/Jessica Chastain Says She Ate Banana Peels Growing Up So Kids Would Notice Me

Jessica Chastain Says She Ate Banana Peels Growing Up So Kids Would Notice Me

Jessica Chastain may never have discovered her talent for acting if she’d been more devoted to her schoolwork as a child.

The newly minted Oscar winner reflected on her adolescent years in an interview with The Guardian published this week. She recalled how her home life and overall disinterest in academics made the success she would later achieve seem unattainable.

“I had always thought that I wasn’t an intelligent person because I did badly at school,” Chastain said. “I was an obnoxious kid because I wasn’t getting appropriate attention. I would do things like eat banana peels in the lunch rooms so kids would notice me.”

Faced with what she describes as a lack of parental engagement, Chastain dropped out of high school.

“I wasn’t good with homework because I’d watch TV – soap operas – all day when I got home,” she told The Guardian. “When I didn’t graduate, no one even noticed. It wasn’t even a conversation of, ‘Uh, are we going to your graduation?’ Nothing.”

Chastain was raised in Sacramento, California, by her mom, Jerri, and stepfather, Michael Hastey. She was long estranged from her late biological father, Michael Monasterio, who is reportedly not listed on her birth certificate. One of Chastain’s sisters, Juliet, died by suicide in 2003 at age 24.

Jessica Chastain at the 2022 Academy Awards in March.
Jessica Chastain at the 2022 Academy Awards in March.

Emma McIntyre via Getty Images

As for Chastain, she turned out to be a somewhat eccentric truant, and eventually found refuge in reading Shakespeare and other classical texts. When she was 15, she took a trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and caught actor Marco Barricelli’s performance of Richard III, at which point “something opened up inside me.”

“It felt like someone understood me in a different way,” she told The Guardian. “It’s like you’re not being seen. Then all of a sudden, someone who was alive years ago sees you.”

After receiving her diploma as an adult, Chastain began performing in local theater groups and eventually was cast as Juliet in a production of “Romeo & Juliet.” The actor playing Romeo suggested she apply to New York’s prestigious arts school Juilliard, which counts Viola Davis, Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac among its famous alumni. At age 22, she was accepted on a scholarship funded by Robin Williams.

“It completely opened me up,” she told Entertainment Weekly in 2015 of her experience at Juilliard. “There are kids out there that aren’t doing well in school—and I hope they never think it means they’re stupid. It’s all about finding where your interest lies and finding what you’re good at.”

The rest, of course, is history. In March, Chastain received an Academy Award for her portrayal of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” co-starring Andrew Garfield. She currently stars as country music legend Tammy Wynette in the Showtime miniseries, “George & Tammy,” and next year will appear on Broadway in a production of “A Doll’s House.”

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