October 21, 2016
Jean of the Joneses is upon us!
This quirky, yet revealing comedy about a Jamaican family in Brooklyn, NY is like no other TV One original movie you’ve seen before.
We spoke with Toronto-born writer and director, Stella Meghie, to give us the behind-the-scenes scoop on this very refreshing film.
On Jean of the Joneses being her first film and her inspiration for the story:
Yes, this is my first feature!
I just felt that I knew the story so well and I knew how I wanted to tell it. I went about finding all the right creative partners to hold me up and support me through the process. I was very lucky with my producers and actors…just getting the right actors made it so easy. It’s hard to screw it up when you have Sherri Shepherd and Erica Ash being so crazy funny and you know, Taylour…you just want to keep watching her, she’s so funny, and so sweet, and so vulnerable. I just tried to get all the best creative partners that I could to make sure that it was good and that my inexperience didn’t fail me.
On how her West Indian heritage translates on film:
I was born in Toronto. I’m first generation but both my parents are from Jamaica.
It’s all over the film. [Being that] my entire family is Jamaican, they all have this dry humor where they’re not trying to be funny, it’s just their outlook on life…you could find the humor in the harshness in how they talk.
On Getting the Jamaican accent right:
[The actress Michelle Hurst] She’s from Brooklyn but her accent was on point. When she came to Toronto to shoot, the first thing she did when she landed was have dinner at my Aunt Jean’s house so she could refine her accent….”I was like I want you to sound like my Aunt Jean!” They had dinner for 4 hours, and when she came back to the set she sounded exactly like my aunt! It was so spooky….She had that bougie Jamaican accent!
On setting the story in Brooklyn versus Toronto:
I lived in Brooklyn for a long time and worked there and spent my early 20s there. [Before I moved] I would come down in the summers to visit my great-grandmother who lived there, who is also Jamaican. Brooklyn definitely holds a special place in my heart. I’ve been living there when I was thinking about the story, so it just felt natural to set it there.
On the most enjoyable/challenging part of making this film:
I would say the people that I made it with, we just had so much fun and there was so much love between the cast and the crew. It was just so many people supporting my vision and holding it so dearly, people that I just met. It was a party on set every day, is how I felt.
The challenging part would be is that we didn’t have a ton of time. It’s a lot of characters and locations. Just trying to making my days and making the film in the time I wanted to do it.
On characters being inspired by real life people:
I would say all of the characters are loosely based on someone in my family. Like Ann, the character Erica Ash played, is based on my relationship with my cousin Nicki who is 10 years older than me. For Janet, I pulled from my Aunt Michelle, and for Maureen I pulled from my Mom.
On the character she identifies with the most:
There’s pieces of me in Jean… it’s definitely not ME but there is pieces of me that I blew up and made more dramatic and more funny from my life and my relationships that I’ve had and my relationship with my family.
On her favorite scene:
The scene where Erica and Taylour character stalk Erica’s baby daddy! They were so funny and they made up this little song…they made it such a moment, which included Erica ad-libbing. They hit the dialogue in the script but definitely added to it. It made me so grateful to be working with such a talented cast that took my script to the next level.
On the message behind Jean of the Joneses:
I never really think in terms of messages. I just want people to take away how nuance a family can be and how funny and vulnerable and determined and lost you can be. I just want people to enjoy it.
Advice for aspiring filmmakers:
If you want to direct your first feature, just do it. Do the homework and prepare yourself. Figure out exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it. Bet on yourself and bring it to life.