Our current Jessica Chastain era snuck up on me. Chastain's meteoric rise happened so fast that I just kind of went along with it. In other words: I was ill prepared for Chastain's dominance over the last few months. Who is this person and how did she manage to sneak up on an unsuspecting world? It might seem like Chastain -- star of 'The Help,' 'The Debt,' 'Tree of Life' and this weekend's limited release, 'Take Shelter,' plus the upcoming 'Texas Killing Fields' and 'Coriolanus' -- came out of nowhere, but that's not exactly true. Every actor has an origin, even the ones who are currently in the midst of their breakout year. So let's take a look at five early roles from Chastain, including her first on a show called 'ER.'
'ER' (2004)

In her first credited role, Chastain plays the friend of a person being operated on by Dr. Corday in the ER -- which I suppose describes about 50 percent of the guest stars on 'ER.' It's hard to get a sense of the future Oscar contender's talents from this clip, though -- for what it's worth -- when Chastain is asked to leave and expalains that she wants to stay with her friend, I did believe that she wants to stay with her friend. So, sure, why not?

'Law & Order: Trial By Jury' (2005) (2:10)

Remember this show? One of the few members of the 'Law & Order' family that didn't find success of some kind. Lasting only 13 episodes, 'Trial by Jury' focused on the trial process and was a bit more liberal in displaying the personal lives of its characters as opposed to the other shows in this series. Chastain played the recurring role of Assistant District Attorney Sigrun Borg and even had the opportunity to speak some lines -- like she does at the 2:10 mark in the video below.

'Blackbeard' (2006)

Chastain showed her range by playing the notorious pirate Edward Teach in this made for television movie. What's that? She didn't play Blackbeard? She played a character named Charlotte Ormond? Ah. Sorry. I had just assumed from looking through the cast list that Chastain would be given the lead role. OK, then! Chastain plays Charlotte Ormond, who has some sort of relationship with Blackbeard, or has a relationship with someone who knows Blackbeard. Regardless, Chastain shows up at the 1:10 mark.

'Close to Home' (2006)

Chastain plays a rape victim in a 2006 episode of this crime-drama. Until I just checked, I had no idea if 'Close to Home' was still on the air or not. The title is just nondescript enough to sound like something that could currently be on the air. I feel shows like this do well! But, alas, 'Close to Home' was canceled after its second season. Oh, also, thankfully for Chastain's character, her attacker is captured and convicted.

'Jolene' (2008)

Chastain's first film role is that of a young woman who we follow over a ten-year period -- a woman who is sexually abused by her uncle-in-law and eventually winds up in juvenile detention. Chastain won a few film festival awards for her performance and showed a range that would hint at her breakthrough that will come three years later.

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categories Movies