Jodi Balfour, Actress, Quarry
With talents spanning from acting to writing to creative activism, Jodi Balfour has serious multitasking skills. Born and raised in South Africa and currently living in Los Angeles, she's starring on Cinemax's Quarry while also enjoying local favorites like Sqirl and Gjusta in her free time. She recently sat down with one of her good friends, Ally Walsh of Canyon Coffee, to give us a deep dive into everything she's up to in 2017.
This year you’ve spent some time developing your creative interests outside of acting. What inspired you to place your focus elsewhere?
The last five years have been shaped by peaks and valleys in my acting career, without much middle ground. It may suddenly become clear one day, but for now I find it very challenging to sit around and wait to feel creatively inspired or stimulated. I realized about two years ago that I didn’t really know for sure what made me happy, so I worked on finding out. Now, when acting work is looking bleak, I turn to those other creative interests and it feels like a remedy. I’ve taken up pottery, I get involved in community-driven activist work, I write, and most recently I’ve found joy and passion in gathering brilliant women in my community around a dinner table to share thoughts, dreams, and skill sets.
Tell me about this memory project you’re working on.
It’s still in its infancy and was born out of a persistent and unsatisfied curiosity to remember and contact my younger self—the notion that I’ve lost touch with who I was in the most crucial moments of my evolution as a woman. I want to explore that through talking to others who might feel the same way and I want to ritualize the act of remembering in an effort not only to honor who we all are, but also to fully claim the seemingly involuntary act of reinvention.
How do you prepare for your work, auditions, and roles? What is it like having to put on the guise of someone else?
I use my imagination as the foundation to build a real person with a real life behind and ahead of them, and I research, a lot. What’s it like being someone else for a few hours a day? It’s the best thing in the world. It can be the most present I ever feel, the most alive, and it teaches me absurd amounts about being a human being on this planet. Acting is true empathy in action.
How did you sit in the screening room with your friends and colleagues, watching Quarry when the sex scenes were happening? What was that like for you? What’s it been like being that exposed?
Oh, it’s incredibly weird. It’s this unfamiliar mix of pride and excitement juxtaposed with vulnerability and shame—less so with friends and colleagues because most of them have insight into filmmaking and storytelling, whereas, with my family and friends of the family, it’s much more challenging. They see me when they watch, instead of my character, and I’m sure it’s equally weird for them. The shame isn’t something I own as a feeling as much as it’s an ingrained sense of embarrassment we’re all taught to feel about our naked bodies and especially about sex.
Being that exposed has felt more like a privilege than anything else though. Every scene in Quarry that involved nudity felt real and necessary. It was one aspect of telling a very rich and detailed story about a marriage in turmoil—it’s what life looks like. There are boobs and bums and other beautiful body parts in life every day. I love seeing the human body portrayed on screen.
Professionally, or just in life in general, what would be the thing that would just make you lose your mind?
Working on Mike Mills’ next film, doing a scene with Cate Blanchett or Viola Davis, producing a story that feels meaningful and necessary and beautiful, building a school and working on something filming in Paris or Cape Town.
You love reading and get so much joy and inspiration from it. What book have you read lately that really had an impact on you?
I’m reading my friend iO Tillet Wright’s memoir called Darling Days right now and it has run the gambit from making me laugh out loud to feeling physical pain in my chest. It’s beautiful and brutally. His writing is the perfect balance of enriching, demanding, and captivating.
If you could make a cup of Canyon Coffee for anyone in the world, living or dead, who would it be?
What are three things you would say to your younger self?
Stop worrying so much, you’re already enough, and be a little bit more naughty.