YOU OFTEN FIND beauty and power blended in nature, but for some reason it's a rare mix among human beings. Jaimie Alexander defies that trend in dramatic fashion. With her pixie haircut and disarming smile, and a slender frame beneath a sleeveless white T-shirt, she looks totally harmless. But I know for a fact that this woman can throw a punch, wield a sword and handle a mean driving machine. And not just on the silver screen. Alexander is fully capable of doing those things in real life, too.
Much like the state where she was raised (Texas), this is not a woman you want to mess with. She was the speedy, agile, sword master Lady Sif in both Thor movies, maestro of hand-to-hand combat and super-secret crush of a million geeks around the globe. She was the sure-shot deputy sheriff who helped Arnold Schwarzenegger thwart a Mexican drug cartel in The Last Stand. She fought off a legion of evil scarecrows in Hallowed Ground. And she did all of those things while maintaining a simmering sensuality that definitely set her apart from the macho men who surrounded her in all those roles.
Raised in Grapevine, Texas, on the outskirts of Dallas, Alexander caught the acting bug in high school and drifted to Hollywood shortly after graduation. Paying her dues by waiting tables at dive restaurants, Alexander eventually scored gigs in a string of low-budget horror films like Rest Stop, The Other Side and Hallowed Ground. Her “big break” came in 2007 when she landed the part of Jessi Hollander in Kyle XY, a hit sci-fi series. That rolled over into an even bigger break playing Lady Sif in Thor.
Making sure she didn't get typecast in supernatural roles, Alexander aggressively pursued dramatic and even comedic parts, a rich catalogue of characters that ranged from the edgy Tunie Peyton on HBO's Nurse Jackie series to the aristocratic Lucy Stubbs in an early American period piece called Savannah. Alexander's latest movies will hit theatres in late 2014 and early next year: a film version of the Martin Amis novel London Fields (in which she stars alongside Billy Bob Thornton and Amber Heard) and a creepy psychological thriller called Broken Vows.
Are you as tough in real life as you come across on the screen?
You know, I think so. I've been through a lot in my life and I bring that to my characters when I play them. And I do have to learn all the fighting and weapons training and those types of things. But physically I think I'm quite tough, and of course I'm also quite vulnerable, and I try to put that in the character as well. I like to be balanced.
What's the hardest thing physically you've had to do for a role?
I would have to say playing Lady Sif, running in the very high shoes that I wear, the very tight corset and hot leather – the costumes weigh quite a bit and fighting and running in that is quite demanding physically.
Did your toughness and adeptness for physical roles come from growing up with four brothers?
I would say that it does. I give them a lot of credit – they definitely made me. They're great guys. I love each and every one of them. But I was also big into sports growing up. I like being part of a team. I like discipline. I like working hard.
Did you sword fight with your brothers?
[Laughs] I punched them mostly. In the face. Especially my poor little brother. But yeah, I would always play fight with them, climb trees, build forts. And then when I got into high school I started the female wrestling team. I really wanted to give females like me, who grew up the way I did, an outlet for aggression and I wanted them to learn self-defence and to learn their worth and to feel strong and empowered. A lot of those girls were bullied in school and it just gave them a team to be a part of. It was extremely hard work to be a wrestler. But we did really well and we all trained together and formed a sisterhood, so to speak. I try to bring that to my work now. I speak about body image at schools and I like to go to children's hospitals and just empower young people – especially females.
And you also know how to handle yourself on a Harley.
Yes, I do. I learned to ride on a Buell – they have a great learner's programme. Then I moved to a Triumph Bonneville which belongs to my boyfriend (actor Peter Facinelli) and he was kind enough to let me ride it and sort of claim it as my own. I enjoy being on the Triumph but I've had a kindred spirit relationship with Harley. I just love Harley Davidson and I have since I was a kid. So I'm now on an Iron 883. The weight is all in the front on the Iron, so it's definitely taken some getting used to. But I've really enjoyed it.
You've played some really interesting characters. What movie or TV roles from your past did you most identify with?
I really identified with Jessi on Kyle XY because she was an outcast. She had very unique abilities. She did things that were against the grain that I sort of associate with wrestling in high school and doing things that weren't typical of a female in Texas. And I just identified with her loneliness and feeling like an outcast and wanting to belong. There were some moments on that show that paralleled my life so much at the time and it was nice to have an outlet for that in my work. I identified a lot with her back then and I can still find some parallels to that.
From Thor to The Last Stand, you've had a chance to costar alongside some of the icons of modern cinema. As an actor, what were you able to learn from some of these legends?
Anthony Hopkins is one of my favourite people in the world. I hurt my back pretty badly on Thor 2 and he and his wife looked after me a lot. It was a really neat experience brought on by a really horrific thing. They're wonderful people, and for him, acting is just fun. It's not a life or death matter and it doesn't really seem that hard for him. He just shows up when they say he's to show up and says his lines. He can appreciate characters like we all do, but he doesn't put all his eggs in one basket and I really like that about him. He's also a painter and there are so many other talents that he has. And he's just a joy to be around. He's not into idolising anyone, which I agree with. I never look up to an actor and say how incredibly wonderful they are, because I don't know them in person. I might like how they play this character and I can admire that they work hard, but other that that I don't put anybody on a pedestal. But I did freak out once when I met Warren Beatty at a Peet's Coffee & Tea and I know he could tell. But boy was he suave.
