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You may know Jaz Sinclair as Angela from the coming-of-age film Paper Towns. The 22-year-old actress has taken a much different role in psychological thriller When the Bough Breaks, released in theaters September 9. If When the Bough Breaks is your introduction to Jaz Sinclair, you would have no idea the versatile actress has appeared in fewer films than you have fingers on your hands.

Sinclair plays Anna, a young woman who married couple John and Laura Taylor (Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall) believe will be the perfect surrogate and the answer to their desire to have a child. Anna develops an unnatural and obsessive fixation with Morris, which spirals into a dark and compelling tale. The young woman desperately wants to help this couple but loses herself while doing so. Sinclair portrays a potentially villainized woman as an honest, multifaceted human with complex emotions and good intentions gone astray. 

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Tell me a bit about your character Anna from When the Bough Breaks.

Anna is 21 year-old girl and she’s kind of shy at the beginning and she’s just a human that wants to help other people just like most of us.

How did you prepare for your role as a surrogate?

I did a lot of research into surrogacy. I went to a surrogacy agency and, because I wanted to do it right. On the script, it’s kind of a dark experience. They kind of berated [Anna] to make sure she was strong enough to handle it and the actual surrogacy agency was bright and shiny and happy and the people were so kind. It was such a stark contrast. The ideal candidate or surrogate is someone about 30 who had their own kids and doesn’t want any more, so I had to ask why then would they pick this beautiful, 21-year-old girl that never had kids to be their surrogate. I realized how she comes from a really genuine place and she really wants to help somebody, and that was a big eye-opener for me. So I went to the surrogacy agency, but I also just studied the heck out of the script and would take it with me everywhere and always had it in the back of my head and kind of always thinking about why would she do this. They gave me a card when I left. They were like, “If you’re ever considering surrogacy or donating your eggs, give us a call.” Okay. Nobody’s going to hire me to be their surrogate after this film.        

This psychological thriller is heavy. Did it take a toll on you emotionally or mentally?

Yes. It did. It was really hard if I’m being completely honest. Just having to go to those dark places and feeling those emotions. On set, I was able to switch in and out of it pretty quickly for the sake of other people, but I would go home and would juts have all of this residual dust that I just shook out from inside of myself. It was really hard to work through and when I finished the film I had to go be by myself for 10 days in the woods, I just had to leave and even now, after seeing the film and talking about it all the time... It’s emotionally taxing for me to go to those places because I did have to just pull up my raw, dark emotions and play with them. Most people spend half their life suppressing those things, to just have them in your face is scary and the emotions are not necessarily mine but I had to try and make them mine. It was a challenge in that regard.

How you got this role?

I had an audition and I hadn’t read the script yet. I kind of procrastinated before my audition. There were four very different scenes to do, and I was like, oh shit, how am I going to do this? I don’t know my material two weeks in advance of an audition because it gets stale. I don’t like to practice it so much that it doesn’t have any life in it. I had that going for me because I totally procrastinated for this one. When you get in the audition, they want to see the full range of this character. I kind of like to think of her as two separate people. So I took my scene and played all four of the scenes very authentically, sort of judging the character instead of judging her actions.

What was it is like, going from not really doing a lot of acting, to being cast in Paper Towns, and now having a lead role in When The Bough Breaks?

It is fast and exciting and it’s scary. Right now, that’s what I’m feeling. It’s all so new, and I’m a generally pretty private person. I’m not Hollywood glam. I’m hair up, no makeup, yoga, reading books, hanging out with all my friends. It’s strange for me to see my body on billboards. It’s really, really, really exciting because I feel like it’s a wonderful opportunity for me to be able to show my range and show what I can do, and then a little piece of me is really scared because I feel like my life if changing and that’s always scary. And everyone is so happy for me and I’m excited and so happy. I’m living the dream. There’s only so much room where I get to be like I’m terrified. I’m glad I’m doing it like this. I’m glad I’ve had the opportunities I had. I’m so fortunate to even be able to call myself a working actor. The amount of amazing, talented actors in LA who don’t get spots, it’s crazy, so the fact that I’ve even been given this crazy opportunity to show this huge range at such a young age, as a black female, early in my career, it’s life changing and I will forever be grateful for this opportunity.

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Have you always wanted to act?

No, I wanted to do a lot of different things. I think if I hadn’t done acting, I probably would have done therapy or psychology because I love people. I’ve always been an observer. I remember walking around the supermarket with my parents and I would watch the people walk next to us and kind of like mimic their walks. I had just always been fascinated. Why do they do that? Why did they say that? Why did they do that weird thing? I wonder why I am the way I am? Can I change the way I am? Sometimes I would just question things a lot and that’s why I wanted to do something with people. I got to use my love of acting and situations of psychology and become the person and test things and realized I had the ability to kind of transform myself. I had the power to see the world through different eyes and as someone who is fascinated by people, the opportunity to live 100 different lives, it’s too good to pass up.

Are you a fan or horror or thriller films?

No, I’m not. I’m the biggest baby ever! I can’t watch horror films. When my friends invite me to a movie and they can’t go, they decide to go to a horror film because that’s the only kind of film they’ll see without me. I can’t do it, I get weird, I get scared, but I do like dark films. This isn’t a film, but I’m watching Bates Motel right now and I’m obsessed, and Psycho and I love Fight Club and American Beauty. I like characters that you have to question why they do the certain things they do. I kind of gravitate towards characters with a bit of an edge. It’s really fun because people tend to perceive me as really sweet and all that, which is really nice and I’m glad people think that I am sweet, but it’s always really fun for me to let my gravity show and let some of my anger out.

What’s your dream role?

My favorite movie is Silver Linings Playbook and so Tiffany Maxwell would be a dream, and I love her and I’m obsessed with her. Or something in Harry Potter. If I got to be in Harry Potter, I could die happy. There’s literally nothing that would make me happier and whole as a living, human creature than to be in a Harry Potter movie.

So, who would you like to play in Harry Potter?

Oh my God this is so great. I think I’d go for Luna or Hermione of Bellatrix. I like the bad characters, they’re fun. I walk around my neighborhood listening to Harry Potter on audiotape, so I’m all in.

Top photo credited to Adeline Wohlwend

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