Jessica Chastain Reveals What Al Pacino Taught Her

Photographed By Ruven Afanador

As part of THR's Actress Roundtable, Saoirse Ronan, Allison Janney and Mary J. Blige also reveal their mentors and inspirations.

Whom do Hollywood's top actresses turn to for inspiration and advice?

Six of Hollywood's leading ladies — Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Mary J. Blige, Allison Janney and Saoirse Ronan — sat down for The Hollywood Reporter's Actress Roundtable, where they opened up about those who had mentored them on their journey to stardom. 

Chastain, who stars in this year's Molly's Game, credited Al Pacino, who directed her first film, 2013's Salome, as a mentor, saying he taught her how to convey emotion on camera. 

"[The camera] can see more into you than your scene partner. Look at it not like it's a separate thing but like it's part of your body almost; it has a direct link to your soul," she said of what Pacino told her. "Whatever you're feeling, you can try to hide it, but the camera is going to get it."

Ronan, star of Lady Bird, told THR about a co-star on upcoming film Queen of Scots who helped her figure out a scene when she was struggling to connect with material set in the 16th century. 

"He said, 'You know, what it comes down to is you just have to talk like a human.' And as soon as he said it to me, I just kind of went, 'Oh yeah, that's actually it,'" Ronan recalled. "No matter what era you're in or what kind of language you're using, it's just about remembering that this person is just a human being." 

Blige, who stars in this fall's Mudbound, relied on her friend and acting coach to get her through the film's shoot. 

"I was going through hell in my personal life and I just ran over to her house and threw myself on the floor and started crying. And she was like, 'This is what you do.' She didn't baby me, she said, 'You take all of that shit, and you give it to Florence,'" Blige said of channeling her emotions into her character. 

Janney, featured in I, Tonya, remembered when late acting teacher Sanford Meisner told her, "Don't let anyone tell you you're too tall to act." 

Click here for the full interview. Tune in to THR.com/roundtables for more roundtables featuring talent from the year’s top films.