristen Stewart in Kelly Reichart’s female-driven omnibus, Certain Women, there’s always something ticking behind her eyes. Her performance in the latter inspires a unique acting technique, something I call micro-crushin’ – you can almost see the butterflies in Lily’s every inhalation and each time she’s too nervous to share K. Stew’s fries! In a brief conversation about the process, we both agreed that working through these “against type” pieces, at our own pace, in quarantine, was a good way of connecting us to what we love about our work. And now, without further ado, I’m pleased to present Lily’s interpretation of charismatic cult leader Lancaster Dodd from Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. “In honor of those who love,” Lily says, “wrestling those that lord.”

Look for Lily in episodes of Room 104 and Billions and in films including First Cow (Kelly Reichardt) and the upcoming Freeland (Mario Furloni and Kate McLean). Support Blackfeet language revitalization at the Piegan Institute.

Joslyn Jensen is a Los Angeles-based screenwriter and actor. She was a guest writer and star of an episode in Linas Phillips’ web-series The Ride, produced by Mark and Jay Duplass (Sundance 2020). She performed original songs and was featured in an episode of CollegeHumor’s Downbeat. For her acting work in Without (2012), she won Best Actress awards at the Marrakech International Film Festival and the Mar del Plata Film Festival, also receiving special jury prizes from the Florida Film Festival and Slamdance Film Festival. Other acting credits include: Funny Bunny (SXSW, 2015), Jackrabbit (Tribeca Film Festival, 2015) and Driftwood (Narrative Feature Winner, Slamdance Film Festival, 2016). (Image by Reto Sterchi.)