In 2022, few stars shine as bright as Jaqci Vene. One of Hollywood’s most intriguing young actresses, she continues to turn heads in Tinseltown with her unrelenting drive, top-notch acting chops, and infectious smile! She began laying a rock-solid foundation for a legendary career early on in life. Jacqi began her artistic journey in the local theatre in Tucson, Arizona, starring in multiple shows as well as writing and directing a Commedia dell’arte piece. Her passion for the arts has led her to starring roles in numerous independent feature films, including the critically acclaimed ‘When Today Ends,’ ‘The Wrong Valentine,’ and ‘Ghost in the Graveyard.’ In 2018, she was nominated by Broadway World for her performance as Caley Miller in the original play “Famous.” In addition, Jacqi recently thrilled audiences with her portrayal of Joan in Netflix’s “Fear Street” trilogy, earning her a passionate international fan base.
Her most ambitious role to date teams her with director Nick Lyon for his intense, gritty, and suspenseful thriller ‘The Surprise Visit.’ Written by Stephen Meier and based on a story by Serah Henesey and Nathan Cowles, the film also stars Academy Award Nominee Eric Roberts, Rob Riordan, Tricia Hawn, and Serah Henesey. The film centers around a robbery gone wrong, leaving two young drug addicts grappling with a difficult decision: giving up or doing the unthinkable. ‘The Surprise Visit’ premieres in theaters and On Demand on January 14th, 2022, via Vertical Entertainment.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Jacqi Vene to discuss her passion for acting and the impact the arts have had on her life. Additionally, she offers an inside look at her creative process and what she has in store for us in the year to come!
You’re becoming quite a familiar face on screen over the past year. But, before we dive into your latest projects, let’s go back to the beginning. How did you get involved with the arts early on in life?
I’m just an artist at heart! My mom painted a lot and was very crafty, so she did a lot of arts and crafts as I was growing up. That all came very naturally to me, so by the time I got introduced to theater, I really fell in love with being weird and kooky. What really excited me was being able to work with people who were like-minded and who were excited about the same things I was excited about. I just kinda feel in step with being a theater person!
What was it about acting that made you want to pursue it professionally?
When it came to acting, there was a draw to it that evoked a much more visceral emotion than any of the other outlets that I was involved in. With theater, you have that instant reaction with a crowd in front of you. It’s also the scariest of all of the outlets I was involved with! [laughs] I think chasing that fear is a rollercoaster of excitement unto itself!
What went into finding your creative voice as a young artist?
It was taking risks and being loud on stage! Being the center of attention with a lot of eyes on you was a risk in itself. Trying to find my voice was trying to do that without shitting my pants! [laughs] I’m kidding! Trying to do that without being so scared was a big part of me trying to find my voice.
Who had the most significant impact on you in a creative sense?
I would say my mom for sure! She was also so creative. When it came to makeup or outfits, she was always so crafty and could create beautiful things from nothing! I remember once when I was with my mom; I told her I wanted to be an actress. She said, “You know, some of the most amazing things that happen in life just happen. You don’t really need to do that much.” I was very annoyed! [laughs] I was like, “That’s not true! You have to work really, really hard.” Now that I am older, I totally understand what she means. I know that you do have to work really hard, and I got that from seeing my dad work really hard. Then my mom was more flighty and more “just go with the flow!” When you match those two together, it’s kind of magical! You let the work go and see for itself, but you go with the flow and let whatever happens happen in a very magical, mystical way. You’re not doing the things you do for a specific result. You’re doing them because you love them.
What comes to mind when you think about your first time on stage?
Working with others was really fun and where I shined. I love the collaboration of working with other artists; it just lights me up! Back then, I was so excited to say, “Hey, maybe let’s try this…” or “What if she approaches it from this angle?” I love that mix because it’s like time doesn’t exist there. Time also doesn’t exist in the performance itself. It really doesn’t! I remember being really nervous and terrified the first time, but I was really attracted to that feeling.
You have such a fabulous social media presence, and it’s very cool to see you share some glimpses into your world. You seem very comfortable in your own skin!
