Sunday, April 2, 2017

INTERVIEW — Jewel: "I Want My Life to Be My Best Work of Art

(Copyright Crown Media United States, LLC
Photographer: Ryan Plummer)
Hot on the heels of the super-successful first installment of the “Fixer Upper Mysteries” franchise on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel comes “Concrete Evidence: A Fixer Upper Mystery.” The series stars singer/songwriter/poet/actress Jewel, who plays Shannon Hughes, the owner of Hughes Restoration and an expert in Victorian-era home restoration. Through her work, she stumbles across clues hidden in the old homes, uncovering past secrets, making her an unlikely sleuth to crack these unsolved mysteries. I spoke with Jewel recently about the movie, which premieres tonight, April 2, at 9 p.m. ET/PT, and she was gracious and humbled by the reception the franchise has received so far.

“We signed on for nine installments, depending on the success of the series. And I guess the first one broke a lot of ratings records, which I was really humbled by, and I was very excited to do a second one,” Jewel says.

The multifaceted star was able to channel what she has learned in her life up until now to help prepare herself for the role of Shannon Hughes, telling me: “I started building off this mindfulness platform based on exercises I used to overcome anxiety and panic attacks. And sharing a lot of exercises in my book, ‘Never Broken,’ and a website I just founded,, where I share the actual exercises.

“One of the things that I’ve been teaching people and talking a lot about is getting out of your head and not overthink things and how to listen to your intuition. To help quiet the fear, help quiet the anxiety and actually hear that inner voice when you’re talking — and that’s actually what Shannon’s superpower is. She is a woman who once didn’t trust her intuition, and it cost her very dearly with her mother, and she made a promise to herself to never ignore her intuition again. Her fight is really every woman’s fight, and every human’s right, which is to speak up for your inner knowing, and to act on that. It was so synergistic with the platform that I’m building, and getting to act a character that’s actually trying to live the same thing was a real fun opportunity. And it fits my ideal of trying to switch my work so I can be a mom and still be creative.”

The shooting schedule was intense, but she still found time to have fun with her son while on-set in British Columbia. “Shooting days were 16 hours to 18 hours. Sometimes it was just: ‘Holy mackerel! This is long.’ But my son had a really great time in Victoria; he really loves it.”

While the shooting may have been intense, the crew was on-point when it came down to getting the job done, as Jewels explains: “It’s a little bit of mad dash, and I think everyone was so buried in having to get through their work. The poor director, I don’t know how he did it. It’s so many thoughts in one day. Everyone shows up really prepared, and you’re kind of underwater. But everyone is so good spirited — the crew works so hard. The cast is so professional, and fun. They’re all nice people, so we had a good time grinding it through.”

As a lot of movie crews have found out while filming in Vancouver earlier this year, the area had record snowfalls — which didn’t bode well for movies that are supposed to be set in springtime. But they worked around it. “The producers handled it — it’s kind of this giant puzzle piece of how can we be efficient with everybody’s time, the actors’ time, the locations’ time. It’s this amazing puzzle that gets put together. They did a great job of switching everything around so we were shooting interiors, hoping the snow would melt by the time we got to the exterior shots.”

As the action of “Concrete Evidence” begins, Jewel tells me: “You find Shannon renovating Mac’s house, kind of where we left off in the last movie. We discover a body, which leaves us trying to solve the crime of a young girl’s disappearance from when I was in high school. We meet some of the characters I went to school with, go back to the school that my character went to, and those types of things.”

Jewel and Colin Ferguson
(Copyright Crown Media United States, LLC / Photographer: Ryan Plummer)
For those of you who saw the first movie, there were some sparks between Shannon and Mac (played by Colin Ferguson), so will that carry over into this second installment? Jewels explains: “There is a very slow build. There are definitely more sparks between them in this movie. He is a professional investigative journalist, and he helped her a lot in the first film, helped her find her way. They partner up again on this film.”

According to Jewel, it’s easy to partner up with an actor who’s as great to work with as Colin is. “He’s a dream. He’s a really gregarious, outgoing, funny, sweet person. He’s great to work with.”

She also works closely with Erin Karpluk, who plays Shannon’s best friend, Jennifer. “She’s kind of my partner in crime as we go back to the school to investigate. There are so many people at the school that we’re looking at, so we’re all pitching in and helping.” And like Colin, Erin made each day a pleasure for Jewel at work: “She’s a good girl. I really love her; I think she is a very talented actress. I’d like to see her have a bigger role in coming installments, for sure.”

