Jolene Purdy first came into public consciousness in a now iconic role in the classic cult film, Donnie Darko. Since then, she’s worked on the series Ten Things I Hate About You and the TeenNick series Gigantic. Now she’s part of the cast of the upcoming CBC miniseries, Under the Dome, based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel in which an entire community is placed under a dome of mysterious origin.
The show is executive produced by Brian K. Vaughn and King himself, along with producers Neal Baer (also serving as show-runner), Justin Falvey, Darryl Frank and Stacey Snider.
With Under the Dome set to premiere on Monday, June 24, at 10 p.m., Purdy talked to GeekMom about her role as Dome’s Dodee, an engineer and geek who lasts far longer in the series than the book, about her life in Hollywood as an actor who doesn’t quite fit the stereotypical image of a leading lady, and about what she wants to do next.
GeekMom: This is a unique project for you, a straight-up dramatic role in a science fiction series. How did you come to be involved?
Jolene Purdy: I was sent the script to read and really loved the tone of the project and how grounded it was written, despite the supernatural elements and circumstances. I went in to read for Dodee and got to really play with the character and give the casting directors several different variations– it was fantastic!
GM: What’s your character like? How do her tech skills help sort out what’s going on?
JP: Dodee is this brilliant radio engineer who has a collection of gadgets that she uses to recreate better versions of the latest tech inventions. I really love playing her because she is a bit edgy but quirky, loyal and loving, and totally geeks out but is proud of it. Of course her tech skills come in handy, but she has other hidden talents that will be revealed throughout the season.
GM: Have you read the Stephen King book? Any worries your character would die horribly?
JP: I started to read Under the Dome and my character did die, horribly. As soon as I got to the scene I called my manager and was like “…. how long am I going to be working?? Dodee dies 50 pages in!”
Since then I have learned that the book and the show are pretty different.
GM: This is a large production with a huge cast of characters. Who did you interact with most?
JP: On the show and in life, Phil Bushy (played by Nicholas Strong). In the series, Phil is the radio station DJ and I’m his right hand…woman. And in life I just can’t get enough of Nick’s positivity. He’s like a big brother. From the first table read we fit like a glove!
GM: What was the favorite thing you did on set? Least favorite?
JP: Favorite thing… I’m not sure if I can give it away… It has to do with my hands… Least favorite… probably waiting around until it’s time to play Dodee.
GM: You’ve been involved in television and movies at a relatively young age. What’s been the most interesting thing about all that? Any advice for other young actors, particularly those who might not look like the perfect Hollywood idea of a teenager/young adult?
JP: It’s interesting to see everyone’s journey. It is really easy to lose yourself in this industry, especially when you spend so much time trying to be someone else.
My biggest advice is to know yourself well and accept yourself so that you can be open to getting to know the character you are studying without compromising who you are at home. Avoid getting caught up in what everyone else is doing, or what they look like, or how they are packaged. Embrace your uniqueness and in that you will truly create a place for yourself that is meant only for you!
“Always be a first rate version of yourself instead of a second rate version of someone else.” – Judy Garland
GM: Do you have any role models you’ve patterned your career after?
JP: I feel like I spent so much of my younger life trying to pattern my career after certain people. But the truth is, I am different and the more I focus on sharing myself and the exact talents that I have been given, the happier and more productive I am. That being said, I remember seeing Amy Hill on TV and relating to her.
GM: What experience/lesson as an actor has really impacted you?
JP: Jake Gyllenhaal, after Donnie Darko, said to me “This thing is so much more than just some movie. There may be kids who have been picked on relating to your character and finding comfort in the fact that they are not alone. There may be a bully who sees how your character felt after being bullied and he might think twice next time.”
So I always try and see how my work may affect the audience. It’s a really good way to stay grounded as a person in this wacky entertainment industry.
GM: What would you like to do next?
JP: A musical! No an indie film! Actually, a play!
I’m not quite sure. I’ve done a little of everything already and I always love challenging myself and taking on projects I’ve never done before, so I’m excited for whatever comes next.