Jessica Howard (born March 24, 1977), known professionally as Jessica Chastain, is an American theater, film and television actress. She is best known for her roles in the films Zero Dark Thirty, The Help, The Debt, Take Shelter, Coriolanus, The Tree of Life, and Lawless. She rose to prominence in 2011, starring in seven films released in that year. For her performance in the 2011 film, The Help, Chastain received Best Supporting Actress nominations for the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, BAFTA, and the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award. She subsequently won a Golden Globe and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as the CIA officer Maya in the 2012 military action film, Zero Dark Thirty. In 2012, Time magazine named her one of "The 100 Most Influential People in the World".
Early life and education
Chastain was born and raised around Sonoma, California, and had a "blue collar" upbringing there. She is one of five children. Her mother is a vegan chef, and her father (one source says stepfather) is a firefighter. Chastain is also vegan herself. She grew up as Jessica Howard, and later took her mother's maiden name as her stage name.
She graduated from El Camino High School in Sacramento in 1995 and attended Sacramento City College, where she was a member of the debate team (1996-1997). In 1998, she appeared as Juliet in a production of Romeo and Juliet staged by TheatreWorks, a professional theater company in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Chastain then attended the Juilliard School in New York City as a member of the Drama Division's Group 32 (1999-2003), which also included Michael Urie and Jess Weixler. She was an active participant in the drama department and starred in several theatrical productions and student film projects. She graduated from Juilliard with a B.F.A. degree in 2003.