Photo by Angelo Kritikos

Jaime Murray’s ‘Defiance’: ‘be yourself, unless you can be a unicorn’

by Heather Courtney Quinn

There is a lot more to Jaime Murray than meets the eye  . . . of course, she is gorgeous. And yes, she is currently starring in the new SyFy series Defiance (she is also well-known for her arcs on Warehouse 13, Ringer, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena and Dexter). She is also very fun, intelligent, talented and has that great cheeky British humor that I so adore.

But most importantly, she is someone I’m glad to call my friend. We met several years ago when she did a television series with my husband. Shortly thereafter, we set her up with a good friend of ours and they are still happily dating (this is perhaps my only success at playing cupid!).

While having brunch (and a round of mimosas) at the Soho House, I was able to interview her and look forward to sharing with you what we appreciate about her.

Heather Courtney Quinn: What inspires you?

Jaime Murray: Oh God, I don’t know . . . blimey . . . I’ve just always been trying to make ends meet and trying to be a grown up! Ok, well, other people’s work inspires me.

HCQ: Well, what are you into right now?

JM: I am really inspired by great work. I’m really inspired by some of the quality TV shows that are out there right now. I love the fact that TV is now not a medium that is lesser than film anymore, in fact, in so many ways as an actor, it gives you more of a chance to really think of the long game of who these characters are. TV allows for rich, nuanced relationships and characters. You see that in shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Dexter. Right now I’m so inspired by HBO’s Girls. Lena Dunham is such an inspiration. Not only is she this amazing actress, who goes to these emotional places . . . that are excruciating, funny and really honest but she also writes, produces and directs the show. I wish there was drama like that for me when I was that age. Not only as an artist would I love to be an actress on a show like that . . . but as a young girl growing up, I would have like to have seen what other girls were going through and the struggles that they have, in a real way. Women are often depicted to show a way into the man’s psyche or as a complement to the male lead’s life. There are shows out there now which have really strong, interesting, complex, imperfect roles for women to play. I like that a lot. I like things that are different, subversive, challenging and complex because I think that is what we all are.

HCQ: I guess, in many ways, Sex in the City was the precursor to Girls. It paved the way to show women having sex, doing what they want to do . . . but, to your point, it was different . . . 

JM: I loved that show and have had many nights home alone, or with a bunch of girls, watching that show. It was a fantasy, they were female archetypes, there was a glossiness. But men and women are very different, and that show was actually written by a man, wasn’t it? And, in our quest for equality, sometimes we thought that we had to be the same as men. I want equal rights to men, obviously, and equal opportunities, but we are incredibly different animals. On this TV show that I’m doing at the moment, Defiance, I’m playing an alien but obviously a female of the species and it’s somehow served to remind me again that men and women really are, in my opinion different. I’m very interested in psychology and philosophy, a lot of my friends have kids right now and I’m always interested in gender differences and how early they start . . . which of them is nature and which of them is nurture. You know, when I was younger, I thought we were all the same and it was just what society feeds us. And, actually now, I think that we are just so different. We go about things in a different way, we approach relationships in a different way . . . gosh all I have to do is look at my own relationship! (Laughing.) We are just very different creatures. I do like how HBO’s Girls is really complex. Men enjoy watching it too, but they’re not watching women behaving as men. They’re watching messy, incredibly complex and often unattractive female characters. I’m really happy with the roles I’ve been lucky enough to play, I don’t do “cute.” I am not interested in it. I don’t want to be cookie-cutter but equally I don’t want to play bitchy women. Woman pitted against other women, competing with other women. I’m not interested in those stereotypes unless it has something subversive or comedic to say. We’re a bit more complex than that, we’ve come too far. If as an artist, I have any power in getting messages out to an audience . . . and, if my audience also has young girls in it, I don’t really want to convey that message.

HCQ: Does that factor into your philosophy for choosing projects?

JM: I try and pick interesting parts that I’m going to have a lot of fun playing . . . that will be a challenge for me. I have played roles that maybe, on the page, they wanted me to be the nemesis to the other female character or the bitchy seductress and, actually, I have chosen to play it a different way. I try to layer it with other elements that flesh the character out. Also, even if my character is doing something dastardly or devious, I try to remember that I’m not playing just a character . . . I’m playing someone very vulnerable or someone desperate to please, or whatever it is. I try to look at what’s going on underneath. When I do play characters that do bad things, I try not to judge them. I try to remember that even the worst people (when they are doing the worst things) think that they are doing the only thing that they can do. They think that they are making the best choices and they make excuses for their behavior.

