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Jennifer Blanc.

"I played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz in the sixth grade and that gave me confidence as well as the acting bug."

During our time at the Cult TV 2001 Festival, Teletronic had the genuinely great pleasure of spending time with the delightful Jennifer Blanc. The warm, open, intelligently articulate and gifted up-and-coming young actress whose eye-catching performances in Party of Five and especially as Kendra in the James Cameron series Dark Angel, marked her out as a formidable creative talent.

Jennifer Blanc was born and raised in Manhattan, New York City. After her parent's split up it was her mother, Jenise, a former model that Jennifer says "did most of the raising." Jenise gave up her modelling career to become a make-up artist and also ran her own business before concentrating on Jennifer's career as her business manager. From a very early age it was quite evident that Jennifer was a natural performer, putting on ten-minute shows for the residents of the apartment block where she lived. "We lived in the 15th floor of a building and I was setting up chairs and knocking on neighbours doors and saying, "The show is now!" It didn't matter if they were just sitting down for dinner or trying to deal with their own families returning home from school. It's a wonder we weren't kicked out!"

There was further encouragement at school where Jennifer was very active in many school productions. "I played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz in the sixth grade and that gave me confidence as well as the acting bug." As a result of this urge to perform Jennifer attended The Professional Children's School before landing her first movie role in 1984 as a character called Baby Marlene in Old Enough. "Then I did a movie called Sleep Tight based on a short story by James Purdy. Following that I went on to Broadway in Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs, which was quite a few years of my life." She worked on the project with Jonathan Silverman, Robert Sean Leonard, Nancy Travis, Chuck Cioffi, and Elizabeth Perkins. There then followed a number of TV commercials and voice-overs before her manager suggested she to go to California because it would present more opportunities. "So I went out and I signed with an agency called Henderson Hogan and landed a role in the TV series Hull High, directed by Kenny Ortega.

"Kenny had directed the dancing on Dirty Dancing and he was amazing. A total creative force, really supporting the actors and making things happen. I did that and went back to New York and then got a call to say "You've got to move out here if you want to be a part of this show." So I phoned a friend and said 'Pick an apartment for me and put a down-payment on it.'" The move came so quickly that Jennifer didn't even have a chance to furnish her new apartment. "I moved out there and my mother came with me and we went around yard sales picking up furniture and painting it and started totally from scratch. I was pretty excited about it, being such a leap and it was such a change in lifestyle from New York. But gradually I began to get things together and started making friends. I got engaged to Michael Biehn and although that didn't work out we remain very good friends and it's so nice that we can still have warm happy feelings for each other."

Moving to California was definitely a step in the right direction and led to roles in a number of Movie of the Week features as well as parts in episodes of Nurses and Married with Children. Then in 1993 Jessica landed the role of Tiffany in a series called The Mommies. "I didn't know where that was going to go, because the producers didn't know what they were going to do with her. After the pilot they incorporated her into the first season a lot, even though it was only a recurring role. But for the second season they made her a regular."

There then followed a season-and-a-half playing Kate in the Fox series Party of Five, another highly regarded US series. Talking of highly regarded shows we asked Jennifer how her part in Dark Angel came about. "I read the pilot and I just said 'I have to be a part of this show.' I don't care that Kendra is not the biggest role in the show. My agents were very concerned with that at this stage of my career. I said 'listen, I can get bigger roles after I'm done with Kendra, let me be a part of this show, it's going to make a big difference,' and I was right. Kendra is definitely outstanding enough that as little as she does, compared to Jessica Alba, she's so out there and flamboyant. Afterwards my agents called me and apologised because this is a very prestigious thing to be a part of and it’s opened up a lot of doors."

One of those doors has also led to Jennifer Blanc -recording artist. "I'm working on an album right now. My boyfriend is a guy called Charlie Paulson, who was in a band called Goldfinger. He has taken over the production end and I signed a management deal with these people that are involved with Insync and Brittney Spears although the style is going to be very different from that - more soulful."

Most of the cast of Dark Angel were in the auditioning process at the same time. "Jessica (Alba) was cast 18 months before it was shot. Valerie Rae Miller (Original Cindy) and I met even before the testing, and the rest of us were all there together at the test. It was a gruelling process and Jim Cameron purposely didn't come to the casting sessions. After that I had to wait about five days before I got a fax saying they'd picked me up for the role. But nobody knew who everybody was until they'd signed the whole cast because everyone had to match up with Jessica. It was probably about three and a half weeks from the start of the process, but it seemed like months."

So how did Jennifer see herself in ten years from 2001 when we conducted the interview? "Well, there are movies and I'm very excited about recording too, but I'd like to have at least one more amazing series under my belt." Since the interview Jennifer has continued to be very active with over 20 productions on her CV including such high profile series’ as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Veronica Mars and Southland and has three movies in post-production. In addition, she has been involved in many projects with her partner and fellow actor, Michael Biehn (Jennifer has changed her name to Jennifer Blanc-Biehn). The two joined forces on Michaels' directorial debut The Victim and it is her first leap into the producing world and she says she loves it.

In 2001 we wrote “Jennifer Blanc bears all the hallmarks of a focused and dedicated young professional, whose continuing maturity as a performer assures us all the pleasure of watching as her multifaceted talent takes her to the very pinnacle of her profession.” She continues to prove us perfectly correct.

Jennifer's official Website: www.jenniferblancbiehn.com

Interviewed by Laurence Marcus & Stephen Hulse - 2001

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