The 22nd Virginia Festival of the Book is underway this week in beautiful Charlottesville, VA. Produced by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the Festival brings together authors known locally and nationally for interesting and enlightening panel discussions. Lisa Jakub was there on opening day to promote her memoir, You Look Like That Girl: A Child Actor Stops Pretending and Finally Grows Up. She also spent a few minutes with Blogcritics to discuss her work.
A former actress, Jakub is perhaps best known for her roles in Mrs. Doubtfire and Independence Day. She left the acting profession at the age of twenty-two and now works as a writer. She lives in Virginia with her husband, Jeremy, and their rescue dog, Grace.
Have you been to the VA Festival of the Book before?
I have! I have attended for several years in a row now. It makes it even more exciting to actually be able to participate because it’s an event that I always look forward to.
In your memoir, you focus on your time as an actress and the transition to what you refer to as a more “authentic” life. What were some of the pros and cons of working as an actor?
Well, it was a very interesting way to grow up. I got to travel a lot, which was always my favorite part of working – being able to go to a place, really live there for three months at a time, and get to know a place. I worked in Prague, Honduras, Dublin, and all of these really amazing places. I always loved that opportunity. I loved getting a chance to meet some really amazing people. There’s this very beautiful communal feeling on the set. It’s like this group of people who become a family really quickly because they’re working on this common creative goal. I loved that as well.
But I just got to this point where I looked around at my friends who were all actors. They were very passionate about what they did and I was jealous of that. I was working more out of momentum than a real feeling that this was what I wanted for my life. That was when I got to that point where I realized I wanted to make a change. I wanted to change my mind and do something different with my life.
Going off of that, it’s a very focused and determined lifestyle change in a sense to go from Los Angeles and then eventually to the Blue Ridge Mountains. You almost turned back at one point to audition again. What were some of the changes you made in your life?
It’s very funny to me that it seems “focused and determined” because it felt terrifying and haphazard at the time! (laughs) You know, I think when I thought about staying in Los Angeles and staying in that life, it really felt like I would be kind of submitting to somebody else’s definition of success. People saw me as successful but I did not feel that for myself. I really wanted something that was different. Maybe other people wouldn’t see it as successful or as impressive, but I felt like there was something out there. I had no clue what it was at the time but I really hoped that there was something that would make me feel like … I was living a life that fit me better than the one I had been living.
I think it was an absolute and complete change of everything in my life. There was something really wonderful about that. I could just sort of strip everything away and get still for a moment. I could actually think, “What does success look like to me? What does a happy life look like?” It’s really hard to step back and not just take other people’s opinions in, but really think about what your priorities are.
I’m a fellow Wahoo, so I have to ask you a University of Virginia question. UVa offers such a wide range of majors. Why did you decide to study sociology there?
I really love sociology! I kind of wonder if I love it so much because my childhood was so unusual… I really grew up in this subculture of “movieland” that I wanted to study how normal culture worked. There was something very intriguing to me about just looking at the normal things people tend to overlook and analyze why in our culture we do things the way that we do things. I always feel like I picked that major so I could catch up and know a bit more about society than what I was supposed to have just absorbed by growing up in it.
You invest a lot of time speaking to groups across the country, especially to the youth. Talk about that experience.
I could not be more shocked that doing speaking events is something that I would ever do, let alone enjoy. I am very much an introvert. I have social anxiety and panic attacks. I am not a classic candidate for a public speaker. I get terrified every time. However, I have found it to be incredibly rewarding and so much fun! I am able to talk about issues are really important to me, [like] this idea of authenticity.
I am writing a new book about anxiety, depression, and panic attacks. I am talking with students and folks at conferences about these issues, which I feel like people don’t talk about very much. It is such an important issue and so many people suffer silently. The ability to go and discuss these issues openly and really be able to connect with people has just been a really wonderful side effect of my writing.
I really appreciate your honest and insightful answers during this interview today. I wish you all the best here at the Festival!
Thank you so much!