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Jessica Chastain - Actress - Sacramento City College

At an early age, Jessica Chastain performed under her mother's maiden name of Howard in productions of Shakespeare's works, such as "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Romeo and Juliet," around the San Francisco Bay area.

After graduating from El Camino Fundamental High School in Sacramento, Chastain attended Sacramento City College and was on the debate team as well as in the college's theater program.

Kim McCann-Lewis was an adjunct theater arts professor at Sacramento City College from 1984 until retiring in 2010. She directed Chastain in the plays "Charlee's Aunt" and "Mr. Todd's Christmas Carol." Forgive Ms. Chastain, though, for perhaps omitting "Mr. Todd's Christmas Carol" from her acting resume. She played a weasel in a supporting role.

"Jessica is absolutely stunning so you couldn't help but notice her, she certainly stood out in every role she played no matter how small," McCann-Lewis said. "She always had great timing and can actually be very goofy. She showed that side of her in both of the roles I directed her in."

McCann-Lewis said Chastain was a very driven drama student and one she was sure would succeed in the business, whether on stage or in front of a camera.

"The No. 1 thing I remember about Jessica was that she was quiet, but incredibly smart," McCann-Lewis said. "No. 2, she made the decision to be an actress and there's was no fall back, no Plan B. She was very dedicated and there was no doubt that she would be successful."

After attending Sacramento City College — and after a stint doing professional theatre in San Francisco — Chastain went to Julliard, arguably the finest performing arts college in the United States, on a scholarship funded by actor/comedian Robin Williams, who is an alum of both Julliard and the College of Marin.

Chastain graduated from Julliard in 2003 and started working in television where she earned roles in TV movies and TV series such as "ER," "Law & Order" and "Veronica Mars." She made her first feature film in 2008, followed by one in 2009 and 2010. But it was 2011 that would prove to be Chastain's year. She appeared in six feature films — including "The Tree Of Life," "The Help," which she received her first Academy Award nomination (best supporting actress) and "Take Shelter."

After Chastain starred with Al Pacino in "Wilde Salome," he recommended her to director Terrence Malick for a role in "Tree of Life." Chastain got the part, opposite Brad Pitt, and that same year (2011) she appeared in the smash hit "The Help," as well as in "Coriolanus" and "Texas Killing Fields."

In 2012, Chastain appeared in "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted and "Zero Dark Thirty." Her starring role as the woman responsible for helping find Osama Bin Laden earned her an Academy Award best actress nomination. Earlier, Chastain received the 2013 Golden Globe Award for the same role.