Jovan Adepo and Jean Smart talk Babylon, Damien Chazelle

Jovan Adepo plays Sidney Palmer in Babylon from Paramount Pictures.

Jovan Adepo and Jean Smart joined the Babylon cast in a virtual press conference for members of the Critics Choice Association.

Brad Pitt was not among the cast participating in the early December press conference. While Damien Chazelle was set to participate, he ended up getting sick and unable to join. TCM’s Dave Karger moderated the press conference and my question below is among those that were picked.

Adepo stars as Sidney Palmer while Emmy-winning actress Smart portrays Elinor St. John in Damien Chazelle’s 20s/30s Hollywood epic. Babylon is now playing in theaters.

Can you talk about your experience working with Damien Chazelle?

Jovan Adepo: I really appreciated his openness to collaboration. That was one of the most surprising things because in my opinion, I feel like for our proven filmmaker that already has a reputation for excellence, there’s really no need to really be open to other people’s opinions or insights because you’re proven. I really appreciated that even in our early conversations after he offered me the part, we spent hours on the phone just talking about who I thought Sidney was, who I thought Sidney was as it relates to the other characters in the film, how his journey was different or similar, and just him really wanting to hear my insight about how I was going to play Sidney. I really appreciate it.

I think Damien’s really good at creating a safe space for artists to feel comfortable pushing the envelope and pushing themselves to find more magic in themselves and performance. I think that he did that for everybody and it started mainly with the environment. As soon as you walk on set, you feel that, okay, we’re here and we’re ready to work. But everybody’s pursuing the same goal and he’s doing it in a way where it’s effortless and we’re all just excited to come in and give our best.

Jean Smart plays Elinor St. John in Babylon from Paramount Pictures.
Jean Smart plays Elinor St. John in Babylon from Paramount Pictures.

Jean Smart: Yeah, no, I agree with everything he said as well. Occasionally, he’d asked me to tape a few lines and I’d do them on my phone and send them to him and we’d talk about how she would sound. The thing that I think I was most impressed—because I was already such a fan of Damien’s—but his just tirelessness and his passion and his sense of humor and his kindness and his being so supportive. I mean, it just makes your job so much easier—at least for me. I don’t ever respond to somebody who’s like a screamer or something. I can’t deal with that. I would just watch him. He’s running around the set—it’s been hour 14 or something; he’s like a college kid in a candy store. It’s so inspiring and I can’t say enough nice things about him.

Paramount will release Babylon in theaters on December 23, 2022.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.