With Motherland: Fort Salem and The Kissing Booth as part of her resume, Jessica Sutton’s acting career is definitely flourishing. Now she stars with Megan Fox in the new film Rogue, and this South African actress also has designs on producing. Check out our Q&A with Sutton, as she elaborates on why Rogue director M.J. Bassett is the real deal.
Rogue centers on Samantha (Megan Fox), a leader of a group of mercenaries who are tasked of rescuing Asilia (Jessica Sutton), the daughter of a prominent and powerful man. Their mission immediately goes sideways after they battle with an intimidating number of rebels in Africa. Philip Winchester (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) co-stars as one of the hired guns who are in over their head.
During the chat, Sutton talked about why she loved collaborating with Rogue director M.J. Barrett. She also has kind things to say about interacting with the Motherland: Fort Salem fans in a virtual (yet still evocative) manner.
Obvious question, but can you confirm or deny that Megan Fox is a total badass?
One hundred percent confirmed. And I’m trying to rack my brain – I’ve seen so much of her stuff, I’m such a fan. When wasn’t she a badass?
This is a visually expressive movie that features its share of intricately crafted action scenes. Shooting out in all the heat with no comfy hotel in sight! The cast and crew were right out in the elements with this movie.
We were. 100%. But that’s what I came for. M.J. Bassett, our brilliant director, I had worked with her twice. And she pitched to me while she was shooting one of my episodes for Motherland: Fort Salem – she pitched to me this passion project that her and her daughter (Isabel Bassett) had co-written.
And basically she said to me, “It’s mayhem with a message.” I just know, having worked with her twice, that I was in for the most incredible, grueling, awesome, action packed experience. She (said) “When you wrap up with your show, I would need you back in South Africa.”
I’m like, “We’re shooting in South Africa? Okay yes. One hundred percent yes.” Even before I read the script I immediately said “yes” to working with her. She’s so formidable. What a force. What a filmmaker.
There’s not been one M.J. Bassett set that I’ve walked on where it hasn’t felt like the safest environment. She’s famous for saying this but I’ll quote her: She never will ask anything from her actors that she hasn’t done herself.
With the river scene, I remember that day clearly. We were all pretty apprehensive but trusting. What just one us over was her literally strapping her Go Pro to herself and throwing herself down this river and going “All clear, who’s ready?” And we were like, “Yes!”
That’s your leader. That’s your director and you’re just kind of built around this camaraderie. You do have to be a certain kind of artist – I don’t speak for all actors but for me I’m just drawn to working with people like M.J. Bassett because she just gets her hands dirty and she loves what she does. She loves her crew and her cast. And keeping everyone safe, but doing insane things. And it’s explosiions – there was so much.
Every day was pretty surreal because I can’t top it in my mind. Standing opposite Megan Fox, with the greatest cast and crew around me, in the middle of Africa, in the middle of nowhere, wearing a school uniform, covered in fake blood, holding a lion cub. You kind of just go, “Hmm, this is life, how amazing!”
What does it mean for you personally to have that close interaction with fans from your series Motherland: Fort Salem?
Before Motherland, I had never done TV outside of Saints and Strangers. It’s weird because it was a miniseries. In a miniseries, it was still two months. It felt more like a feature film – it didn’t feel like TV.
My Motherland co-star Taylor Hickson described it, and I thought it was great. If a feature is a marathon, TV is a marathon but it’s with short, tiny spirints. You’re shooting six to nine months (and) it’s really a stamina thing.
I don’t know how I got so lucky in my career to have worked with the most incredible ensembles from The Kissing Booth, to Saints and Strangers, Rogue, Motherland: Fort Salem.
But you’re right, there is something that a feature doesn’t have in terms of – look at The Kissing Booth the way that it skyrocketed to success and it found a fandom. I would say that’s an exception to the rule.
Social media, I’ve been so apprehensive about it. I fear it, but I think it’s a respectful relationship. I’m just a very private person and just personally don’t necessarily feel my most creative spending my time on screens. I just kind of need to slow down and pay attention to one thing at a time.
It’s striking that balance. What we experienced with Motherland, especially since our press tour had been cut short because we were four days into what was going to be a month of in-person interviews. South by Southwest was going to be where premiered it and it was going to be a lot more interactive, as you can imagine.
And then lockdown happened and life and times of Corona and suddenly we had to do it all Virtual. What that meant was the whole cast decided, because we’re all working in different time zones, and all back home. We (decided to) watch the live stream of each episode and live tweet.
That meant for Amalia (Holm) and myself, 3 a.m. every Thursday morning. This is what we needed to do because this is what we were hoping to do in person and it’s not going to happen.
With that we discovered something else. We got to a whole different level of interaction with our fans and that really moved me.
Can you name one of your favorite films and what is it about this specific movie that still resonates with you?
It’s so hard because there are so many different films. I think a film that I keep coming back to is Dan In Real Life. I just love the way, I don’t know if you’ve seen it – with Steve Carell.
It’s feel good but it’s so human and it makes me cry and it makes me, I don’t know, those are the kind of stories that I would want to, if I were a producer and had my own production company, those would be the stories I would want to tell.
Because I love how that film was made and I am a huge fan of the cast. But also the story is what draws me to Dan In Real Life.
So probably in 5 or 10 years I’ll be interviewing you about producing films in South Africa.
You know what? I’ll hold you to that because that is definitely a dream. I would love to follow in the footsteps of Margot Robbie, Reese Witherspoon, Phoebe Waller-Bridge. These women are – they’re titans. They’re doing what I want to do, or at least will do, shall I say. I’ll just will it!
Rogue hits On Demand and Digital on August 28. It also comes out on Blu-ray and DVD on September 1. My full Zoom interview with Sutton is available for our CinemAddicts Patreon members.