So, I’ve had these “Top 10” lists running through my brain for a little while. I have been trying to get to know myself better… as a person and an artist. (Maybe that sounds silly, but I think it’s important to know your own mind. The things you like and the things you want for yourself. I know who “Joanna” is essentially, but I wanted to break it down a bit – the little things that make me who I am.) I started thinking about the people I admire and aspire to be like in the industry, the kinds of roles I’d love to play and the films I wish I could have been a part of, the directors I’d like to guide me, the writers whose words I’d like to speak, the actors with whom I’d like to share the silver screen. What inspires me to be better, drives me to work harder, incites me to action? That’s what my “Top 10” lists are helping me to find out.
I’m starting this off with what might be the most important category for me since I am a “North American actress” (so named for the one Canadian) and these women are my peers. In no particular order, these are 10 women who have incredible careers, ridiculous talent, and a whole lot of respect from this girl.
TOP 10 NORTH AMERICAN ACTRESSES
Meryl Streep (born: 1949 in New Jersey)
- Favorite Roles: Joanna in Kramer vs. Kramer; Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada; Donna in Mamma Mia!
- Why: Why Meryl is in my top ten actresses just seems so obvious to me it feels silly to explain! One of the most prolific women of the silver screen, she has been nominated for more Oscar and Golden Globe awards than any other actor in history. She seems to truly live in each role she takes on, and I admire that so much. Meryl says she can always be found in the characters she portrays – you can always see her. This encourages me to bring more of myself to my acting work, and to stop hiding the things I count as imperfections. According to her, the great secret of acting is to give up – You do your best when you relinquish control. More great advice from Meryl: “Don’t get discouraged.” and “Don’t mix up the criticism or rejection of the work with the criticism or rejection of you as a human being.” This is one inspiring and classy lady.
Emma Stone (born: 1988 in Arizona)
- Favorite Roles: Olive in Easy A; Hannah in Crazy, Stupid, Love; Skeeter in The Help
- Why: I already have a full blog post dedicated to Emma and my hope that one day we will be best friends. I think she is smart, funny, and adorable. I have so much respect for the way she has chosen to handle her career as well as the acting choices she has made. It fuels me so much to see all she has done, knowing we are the same age. A few favorite quotes: “I can’t think of any better representation of beauty than someone who is unafraid to be herself” and “What sets you apart can sometimes feel like a burden and it’s not. And a lot of the time, it’s what makes you great.” Emma is the perfect combination of savvy and sassy.
Anna Kendrick (born: 1985 in Maine)
- Favorite Roles: Natalie in Up in the Air; Beca in Pitch Perfect; Katherine in 50/50
- Why: Starting in theatre as a kid, Anna has been in the business most of her life. She is the kind of actress who always brings something extra to the roles she plays – big or small. On top of that, she appears to be completely grounded and focused on remaining humble – “An actor should always let humility outweigh ambition.” From her witty tweets to her awkwardly funny characters, I seriously enjoy the fact that Anna finds the humor in pretty much everything. Quoted saying, “I actually love actresses who look like they feel really natural. I like Patricia Clarkson, Laura Linney, Frances McDormand. Those are actresses where the second they show up on screen you’re like, oh my gosh, this movie just got so much better.” That is exactly how I feel about Anna.
Jennifer Lawrence (born: 1990 in Kentucky)
- Favorite Roles: Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook; Ree in Winter’s Bone; Katniss in The Hunger Games
- Why: She is America’s latest sweetheart – with a twist. Jennifer is known for being off-beat, quirky, and charmingly candid. Whether she’s got a role in a powerful Indie film or a pop-culture phenomenon, she seems to bring equal parts strength and vulnerability to the characters she plays. There is something so natural about her, and the whole world is waiting to see what she’ll do next. (No pressure, Jen) Of her acting style she says, “I don’t invest any of my real emotions. I don’t take any of my characters’ pain home with me, I don’t even take it to Craft services. I’ve never been through anything my characters have been through. And I can’t go looking for roles that are exactly like my life. I just use my imagination.” As well as, “I never felt like I completely, 100% understood anything so well as acting.” This girl is the one to watch.
Michelle Williams (born: 1980 in Montana)
- Favorite Roles: Alma in Brokeback Mountain; Cindy in Blue Valentine; Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn
- Why: Despite her obvious talent and success, Michelle usually seems to fly under the radar. (Sounds smart to me!) She has breathed life into some fantastic characters, and has a very truthful, articulate way of describing her journey as an actor. Michelle is so fully present and committed in each role that she is always mesmerizing to watch. In opposition to many actresses on this list, Michelle hopes that she is “nowhere to be seen” when she develops her characters. I admire the way she chooses to push herself – “I find myself saying this all the time during every movie I make, “Why is this is so hard?” And I realize, yes it is. Every movie I make I find kind of excruciating. I get a lot back from it, but I feel like I’m kind of always working at the edge of my ability. I guess that’s what I’m looking for when I go to work. I am trying to become the edge.” An actress and a woman well worth the time.
