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Jesse Jo Stark is shaping up to be one of fall 2021’s “It” creatives with a multi-hyphenate career that spans fashion, music and now television. A singer-songwriter who splits her time between Los Angeles and London, Stark makes her acting debut this month in the new, five-episode dramatic series Fracture, produced in a noteworthy collaboration between a television network, Britain’s Channel 4, and a French fashion house, Balmain.
Premiering today, Sept. 2, both online and on Channel 4, Fracture centers on Mya, played by Stark, a creatively stuck singer-songwriter who is holed up in a grungily glam fictional L.A. motel called Le Reve, trying to get distance from her privileged and complicated upbringing. Her co-stars are Tommy Dorfman (played Mya’s sister Ari), Riverdale‘s Charles Melton and Ajani Russell (Betty, Skate Kitchen).
All the actors chose their own clothes from the label’s Fall 2021 collection to wear in the series, which was developed by Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing. Explained Rousteing in a statement about the house’s decision to create the series in partnership with Channel 4: “Fracture helps to make very clear Balmain’s determination to continue to break down boundaries and engage in unexpected, compelling and entertaining ways with lovers of fashion, music and design. Fracture’s story, writing, acting, directing and images are incredible — I loved being able to play a part in making this happen … I love that Fracture helps us reach a much wider public, while allowing those who already know the house a new way of experiencing Balmain.
In a phone interview from London with The Hollywood Reporter, Stark says, “I really loved how involved I felt in the project. I felt like Balmain and Olivier really let us all be a part of developing each character in terms of their personality, their glam, their wardrobe. It felt really collaborative.”
“Everything obviously is elevated and there’s humor behind the fashion. We’re so dressed up in such a run-down motel and you see as the show goes on, the characters kind of evolve through their clothes as well. I wanted Mya to be comfortable and sexy and rock ‘n’ roll in these big sweaters and belts,” says Stark, adding, “I love this Sherpa jacket that’s so comfortable in the opening scene.”
Stark — who is a designer herself, at Chrome Hearts, the jewelry and accessories company co-founded in 1988 by her father Richard — says she was drawn to the part because of the evident parallels between herself and the character. “I absolutely obviously resonated with Mya being a musician myself like struggling with insecurities and writing and making it on your own and finding the voice. It was kind of an extension of ourselves and what we go through in our personal lives.”
She also wrote music for the series (which is directed by Bradley & Pablo), including her newly released single, “A Pretty Place to Fall Apart”, a song that confronts loneliness. “I felt like there was something missing, and I wrote A Pretty Place a week before [shooting] and they ended up loving it and it ended up being in the show,” says Stark, whose new four-song EP of the same name has just dropped. It features music from the series.
Balmain approached Stark to audition for Fracture, which serves as a sort of unorthodox campaign for the label’s latest clothes. “It was actually funny,” she recalls. “Balmain had wanted to work with me before and they made a comment, ‘We made a mood board and you were all over it and we realized why aren’t we asking Jesse Jo to do this?'”
Continues Stark, “I said to them I had never acted before, and I was so intimidated by the project which made me want to do it more. And I started taking classes — I’m going to be prepared for this audition and this series. And I started writing with Mya in mind.”
She first met the rest of the cast at the series’ table read. “We were really thrown into this together and we really complemented each other. It was such a lovely cast and it was really cool,” says Stark.
As for her design projects at Chrome Hearts, Stark says, “I always to try to keep them somewhat separate, even though music and design always complement each other in my life. Of course, I’m totally involved in my family’s business. We all wear so many different hats between my mother, my dad and my brother and my sister. I work on projects that make sense to me.” Her most recent Chrome Hearts creations are her slinky Sugar Jones boots, in styles like pink patent leather and leopard print. The boots are something “that I developed for stage. I wanted something that made me feel sexy and feline and I can strut in,” says Stark, who also designs the stage looks for other musical artists, including performance skirts worn by her boyfriend, punk rocker Yungblud.
Stark, who plans to head to New York soon for the city’s Fashion Week, says, looking back at the last year and a half, that there were silver linings to the downtime spent during pandemic lockdowns. “It was inspiring in its own way even though it was hard on the world. I met myself in a different way and got to go through things in a different way. A lot of songs came out of that.”
Among the biggest fans of her music is Rousteing. Says the designer, “That beautiful music of hers has been stuck on a non-stop loop inside my head for months.”
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