HCQ: No one ever thinks they are doing evil for evil’s sake . . .

JM: Exactly . . . they think that they are justified.

HCQ: Do you tend to get the antagonist role more often?

JM: Well, it is really fun playing those characters. They’re particularly interesting to me because they have less control than ‘good’ characters. Yeah, I don’t know if it’s the British accent or the fact that I find all elements of the human psyche interesting, even the ugly stuff, but I have had a lot of fun playing those kinds of characters.

HCQ: What is the best career advice anyone has ever given you?

JM: The best career advice I got was: there is no real difference between people who succeed and people who fail. People who succeed have failed just as many times as people who have failed, except they just got up one extra time, dusted themselves off and carried on anyway. I think that, in this profession, when so much of your hopes and dreams are caught up in what you do for a living, there is a certain amount of rejection that you have to deal with. You put yourself on the line to be chosen and sometimes you’re not. And, you can’t let that crush you. It’s really hard because in order to be creative, I do feel like you have to get invested and super excited about every job. You have to see the good in it. You have to envision yourself being that character and playing that role. You have to invest, and it takes a lot of energy to get there and then to be rejected . . . it can be painful. You can’t become jaded. You might as well give up or go into another profession because you need that energy to book the job. Also, I promise you: every single job that I’ve ever booked; there was always something that I felt heartbroken about the week before.

HCQ: Your father was an actor so how do you think that has affected you? You probably had more insight than most starting out . . .

JM: Well, I certainly had an understanding of how tough it was when I started. It’s not like I went into it thinking it will just “happen.” My dad was such a hard worker. He did other things, as well as acting, when I was growing up to support us. Now in hindsight I also have even more gratitude to him and what he must have been going through, dealing with ambition and frustrations.

HCQ: What’s your best Hollywood moment?

JM: The first year I came here, I ended up going to the Oscars. I actually went with my acting coach. And, there’s a funny moment (whenever you go to the Emmys or the Oscars) where everyone is all dressed up and incredibly glamorous and you are all literally being herded through the security gate. I was standing next to Helen Mirren (this was the year that she won for The Queen). My 75-year-old, acting coach date (Robert Easton) turned around to her and said, “Helen, Jaime is from England as well.” I had never met her before and I felt incredibly shy and flustered but she was adorable. She actually told me one of the filthiest Essex girl jokes ever! It took me by surprise, I’m usually the filthy one! I loved her before, but I doubly loved her for that.

HCQ: What was your most embarrassing Hollywood moment?

JM: I was in Huntington Beach at a hotel and Kevin Bacon was there with Kyra Sedgwick. He came over and said, “My wife and I are really big fans of yours and we thought you were wonderful in Dexter”. I was so overwhelmed that I lost the ability to think and talk. I wanted to tell him what a fan of his movies I am . . . but I swear, in that moment, I couldn’t think of one movie that Kevin Bacon has done in his long career! I could not recall Frost/Nixon, A Few Good Men or Mystic River. In fact the only movie that I could recall was Footloose, but I figured I couldn’t say that. So I squeaked, “Oh my goodness, thank you” and then ran off to the bathroom and never went back to my sun bed. Urgh! Cringe-worthy . . . I am such a huge fan of his and I never got to tell him!!

HCQ: What book is by your bedside table?

JM: I’m very interested in psychology, in fact I studied psychology at London School of Economics before I went to drama school. Right now, I’m reading a book by an English psychotherapist, Brett Kahr, called Sex and the Psyche: The Truth about Our Most Secret Fantasies . . .  it’s like a Kinsey report on our secret fantasies! On the back, it says, “What’s going on in your head when you go to bed?” I love that.

HCQ: What’s your biggest vice?

JM: Chocolate and wine. Oh, and online shopping.

HCQ: What would your message to the world be?

JM: Always be yourself, unless you can be a unicorn. Then, always be a unicorn.

Heather Courtney Quinn

About Heather Courtney Quinn

Heather Courtney Quinn is a TV/film producer who is partnered with Andrew Cosby (Co-created EUREKA and Boom! Comics) in their company, Lost Mountain Entertainment. Please follow Heather on Twitter: @HCourtneyQuinn

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