With all this love and camaraderie going on, surely there were some fun and candid moments on the set, especially when you’re into the 16th hour of the working day and getting a little giddy. Jewel revealed: “I’m trying to remember specific moments. I don’t know if any of them are PG. When I get tired at night, my retention is not very good, and I wasn’t able to get through this one scene very easily, and I just kind of took to swearing at myself. It probably sounded like very prudish, 1950s swear words. It was a very odd mix, but it was making the crew laugh.

“There was another time in the first movie where there was this crazy windstorm that we were filming in, and every time they went for my close-up, the wind would just hammer me and blow me almost off my feet. And it was without fail. I bet we did about 20 takes, and every single time I reached my mark, I was blown off my mark, as if God was playing a joke on me. It was pretty funny.”

As a singer, songwriter, poet and actress, Jewel explains how they each compare and how she gets into the mindset of preparation and execution of each particular craft. “There are definitely different aspects of the craft. But the way I find my way into acting is pretty similar. I wasn’t formally taught music; I taught myself guitar, and you teach yourself songwriting — same thing with poetry. I never formally graduated school, just studied writing. But I’ve always had an intuitive sense of looking inward, which again came from my mindfulness practice and meditating from such a young age, and being curious and reading a lot. And so I was able to look inward to find my own authentic way.

“I think if you’re willing to sit in the silence and be uncomfortable and really look inward, you’re going to find originality. It’s a little harder, but hopefully it makes for something a little more interesting to listen to — and we’ll see about watching. I’m a little farther behind on the acting part. I just use my same skill set for looking inward and trusting my instincts, listening to my body. The way my body feels in a scene is usually the right instinct, and following that and listening to it intuitively in real time as it’s happening. I don’t preplan how I’m going to behave in a scene because I think that it makes it fake, and if the other actors aren’t doing what you thought they were going to do, you’re going to be out of sync with real life and what’s happening in front of you in the room. I just like to push it intuitively as I do anything.”

Photo courtesy
Jewel has had to rely on her instincts and intuition from a young age, explaining: “I wrote my memoir ‘Never Broken’ because I’m often asked how I could go from an abusive background to going out on my own, to being homeless, to a lot of the things that I’ve faced, and then ‘succeed.’ For me, I don’t perceive my success with my career; I perceive my success with my piece of mind. Because I knew when I moved out at 15, statistically kids like me end up repeating the cycle they were raised in. Statistically I should be in an abusive relationship or on drugs and repeating what I call the emotional languages that I was raised with. So I wanted to see if I could beat the odds, and I did well for a couple of years. Fast-forward three short years, and I was homeless, shoplifting a dress, and I looked in the mirror and thought, I’m a statistic. I didn’t beat the odds. I was having severe panic attacks, and I remembered what Buddha said: ‘Happiness doesn’t depend on who you are or what you have. It depends on what you think.’ And I had the amazing privilege of having nothing left in my life but my thoughts. I had no home, I had no food, I had no family surrounding me — I just had my thoughts.”

Through this mindfulness, Jewel turned her life around “one thought at a time, and to do that, I had to figure out what I was thinking. I started developing exercises and tools that were basically mindfulness tools — but those words weren’t around then — to help me become aware of myself in real time. I really learned so much that year about fear and how fear is a thief that robs you of the only opportunity you have to change in your life, which is right now. So it takes that past and it projects it into the future, and that’s how anxiety works on a self-fulfilling prophecy. I had to learn how to interrupt those fear cycles and those anxiety cycles and the agoraphobia. I developed these little exercises that really helped me stop the panic attacks. I started strategically one by one looking at different emotional languages or patterns of my life and how to rewire my brain. I realized that my brain was addicted to negative thinking, and could I get it addicted to positive thinking?”

This positive thinking came to fruition for her when she started writing. “I turned to writing instead of feeling and replacing behaviors. And the more that I’ve learned about neuroscience, and Dr. Judson Brewer — who is the foremost scientific expert on mindfulness and the effects on the brain — became my scientific adviser on my website. There’s research on the addictive nature of the brain, and it’s amazing. This has been a really neat experience to share, and the next chapter of my life will be what I’ve always done, which is talking about this stuff.”

So with all this talk of her career in the music business and acting, Jewel knows that that’s not where true success and happiness lie. She explains: “I want my life to be my best work of art. I want me to be my best work of art, and that means I have to set a tone in every area of my limbs. I can’t just have a strong and buff career arm — that means the rest of me will have atrophied, and I won’t have emotional intimacy or good parenting or emotional fitness or physical fitness. A lot of times in life, we’re not taught how to do that. We’re taught to develop strength, usually in one limb, and I want to help people learn how to have tone in every area of their life because that’s how happiness is achieved. It’s a byproduct of having tone and harmony in each area.”

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