You’d be hard pressed trying to find a job title that accurately described Jessica Blank’s career. Actress-novelist-playwright-screenwriter-producer is the best one can do. It does cover all bases, but doesn’t even hint at the bravery of her work. Through much of Jessica’s writing is a strong thread of advocacy, from the beginning of her career she has been unafraid to tackle issues others may balk at. With (her now husband, then boyfriend) Erik Jensen, Jessica co-wrote The Exonerated, a play based on self-conducted interviews with more than 40 exonerated death row inmates. Nominated for 5 Ovation Awards and three NAACP Awards, it won the Ovation Award for Best World Premiere Play, won Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Fringe First and Herald Angel Awards, to name a few. The Exonerated ran for over 600 performances off-Broadway, and was made into a film starring Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover, Brian Dennehy, Aiden Quinn and Delroy Lindo and has been translated into 4 different languages. And with that beginning, Jessica took the world of theatre by storm.
Following The Exonerated, her play Liberty City was produced by the New York Theatre Workshop, with Jessica herself directing. And again, it was nominated for Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards. Jessica and Erik also co-wrote the play Aftermath based on interviews they conducted with Iraqi civilian refugees in Jordan. Currently, the two are co-writing a play called How to Be a Rock Critic based on the writing of legendary gonzo rock journalist Lester Bangs, which Jessica just directed as part of the New Work Now festival at the Public Theater. It will also be coming to the Center Theater Group in Los Angeles this December as a workshop.
As an actor, Jessica has appeared on Law and Order: CI, Rescue Me, Bored to Death, You’re Nobody Till Somebody Kills You (exec. Prod. Spike Lee), On the Road with Judas (Sundance 2007), and Made in Jersey (CBS). She just shot an episode of The Mentalist, which, if you’re in the US, you can catch on October 6th. As an author, she has had 2 novels published, the first, Almost Home, about homeless youth in Los Angeles. Her second novel, Karma for Beginners, tells the story of Tessa, a 14 year old girl whose mother pulls her out of school to live in an Ashram in the Catskill Mountains of New York.
Along with a multitude of film and TV projects currently in development, Jessica has expanded her work to the world of web television. She co-wrote, co-produced and stars in the upcoming web series Good Medicine. I was fortunate enough to work on the show myself and, already familiar with Jessica’s body of work, came to greatly admire her collaborative nature, and extreme level of dedication to all that she does. The show is a comedy about a ragtag group of characters who work in a medical marijuana dispensary, The Dharma Collective. It features an incredible star-studded cast, and is currently crowd funding for its post production budget. You can learn more about the show on Indiegogo. And did I mention that on top of ALL this amazing work, Jessica is also a mother, to a ridiculously groovy gurl who has an appearance as the younger version of Jessica’s character in Good Medicine? If you’re a woman as fierce as Jessica Blank, maybe, just maybe, you can have it all.