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You Can Be Loved No Matter What: Jessica Chastain on The Eyes of Tammy Faye | Interviews

I love the way she opened a soda can without damaging her manicure. 

Got the nail file for the pop top tab. I learned that from my mom. I remember my mom doing that when I was a little kid. So, we were shooting that scene and I was like, “I need a nail file”

I noticed that she always had a lot of dolls around her all the time. Was that also because she was deprived of dolls? What do you think the dolls signified?

That’s one thing about Tammy that I really loved. She had a childlike wonder to her. I think she just loved cute dolls. I think she loved anything cute. Her dogs were cute. Her dolls were cute. There was one doll that was like a bunny rabbit with a human face. It was so weird. It was important that she have all that. I remember, I think in the ’80s and ’90s. It was like a fad. Because my grandmother also had dolls in her house, on stands, beautiful dolls. And I remember being a kid and wanting to play with them and then not being allowed to.

Throughout the film, she maintains her cheerful attitude until the one big argument scene, where she expresses a lot of negative feelings. How do you as an actress prepare yourself for a scene that is so prolonged, so intense, and so different from what the character has done up to that point?

What happens in that scene with Jim? She says, “I wake up in the morning, I just want to throw up and I want to throw up and throw up and I’m holding it back.” That scene to me is her finally letting go of her emotions. Everything building up to it—it’s like the sad clown. She’s making others happy, and she’s hiding her own pain. And then that is the scene where she opens up and you actually get to see what she’s been holding in. And so, for me to prepare for it, I didn’t really have to do much because it was there underlying the other scenes. And I had connected to her so strongly and I had worked on “Why does Tammy feel unseen? Why does she feel unloved? What are these things that started as a child? Why is it so desperately important for her to connect to others, to hold strangers, to kiss them, to love them? What is this that she struggled with?” That was always there. And so, when I got to that scene, I was like, “Finally. I’m gonna let loose on Andrew Garfield!”

There are a lot of ways you could tell this story. Why is it important that we see the story through Tammy’s eyes, or through her experience? 

For me, it was important to see it through her eyes because our understanding, at least my understanding of her was through what the media told me happened. They had connected her so strongly to her husband. And the media was more concerned with how much mascara she was wearing rather than what she was saying and doing. 

When I saw the documentary, I was so blown away with how she saw the world. And how she really led with love and how she was a trailblazer in terms of bringing [gay pastor] Steve Pieters on the show in that time and saying, “We as Christians are supposed to love everyone.” And saying also, when he talked about coming out to his parents, she said, “As mommies and daddies we love through anything.” These things that were so important. There were people who were just alone and struggling and without any support and she was reminding her community of how important love was. 

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