Interview by Jana Letonja

A chameleon of an actress, Jessi Case stars in the new feature film ‘On a Wing and a Prayer’, opposite Dennis Quaid and Heather Graham, which releases on Prime Video on 7th April.  Jessi also stars in ‘9-1-1: Lone Star’ and the upcoming HBO Max pilot ‘Wild Life’.  

Jessi, we’ll be seeing you in Prime Video’s ‘On a Wing and a Prayer’, opposite Dennis Quaid and Heather Graham. The film is a biographical survivor film about a family having to fly themselves home after the pilot died of a heart attack.  Tell us more about the film itself and your character.

I play Maggie White who is on board King Air plane with her parents, her sister and their pilot, Joe Cabuk, when the pilot unexpectedly suffers a heart attack and passes away. What happens later is miraculous. The story centers around faith and survival. There’s a lot going on in this one.

Since starting your career at a very early age, you’ve gotten to work with many superstars. How do you feel when being cast opposite such huge names in the industry? What are some of the lessons you take away from those sets?

It’s an honor to work with the artists I’ve gotten to create with so far. Lots of ‘pinch me’ moments. A lesson I’ve learned in watching them is there’s no finish line for being great. If you really love it, you’ve got to stick with your craft and stay sharp, honing your skills. A lot of these actors, no matter how great they already are, want to keep getting better. They’ve got their coaches on speed dial and train like Olympians in between projects. It’s cool to see because it proves how much they value the craft and how much they want to show up for the stories they’re telling. It’s wonderful to see that that motivation seems to only get stronger. I feel it too.

Who out of all these A-listers you’ve worked with have you learned the most from?

It’s not easy to pin down just one, but working with Garry Marshall was special. He valued enjoyment so much that there were a bunch of pranks and gags on set. That light-heartedness was a reminder that it’s nice to bring a smile and a laugh to and from the set. Don’t take yourself too seriously, lean into the enjoyment. 

We’re also able to see you in ‘9-1-1: Lone Star’. What can you share about your role on the show’s fourth season?

My first episode just aired on 4th April actually. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’m not sure I can say much else other than the character I play is named Leigh Ann. Let’s just say there will be plenty of surprises. 

In acting, you take on a very Meryl Streep approach, you bring something different to every role. Tell us more about your approach and method when it comes to portraying new characters.

I could talk about Meryl’s work forever. She’s someone I’ve looked up to for as long as I can remember. I’m blushing just thinking about how you linked our approaches. Think of how well you know yourself, that’s how well I want to know whoever I’m playing. I want to know my favorite cereals, my pick-me-up playlist, my habits, my pet peeves, things I want to change about myself, my outlook on the world. Deep parts, triggers, wounds, shallow aspects, all of it. I use the tools the writers have given and I fill in the blanks with what I’ve created as my character’s ‘isms’. Then I slip into it as we get working. 

What kind of characters or projects attract you the most when you’re presented with new scripts?

I love playing characters that are unlike me. There’s something that happens in your brain. You can understand this person you thought, on the page, you had nothing in common with. With scripts, I’m lit up by so much, but I’m probably most drawn to character-driven projects with truth and vulnerability. As a big fan of film and TV, that’s the kind of stuff that’s most exciting for me to watch. 

Your siblings and you are all in the acting business. How has it been sharing this experience growing up?

Actually, my sister doesn’t act anymore. She dabbled in it at a young age, but knew she was interested in other creative ventures. My brother took a pause from the screen to work on his own businesses. Growing up though, working on auditions or plays for class with my siblings was really special. My mom really nurtured the creativity in us and I could guess that’s part of why creating is deeply ingrained in us now. 

When not on camera, you are passionate about advocating for animal-welfare, the environment and social justice. Why are these topics important to you personally and why do you think they are also so important in the world generally?

Looking into any animal’s eyes, you can see that they feel. Knowing that I could eat and live in a way that wouldn’t harm animals seemed like a no-brainer. So in 2016 I went plant-based, which also helps the environment by reducing my carbon footprint. Two in one.

The environment affects all living beings, so mother nature means business. The way I see it, we have a responsibility to protect and preserve nature for the sake of current and future generations. Social justice is really just upholding human rights. It’s crucial because it aims to build a just and fair society while dismantling systems of oppression. 

You also support organizations that support Guillain-Barre syndrome, which is a rapid-onset muscle weakness caused by the immune system, damaging the peripheral nervous system. Why is especially these cause so close to you?

A few years ago, my sister was traveling to another country when she realized she was paralyzed on the plane. There was a rollercoaster over the next few months of her lungs collapsing, her being intubated, tracheotomized and nearly dying. There’s not very much information out there about this rare condition, so it’s important to raise awareness and support research. 

Jessi,  what are your biggest career goals and dreams?

I love this question. I have a very specific list, but I will keep this broad. I want to forever grow as an artist. I want to keep making movies always and I want to work on series and projects that light me up for eternity. I want to make bold, wonderful projects with bold, wonderful people and keep doing what I love forever. 

hair & make-up JANELLE DETINA