Jessica Chastain (born: 1977 in California)
- Favorite Roles: Celia in The Help; Maggie in Lawless; Maya in Zero Dark Thirty
- Why: Jessica is about as versatile as they come. She has played such a wide variety of roles, and she is believable in every single one. Her unique look, serious acting chops, and charisma shot her straight to the top in the acting world. To her, acting is all about human connection. I admire her words so much that I am just going to let her speak for herself! “If I don’t continue to challenge myself and risk failure, I have no business being an actor. I’m not an actor to be a personality. I want to see every part I take like a master class. And you know what? I’m going to fail sometimes. And that’s OK. Because when you fail, you learn more.” What an important thing to learn, actor or not. “I always want to keep doing different things; I don’t want to just concentrate on film. The most important thing for me is being an actor. Film, theatre, television – that’s the career I want. Actresses have so many ups and downs, and we’re not always given wonderful choices. So I always want to find great characters. If that character’s on television or stage, I’m going to go there.” I find this woman so inspiring. I hope to emulate her passion and fearlessness.
Anne Hathaway (born: 1982 in New York)
- Favorite Roles: Kym in Rachel Getting Married; Lureen in Brokeback Mountain; Fantine in Les Miserables
- Why: With a truly diverse resume, Anne seems to have done it all. Smart, poised, and well-spoken, she is a star with staying power. I have enjoyed seeing her career progress and change over the years. I respect her drive and work-ethic as well as her talent. On being an actress she says, “I love working and feeling satisfied when I know I have literally given all the energy that I have” and “I got into this business to be an actress, to scare myself and force myself into a place outside of my comfort zone.” Wise words. There will always be interesting things to look forward to from Anne.
Rachel McAdams (born: 1978 in Canada)
- Favorite Roles: Regina George in Mean Girls; Allie in The Notebook; Colee in The Lucky Ones
- Why: Rachel is one of the first actresses I truly admired as I began to label myself as an actor. She continues to inspire me because despite her ups and downs in the business, she has never been forgotten. People want to see her succeed and they love to watch her. Some important things for her as an actor are living a normal life, having chemistry with her fellow actors, and being selective about the roles she takes on. Going against the grain from what (I think) most actors feel, she has said, “I love auditioning. Since ‘The Notebook’ and ‘Wedding Crashers,’ I don’t have to audition anymore, and I miss it. You get to show your interpretation of the character. I get nervous when I don’t audition. What if they hate what I want to do?” This encourages me to view auditions in a more positive light, and make bold choices. She also said, “I have a certain curiosity for life that drives me and propels me forward.” I want to choose to be as curious as Rachel.
Emmy Rossum (born: 1986 in New York)
- Favorite Roles: Fiona Gallagher in Shameless; Christine in Phantom of the Opera; Ridley in Beautiful Creatures
- Why: With the goal of career longevity, Emmy follows her heart when it comes to choosing which roles to play. She wants to work only on the best things and with the best people. A brilliantly talented actress and singer, she shines in each role she chooses. I like that she has many different interests, and that she doesn’t limit herself to just one thing. When it comes to her acting style she says, “I’m heavy on preparation . . . Some actors come to the set and don’t know what scene they’re playing, but that would make me crazy. It’s not about control but perfectionism–my biggest vice and one of my biggest assets.” I feel like this is something I can relate to because preparation is essential to me, and I have my own love/hate relationship with perfectionism. The work that Emmy puts into her characters is clear because she seems to become each role so fully. I also enjoyed her thoughts on René Descartes’ theory about a ball of wax. (You can change its form from solid to liquid, but it’s still the same ball of wax.) – “With acting, you are the same person in a different form. You can only be what you know, and you only truly know yourself.” Bringing something of yourself into a role is not really optional, but you can shape it into something different. I love the way Emmy uses that to her advantage.
Vera Farmiga (born: 1973 in New Jersey)
- Favorite Roles: Madolyn in The Departed; Alex in Up in the Air; Norma Bates in Bates Motel
- Why: Vera and I have something special in common – How we began our acting careers. “What happened is that I ended up getting benched in soccer in high school so I tried out for the school play and I got the lead role. Then I just stuck with it.” (The same thing happened to me, but in 7th grade). Ukrainian-American Vera is a powerful presence on film. She has had quite a bit of success without ever having to compromise on the kinds of characters she wants to portray. She says, “As an actor, you’re sort of the court-appointed lawyer of the character. And that’s what used to draw me to scripts — something in a woman that I wanted to defend, something that I recognized or wanted to understand, something that turned my head.” I find her to be strong, intelligent, and confident in the way she handles her life and career. This woman seems to have her priorities straight; which is a big deal when Hollywood makes it so easy to become distracted. “I really don’t feel a need to be famous. But I do feel a need to make a difference, to shed light on human emotion through acting.” One more thing Vera and I have in common.
I respect, admire, and adore each of these women. I intend to learn from them and make wise career moves, passionate acting choices, and fantastic films. These wonderful actresses are going to be around for quite some time, and I only hope I’ll have the chance to work with them one day.