Working on comedy requires more than just good acting skills. It requires a certain awareness of timing and type of instinct that not all actors are equipped with. Delivering a line is very different than delivering a joke, and knowing the difference is key.
Jordan Claire Robbins has had her share of serious roles. She played a character with a very troubled life in the film Black Dahlia and an assistant living in a doomed world in the Syfy show 12 Monkeys, and will be seen in the Andrew Niccol-directed sci-fi thriller Anon, to be released in 2017. In these roles, Robbins is recognized for her talents as a dramatic actress. However, her ability to also tackle comedy is what sets her apart, and she had the opportunity to showcase these talents on FXX’s absurdist comedy Man Seeking Woman, produced by Lorne Michaels.
“Comedy and drama are different in a lot of ways, and similar in others. I enjoy both, and I think in both it is crucial to be prepared at such a level that it’s possible to then completely let go and respond to the other actors in a truthful and present way. I find that the best moments usually happen when actors know their characters and the material well enough that they are just living in the scene, reacting in an honest way, and not in their head or worried about using any pre-planned ideas. For comedy, the funniest moments often arise out of spontaneity and these things can be just as unexpected to the actor as they are to everyone else, because they have let the characters and material take over,” said Robbins.
Man Seeking Woman tells the story of Josh (Jay Baruchel), a naive romantic who goes on a desperate quest for love when his longtime girlfriend dumps him.
“I loved working on Man Seeking Woman. The energy onset was amazing, and it was a great opportunity not only to work with very talented, funny people, but also to get to watch them work. The biggest challenge was to not laugh, as the leads on the show are incredibly funny and experienced enough that fear of failure is no longer a limitation for them,” said Robbins.
Robbins plays Julia in the episode Stain, a single guest who meets Josh at a destination wedding in hell. He is having a tough time because his ex-girlfriend is there with a new boyfriend, and in a moment of desperation he asks Julia to dance with him. Julia is open-minded, positive, and also date-less at the wedding, so she says yes even though he comes across as aggressive and perhaps slightly intoxicated.
“Playing Julia was a lot of fun, and while her tolerance level for bad behaviour is probably a little lower than mine I think we are quite similar, which is always fun to play with,” Robbins said.
The episode was directed by Tim Kirkby (VEEP, Brooklyn Nine-Nine), who encouraged the cast to follow their instincts. For Robbins, who has been studying improv at the world-renowned Second City in Toronto for over a year, this was a great opportunity to play.
“Jordan is the best possible student: curious, hardworking and willing to fearlessly challenge herself to excel,” said Michael J. Gellman, one of the original founders of Second City who coached Robbins at the school. “Her ability to find the heart and vulnerability in the characters she creates gives her a strong platform to continue to grow and build on her already significant talent.”
Robbins has come a long way from the first film she did. Money is about a man who gets sucked into the world of gambling and the ramifications it has for his friends and family. At the time, she had been training to be an actress for much of her life, but was mostly modelling. This step required her to transition from just thinking about the look of her character to thinking about her character’s whole world.
“When a person is really engaged in a conversation and living fully they are not aware or concerned with how they look, but when I’m on a modelling shoot it’s crucial to constantly be aware of how my body and face are looking on-camera and making sure the angles are always flattering for the clothes,” said Robbins.
Robbins played the character of Jackie, an outspoken, fun, and loyal best friend to the film’s lead, Amber. Jackie strongly feels that her best friend can do better than her boyfriend, and when he gets caught up in the unsavoury world of a gambling she is adamant that Amber needs to move on.
“Having trained on and off camera for many years, it was satisfying to be able to carry over and put into practice everything I had learned. It was the perfect scenario for a first film as there wasn’t the pressure of having a studio involved, and the team was young and fresh so the energy was great onset. I loved having more time to dive into my character and try things onscreen,” said Robbins.
Now, Robbins has mastered the art of getting into her character’s world, which is exactly what she did for Man Seeking Woman, with Stain being a well-received episode of the series.