Jeannine Kaspar has plenty of good things to say about working on Freeheld, the upcoming drama film based on the 2007 documentary that tells the true story of a New Jersey police officer fighting to pass her pension benefits on to her domestic partner. Kaspar has a supporting role in the film as Margaret, and spoke with LA Fan Cultures Examiner about being a part of such a moving project and learning from her high-profile co-stars.
“Being a part of a theatrical adaptation of this real life event is such an honor,” she told us. “My character is based upon Garden State Equality activist Joan Hervey, who together with Steven Goldstein [played by Steve Carell] fought endlessly to change the law to secure pension benefits for the dying police officer Laurel Hester’s [Julianne Moore] wife Stacie Andree [Ellen Page].
“In the movie you’ll see me fighting alongside Carell – rallying the protesters and helping organize activist duties and yelling at the freeholders as they drag their feet making decisions that we fight them to change,” she continued. “Ultimately, though, the movie at its core is about an incredible love story that changed marriage and pension laws in New Jersey and in turn I feel tremendously helped the movement towards national marriage equality.”
“I think that one of the aspects of Freeheld that I am most proud of is its message, that love equals love,” she added. “It is what all the leads of this film stand for, both in real life and this adaptation. I hope that people see how this love story humanizes love for those who may be unfamiliar to same-sex relationships, and also how far we have come in the fight for equality.”
Portraying a character that is based on a real person changed her approach to the project, because it’s much different than portraying an entirely created individual. “As an actor I tend to imagine the backstories of my characters and what drives them,” Jeannine explained, “and with this I was able to hear the raw stories of the people who lived through it and their struggles along the way as to what brought them to fight for Laurel Hester.
“Besides my own deep feelings of wanting acceptance for those individuals who aren’t getting it, knowing the impact it has on those I love who are and aren’t out, I wanted to learn more about what got Joan involved,” she continued. “For Joan, she joined this fight not just for the right to marry or pension benefits – she joined the fight for equality for so many around her, herself included, facing ongoing discrimination for being in a homosexual relationship and how not being ‘legally’ married affects all sorts of aspects of their lives together.
“There are thousands of horrifying stories of people who lived together for decades and had been rejected by their families, only to have them come in when one partner got sick, kick the other partner out, and take over everything including medical and funeral decisions,” she added.
Aside from bringing an important true story to greater public attention, Freeheld is another project where Jeannine has been seen alongside some significant names in the movie industry; we asked her how much she took away from working with the headliners.
“I love feeling like I can learn from people that I work with,” she said. “That honed skill is part of it and the other is how you treat those around you. Like Steve Carell; he is so humble – showing up to work and mentioning how he almost couldn’t get in on time to set and how embarrassed he would have felt if he hadn’t on the first day!
“Julianne Moore is so gracious,” she continued. “On our first real scene together in her hospital room, right before rolling she sweetly introduced herself and noticing I was in heels, mentioned that I wouldn’t have my feet on camera, adding, ‘Can someone please get Jeannine her sneakers?’ It was so incredibly kind that she even recognized this when she was noticeably deep into the mindset of the dying Laurel Hester. She is brilliant and seamless to watch and totally a team player.”
With the film completed, Jeannine is hoping that Freeheld resonates with the audience beyond its dramatic value.
“I hope that it gives a feeling of togetherness and progress for those in the LGBT community,” she said, “and that it humanizes love for those unfamiliar with same-sex couples or those who are somehow or for whatever reason not sure about it, as I could not feel more strongly that Laurel and Stacee were no different than any other couple that wanted a family and a home.”
How does Jeannine follow up working on a socially significant picture with an all-star cast? With more films that have other moving stories to tell.
“I am feeling so excited to have just completed filming the lead in Supermoto,” she told us, “a movie set in Fargo, North Dakota that at its core is [the] story of a woman who makes the bold choice to finally leave behind everything she’s ever known, only to be ditched by her boyfriend, winding up pregnant and alone with nothing but five dollars and a supermoto motorcycle, desperately trying to make the next chapter on her own. I do a lot of motorcycle riding on a big Suzuki supermoto; I am really proud of that.
“Next up in a month I’m filming Hudson Tribes, based on real socio-political tensions and the public school system in Hudson Valley, New York,” she added. “I really feel it’s important to take on roles that have some sort of interesting message for the audience, and this next project is no different.”
Freeheld has a limited release beginning on Oct. 2, and will expand to a wide release on Oct. 16.