Jessica Chastain knew she wanted to be in the spotlight from a young age — so she did what it took to get there.
“I remember sitting in the cafeteria and eating orange peels and banana peels because it made people notice me,” Chastain, 46, said on the most recent episode of the “WTF With Marc Maron” podcast. “The other kids would be like, ‘Oh my God, look at her.’ I know, it’s terrible. I just wanted people to notice me for being a weirdo, that I was existing, something.”
Calling herself “awkward” and “obnoxious” as a kid, Chastain revealed that an unfortunate haircut only added to her persona. “I was kind of nerdy. One time they permed my hair and I looked like Annie, and then we cut it off. I had really short hair, red hair. I look back and I’m like, ‘Oh, what a sweet, clueless person,’” she said.
By junior high, however, Chastain had found her people through her school’s theater elective. “Everyone [was] as weird as I am and we can just create art and do stuff together,” she shared, noting that “there was an immediate sense of, ‘Oh, I”m good at this.’”
Her love for acting grew so much, she eventually left school entirely. “Nobody knows this about me — I dropped out of high school,” she told Entertainment Weekly in 2015. “I was not a hard worker. I was a terrible student.” Because the actress “cut school and [sat] in [her] car, reading Shakespeare,” she had too many absences at the end of the school year to graduate. She did, however, later get an adult diploma.
Chastain’s gut instinct about her talent was certainly correct: She went on to nab two Oscar nominations — for her roles in 2011’s The Help and 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty — before taking home the 2022 Academy Award in 2022 for her portrayal of Tammy Wynette in the biopic The Eyes of Tammy Faye. This year, she earned herself a Tony nomination for her role in A Doll’s House.
Now that she’s center stage, Chastain is dedicated to giving the best performance possible. Earlier this month, she revealed an onstage horror story that involved swallowing her own vomit while acting in A Doll’s House.
“I threw up [on stage]. I threw up and I swallowed it. And no one knew,” she shared during an episode of the “SmartLess” podcast. “From then on I was like, ‘I’m not eating within three hours of the show. I’ll just drink water.’ I don’t know if I was nervous — I was kind of sobbing and I, like, leaned over and it happened. And I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ You can’t let it out of your mouth.”
Because there is no intermission during the play, Chastain “couldn’t tell anyone” she had vomited “because I was on a chair facing the audience.” That meant she couldn’t even warn her costar before they locked lips in an intimate moment.
“I had to kiss someone! It was a nightmare and I couldn’t explain,” she continued. “And then the second we had the curtain call and the curtain came down, I said, ‘You guys I am so sorry. I vomited.’ … Even talking to someone I was just so [embarrassed].”