Skip to main content

Jena Malone Thinks Being Homeless Prepared Her For Acting

We don’t usually associate homelessness with an actor or actress who currently can claim roles in the massive The Hunger Games series, the new Paul Thomas Anderson, and a bit part in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But Jena Malone explains that being a "roadie" of sorts during her childhood helped make her the actress that she is today, and she’s all the better for it.

Jena Malone was recounting her career, and the moments that led up to this recent string of hits, with The Daily Beast, and she explained that she recalls living in 27 different places before even turning 9 years old. "We were just so poor," Malone recalls about the early years living with her birth mom and her mother’s girlfriend. "We’d hop out of apartments, lose jobs, find a cheaper place, get kicked out, live in cars, and live in hotels. It was glorious."

Glorious? Many of us would view that unstable gypsy lifestyle as an obstacle to overcome. But Malone’s healthy attitude explains why she has been able to triumph, both at acting, and at life. She says:

I don’t think it was a tough childhood. I actually found it quite pleasurable, and it prepared me for this strange, gypsy lifestyle of an actor. It’s a beautiful thing to give children diversity of where to live and how to live; it makes you believe that security is built within instead of four concrete walls that you call a home. It was a unique way to grow up, and to see life in a different way."

Jena Malone got off to a relatively fast start in Hollywood, earning a few TV spots on shows like Chicago Hope and Touched By An Angel before earning recognition in Jake Gyllenhaal’s Donnie Darko. Her breakout role in Saved! helped define her career path, but she continued to challenger herself (and her image) in movies like Pride & Prejudice and Sucker Punch.

This gypsy lifestyle she describes likely prepared her to better play a reformed drug addict in Paul Thomas Anderson’s brilliant Inherent Vice. But Jena Malone’s also living higher on the hog then even she might have expected because of her role as Johanna Mason in the hugely successful The Hunger Games movies.

And we don’t know what the future holds for the 30-year-old actress, but I imagine she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sean O'Connell

Managing Director at CinemaBlend. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.