Why Warren Beatty?
I just turned around and he was behind me in line and I heard a woman laugh and I knew it was Annette Bening. You can't mistake that laugh. And I turned around and he was actually standing right in front of me. I turned back towards the counter and pretended I didn't see him. I heard him laugh and I turned around again, and he said hello, and shook my hand, and I was just like, “Oh my God. This is Warren Beatty.”
Did you learn anything from Arnold Schwarzenegger?
I did, actually. He's a smartass and I loved it. And he's also very kind. On set we got hit by a blizzard and he went to Wal-Mart because that was the only store around and he bought a lot of space heaters and sweaters and things like that to give out to the crew. And he's an incredibly hard worker. He split his head open, went and got stitches and came back the same day to film more work. I just thought, he really is the Terminator. He's really a machine. But he's extremely kind. For Christmas he sent my brothers presents and a card. He's just a very charismatic human being and an extremely intelligent guy. Especially when it come to business. I learned a lot from him just chatting with him about the industry and things like that.
Horror, action, comedy, drama – you've done a lot of different genres. Do you have a preference?
To be honest, I love action mixed with a good drama. I do like the physicality of action roles – a good script that has some spectacular stunts but is also so well written you can get a real feel for the characters. They did a really good job of that in the first Thor. It's easy for me, action. But I really love the opportunity to dig into a character and show my range and not just swing a sword. I'm really happy to be on The Brink right now because I don't have as big a background in comedy – just a couple of guest-stars here and there on some TV shows – and I really love comedy even though it's extremely unnatural for me. Everything is over the top and I work from a place of realism. Most of what happens with me is right in my eyes and so it's been a challenge to be physical, but it been really fun. Of course, I am learning from some of the best – actors like Jack Black and Tim Robbins.
There's certainly a lot of buzz about The Brink.
I haven't been cleared by HBO to speak about it, but what I can say is that the show is a political dark comedy. Jack Black is fantastic, Tim Robbins is really the nicest person I've ever met, Pablo Schreiber is incredible. Yes, they're very secretive about it. But I will say it's one of the best-written projects I've ever done.
You also have a new feature film coming out towards the end of this year, London Fields.
London Fields was a fun little project I did. I have a very interesting cameo in it. The movie is full of cameos by lots of different people, like Johnny Depp. My character is Jackie O on steroids in the worst way possible. She's very pretentious. She drives an Aston Martin and everything has to be perfect and diamonds and pearls and the whole lot. It's so different from who I am that I jumped at playing the part. The story is about a woman who foresees that she is going to be murdered and then tries to meet the man who is going to kill her, although she's not exactly sure which of three guys it's going to be. That's Amber Heard's character. It's a very interesting concept and the director is really great. Pretty much everybody on that movie was really cool – Billy Bob Thornton, Theo James ...
And waiting in the wings is Broken Vows, yet another new movie that's about to hit cinemas.
A friend of mine, Bram Coppens, is the director. He wanted to do a very non-cliché stalker movie, so it's very much a character study about what makes people tick and what makes them do the things they do and how deep that goes. The stalker is played by Wes Bentley, who's an incredible actor. The script revolves around a girl named Tara. On a trip she ends up meeting this guy – Wes Bentley's character – who is just magnetic and she's never felt that way before and they have a one-night stand. Afterwards she realises that she has made a mistake. And that's very cliché and very typical. But the movie is really about just how far into someone's head you can go, as far as the unravelling of who he is. There's this character who she thought was this amazing person who turns out to be a very broken, enraged, psychotic individual. My character finds this inner strength she didn't know she had and stands up for herself and ultimately brings Wes's character down.
Were you able to draw anything from your real life for this role?
I've never really had a stalker. I've been really lucky. I don't know if it's because people are afraid of me or what. I always play these characters with guns and swords and nobody wants to stalk me.
Is there more Thor in your future?
Yes, I'm sure there will be more Thor, from what I hear. I haven't signed on, but I will guess that I'll be in it. I don't know to what degree or what the story line is going to be. And I think they do that on purpose so that we don't accidentally spill the beans. Actors are the last to know.
PHOTOGRAPHY ERIC MICHAEL ROY
CREATIVE DIRECTOR PARIS LIBBY
HAIR MICHA EL SPARKS AT CIA SPARKS SALON FOR GRID AGENCY
MAKE-UP BARBARA LAMELZA FOR DIOR COSMETICS
STYLING JANELLE MILLER
PHOTO ASSISTANTS PEPE LEON AND PHILIP NARVAEZ
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT COREY BOARDMAN
LOCATION MACK SENNETT STUDIOS, LOS ANGELES