Well, it might seem that way, but I am definitely nervous all of the time and second-guessing things! The fear is there, and it’s huge, but I have just enough to barely meet it and surpass it! I’m still scared shitless, but I do it anyway! [laughs] At the end of the day, there are so many mentors of mine who are a lot more famous or successful than I can imagine, and they still make so many mistakes. Along the way, you learn that people forget and move on. As long as your heart is in the right place, I don’t think you can’t really make a mistake.
What are the keys to successful creative collaborations, in your opinion?
Compromise is a big one, along with letting your ego down enough to see the bigger picture. Doing that allows you to ask, “What would tell this story in the best way?” Maybe it means cutting my screen time, or perhaps it means taking out an entire character arc because it doesn’t serve the overall story. It’s about being able to take a step back and say, “How can we relay this story in the best way?”
You don’t get to the point in your career without putting in the work. So how did you end up with such a strong creative drive? Was it something that came naturally?
I’ve always really strived to give something my all. When I’m passionate about it, I want to keep doing it! Honestly, it might come from never being satisfied. It might come from a little place of pain; whether it’s through my parents, my friends, or myself just not feeling good enough, it makes me want to keep pursuing it further, attacking it from different angles, and trying to achieve that satisfaction.
What are some of the lessons you learned early on in your career that continue to resonate with you as you move forward?
I think something that I learned early on and continue to learn is that you don’t necessarily have to say “Yes” because you feel like you have to or because you feel it’s in the general idea of what you want. If it’s not a “Hell yes,” then it’s a “Hell no.” Be patient and wait for the offer to come for the movie you really want to do instead of just doing the movie you have an offer. Be patient and try to know that what you want is enough and isn’t too big. It will come!
Your latest film is “The Surprise Visit.” What can you tell us about the film and what drew you to it?
The film is about these two impoverished young people who are deep into drugs when they find out that they are pregnant. They are making decisions in a very unhealthy mindset trying to create a better life for themselves. In doing that, they have to face the consequences of their actions, which are pretty dark. I was drawn to this material because Annabelle, the character that I play, is so vastly different from the life that I’ve lived. I really wanted to get into the mindset of someone who is being abused but is also making their own set of wrong decisions while on drugs. I really wanted to get into the mind of an addict. That was very appealing to me!
Tell us a bit about how you bring a new character to life?
Music plays a massive role for me and helps to get me into character. When I am taking on a new character, I almost instantly make a playlist. I like to go on long walks and listen to the music. I like to think about my character and what they are thinking about or what they are doing. I try to be the character as I walk. It’s really simple. With this character, I would listen to these two particular instrumental and string songs because her essence really brought me back to this raw, western feel which I felt was her vibe.
What did you bring to this character that wasn’t in the original script?
I feel I brought a level of innocence and, honestly, likability to her. I say that because when we were first approaching this script, she was written as not very likable! [laughs] I remember working on the scenes with Nick Lyon and Serah Henesey. Sarah actually brought up the first thing and, I think, changed it before I was even cast, which was, “We can’t have her doing drugs while she knows she is pregnant.” It’s just too difficult to root for somebody in that situation, and there would be absolutely nobody to root for! We also morphed her to not be as violent. As I soaked into Annabelle, and I don’t want to give too much away but, I made her have a heart, and I followed the heart of my character.
You shot this film in Virginia. What can you tell us about your time in the area?
It was so beautiful! Absolutely stunning! We were there during October and November in Middleburg, Virginia. It was when all the leaves were changing, and it was an absolute dream! We filmed on this huge property where there was a river that ran through, and it was absolutely stunning!
You mentioned director Nick Lyon who helmed this project and assembled a great cast. What did they bring out in you in a creative sense?
Nick was really good at capturing these action sequences of us running. Aside from understanding how to capture the best action sequences, he helped me quite a bit. We talked about how there was so much intensity in all of the scenes, so it’s nice to have a stabilizing character that isn’t necessarily freaking out on the surface and is someone the audience can see themselves as — the observer. One of the biggest things I learned from this project was how to be a stabilizing character and how to be able to witness without reacting and have that be enough. Usually, when you are acting, you want to perform. Sometimes we forget that doing nothing, observing, and taking the situation in is acting! Letting that natural essence come through and having it be enough was what I learned from this film.
