Matching Jack

Expat Lured to Home Turf


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After just a few minutes chatting to Brisbane- born actress Jacinda Barrett it’s clearly not just her accent that is a hybrid, a weird amalgam of Aussie drawl and American twang.

Barrett herself is a hodgepodge: Australian expat, American citizen, wife, mother, ex-model, reality TV star, pilot, director and Hollywood actress, all of which came in handy when preparing for her role in Nadia Tass’ Matching Jack.

Jacinda Barrett is a hodgepodge: Australian expat, American citizen, wife, mother, ex-model, reality TV star, pilot, director and Hollywood actress.
John Tass-Parker ©

Fresh from the world premiere of Matching Jack at the Melbourne International Film Festival, the 37-year-old is back home for a whirlwind visit.

After leaving Australia at age 17 for an international modelling career, Barrett’s hesitant, squinty-eyed charm first became of interest to Hollywood after a stint on the fourth season of reality TV show The Real World: London.

It is an experience she claims was “more something I had to overcome in the early years”.

“I had to go in and audition like every other person and I never got a single job because I’d done that show.”

She eventually landed roles in films such as Ladder 49, The Namesake, The Human Stain and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, shifting her out of the “Oh yeah, I know that girl” category.

Married to actor Gabriel Macht, with whom she has a three-year-old daughter, Satine, Barrett is one of that rarest of breeds – model-cum-reality TV star who has moved on to become a respectable international actress.

After years in the US, Barrett has wanted to return home to make a film for some time. “I’d been wanting to do an Aussie movie for ages,” says Barrett over the phone from Melbourne.

“I’d been longing to do a movie on my home soil with the stories that I grew up with and a world that is in my blood.

“I’d been searching for a little while with my Aussie agent and then this came along and she said, ‘You know, I think I’ve got the one for you. I think it’s amazing’. I read it that night I said, ‘Yes, I want to come back for it’.”

Passionate about Australian cinema, Barrett believes film is at its best when it puts a magnifying glass up to society. “Those stories illuminate the human condition in ways that we all need to understand and see and grow.

“Summer popcorn movies are great but they don’t shed light on the way we live our lives. I just feel like we’ve been in a cycle of too many huge Hollywood movies and it’s nice to see smaller characters and their stories.”

Matching Jack is one of those stories. Barrett’s character Marisa is a young mum whose son Jack (Tom Russell) has been diagnosed with leukaemia. After her husband’s string of extramarital indiscretions are revealed in a most unsavoury manner, Marisa is forced to knock on the doors of women he has slept with in search of a sibling to donate bone marrow to her ailing son.

She says of her choice in taking on the role: “First of all, you don’t see these complex, mature, witty characters enough for women. When you get one it’s immediately enticing. That drew me to her.

“It’s absolutely the worst situation she could imagine herself in yet she manages to deal with it with humour and stay open to life.”

Barrett drew from her experiences as a mother when playing Marisa. “I don’t know how I would have approached it if I wasn’t. It defines Marisa’s arc in the movie so I very much needed to tap into those emotions, to feel that journey as a parent.” Her son is played by Tom Russell.

Matching Jack was filmed over six weeks in a winter-cloaked Melbourne. Unlike last year’s My Sister’s Keeper, which follows the similar thread of juvenile cancer, unashamedly pulling on the heartstrings, Matching Jack is a more refined, character-driven film.

Barrett’s measured performance as the burnt-out Marisa, moving from the youthful naif with Converse-clad feet and flowing, braided hair to the distraught, crazed mother going door-to- door in search for a bone marrow donor, is a believable fashion transition.

Matching Jack is a solid foray into lead roles for Barrett, showing promise for her rising international career.

And there’s no slowing down. She headed back to Los Angeles the day after the Australian premiere of Matching Jack.

“I have a movie opening at the end of the week in LA, Middle Men.

“It’s about the beginnings of the internet porn industry, so it couldn’t be more different.”

– The West Australian