Jessica Chastain often portrays women fighting for themselves on screen—much like in her own life.
As the Golden Globe winner candidly recalled in a recent interview with WSJ. Magazine, she was raised by a single mother in a financially vulnerable household.
"We moved quite a bit, we were evicted, and there were times when we were living with my mom's friends," the Molly's Game star described to the magazine. "I saw how much she struggled. Whenever a man would come into the household, it would usually lead to some sense of financial upheaval."
Soon, Chastain faced what she described as "a turning point" while the family was living with her mother's then-boyfriend. "My room was messy or whatever and he had taken my clothes, and I was telling him to give me back my stuff—and he slapped me," the two-time Oscar nominee remembered.
"And I just kicked him in the genitals, and he fell to the ground immediately. It was me, my sister and my brother—and I remember looking at my sister's face, and we were both like, 'Oh, my God, what did I just do?' And then I ran out of the house. But I always look back on that moment as knowing that, OK, if anything happens to me, I'm capable of fighting back."
Through that experience, she learned a long-lasting lesson. "He never messed with me again," she told the magazine. "If you allow a bully to intimidate or victimize you, they'll continue to do it. Bullies are actually weak; they don't go after strong people."
That strength has clearly never waned. Today, the celebrated star is a multi-hyphenate: actress, producer and advocate. After championing for equal pay, Chastain has refused to take roles where she's paid a quarter of her male counterparts and has been a vocal supporter of the Time's Up movement, which was formed to fight sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace.
No matter where the inequality is, Chastain is actively working to finally achieve parity for women everywhere. After all, she learned a long time ago she is capable of fighting back.
As the star told the newspaper, "We need to look at ourselves and say, ‘What can we do to move the needle in a positive direction?'—because being normalized to inequality isn't good enough anymore."