I also worked very closely with Rob Riordan. We were literally partners in crime! [laughs] I loved working with him. He has a lot of experience in theater as well. He didn’t have as much experience in improv, where I do, and I love to improv! I think that was freaking him out at first. He was like, “Whoa. What are you doing? That’s not your line!” [laughs] As we got rolling, I think he really loved it. He knew his character so well. He’s the type of character that does a 30-page bio on his character, which is excellent. He really gets in-depth and does all of his acting work. We meshed so well together! We knew our characters so well that we would improvise together. Creating in the moment with him was amazing!
You had an incredible year in 2021. Another massive project for you was Netflix’s ‘Fear Street: Part Two – 1978.’ What was that experience like for you?
It was a fantastic experience! I had no idea what to expect. It was really surreal because the release was during the pandemic, so we weren’t doing a lot of press or anything outside of our homes. I just saw my following on my social media just shoot up. I was like, “Are these real accounts?” [laughs] It was so weird because you don’t see all of these people, and nowadays, everything is just seems like a number on your screen, so it doesn’t seem real. It isn’t like you are walking up to a crowd of people! Honestly, it seems more like four people created a few thousand accounts! I don’t know! [laughs] It’s been amazing. I think the recognition for the project has been incredible. It’s well deserved because it’s a fantastic cast that is going places; every single one of them, along with the director who is outstanding!
What stands out as your creative milestones?
I definitely see “Fear Street” as a creative milestone. While I haven’t seen “The Surprise Visit” yet, it is definitely a milestone for me in terms of traveling and really taking on a lead character that is so different from me. I can’t even comprehend how big a milestone it is because not enough time has passed. I also see directing the video I just put out as a milestone because it’s the very first thing that I have ever directed, written, produced, and put out on my own. I’m so proud of the video because it’s so from my heart. I definitely see it as the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what I’m going to do with my career. I’m really excited about all of these things!
The video you mentioned is for a Patrick Droney song titled “Glitter.” It’s a beautiful piece of work. Tell us about the video and how this collaboration came about!
Thank you so much. Basically, it’s about the loss of my mother, who passed away about three years ago. I heard this song, and it was so magical. It connected with me so much. As you said, it’s called “Glitter,” and the whole essence of the song is that grief is just like glitter; it’s hard to brush away. I really love that metaphor because it’s brought a certain beauty to grief and death that I had never thought about. I really wanted to capture that, so I reached out to Patrick directly and asked if I could make a video with his song, and he said yes! I was over the moon and did everything I could to really do justice to this beautiful song.
Where do you find yourself looking for inspiration these days?
The things that have me most inspired are the things that scare me a little bit, not just slashers but films that scare me emotionally. If I’m able to do it, I like to try and grow my feet to fit shoes that are too big for me. I like to connect to people in ways that help heal them, so those are things that really excite me!
I also wanted to ask you about your upcoming collaboration with Backwards Noise magazine. The issue you are a part of looks incredible! How did that come about, and what can we expect?
Oh, yes! I linked up with them to shoot and share my upcoming projects in art. Basically, they are a magazine that covers new and upcoming artists. I am so blessed to be under their umbrella of new artists that they want to cover! We linked up and did an amazing photoshoot for their solstice theme! I’m really looking forward to seeing the magazine!
It all feeds back into that collaborative spirit you have!
Exactly! Anytime I can connect with other artists, I do. It helps you grow and discover things you never knew were there.
What is on the horizon for you in the short term? Hoping we will all be back in the swing of things in 2022!
I had an opportunity to play a small role in a new, upcoming HBO series called “Minx.” It’s another project, like “Fear Street,” that is based in the 70s. It’s going to be a fantastic series, so I am so excited to be a part of it in any way possible! Follow me on Instagram to keep up with other things that are coming involving my writing. That’s all I can say!
Before I let you go, I have one more for ya. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey!
You gotta risk it to get the biscuit! [laughs] I say to take a risk. Take a leap of faith. Know that you don’t have to know the answer to “Who, what, when, where, and why.” You have to have a passion for doing it. If you do — GO FOR IT!
That’s very exciting! I feel 2022 is going to be an exciting year for you. I wish you continued success!
Thank you so much, Jason! It was a pleasure talking to you!
“The Surprise Visit” premieres in theaters and on-demand January 14th from Vertical Entertainment. Catch a glimpse of the continuing adventures of Jacqi Vene on Instagram!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.