For actress Jasmine Mathews, the Amazon Studios film The Tomorrow War represents some big firsts: her first movie, her first sci-fi action adventure, and her first major press junket. “It’s my galactic, cosmic coming-out,” she laughs, describing the significant moment via Zoom. (It’s worth noting that, to match the occasion, she dialed up a “galactic debutante” look, complete with a sleek tangerine jumpsuit, gold hoops, and a cascading side braid.) Despite prior roles on the small screen in shows The Rookie, Sweetbitter, and Heathers, Mathews sees the project as her introduction to Hollywood. And as far as Hollywood intros go, I’d say Mathews’s is pretty memorable.
In The Tomorrow War’s opening minutes, she makes a commanding entrance, traveling through time and dropping in from the skies above to share an urgent message: Civilians today are needed to fight a battle 30 years in the future in an effort to save humanity. It’s in those moments that Mathews pulls you in with her powerful speech, setting the tone for the rest of the film. An extraterrestrial superfan, Mathews has effectively been preparing for the part of Lt. Hart since childhood, fighting off imaginary monsters and aliens from the confines of her bedroom. And then, there’s her black belt in karate, a precursor to the intense training she would undergo for the role. But it wasn’t just the film’s original (and extremely frightening!) aliens and combat scenes that drew Mathews in. The fact that there are strong women at the center of the story, standing in their own power, was incredibly refreshing and inspiring to the newcomer.
Ahead, I chat with the actress about the women who inspired her character (hint: the list includes two pretty important Angelas), learning from Chris Pratt, and accepting all versions of herself through fashion.
The Tomorrow War is a thrilling watch from start to finish. What attracted you to this film out of the gate?
When I’m reading a script, I really lean into how it makes me feel initially. I can’t remember a script where I’m going “ooh!” and “oh my gosh!” and “ahh!” within two pages of each other. That was one thing that really drew me in. I am also a huge extraterrestrial lover and fan, and [the aliens] seemed so original to me. To have an original alien on top of this incredible script that was also super funny and really heartfelt, I loved. And then, you have these badass female characters holding their own weight, standing in their power, and it’s not a threat to the men. There is no power struggle happening between the two sexes, which I thought was super refreshing. And Lt. Hart, to be a Black woman and to be in full power and with permission to be vulnerable and a leader at the same time without the threat of racism or sexism looming in the darkness, was incredible. All of those [things] combined made me want to audition first and foremost. When I found out I got it, I nearly passed out.
Who were some of the inspirations for your character Lt. Hart?
Angela Bassett is just an inspiration for me, period, so definitely her. And it might sound weird, but Angela Davis was as well in terms of strength and presence and how to command a space. And [X-Men’s] Storm. Storm is definitely one of my favorite characters as well. If I’m being honest, I really just sat in meditation with this character, and I asked myself, “If I did not have any restraints and could be free to be me and stand in my power, what would that look like? Without doubt, without fear, without worry about what the next person will say, what would that look like?” I got a really clear picture of it, and it was so inspiring to me as an image. Every day when I came on set, I really just tried to step into that and honor that part of me. It was so freeing, and I learned so much in doing that. I am that. It’s not something that I have to strive to be. I am that right now. It’s beautiful.
I love that! I am always interested to hear how actors get into character.
My playlist was spot-on, if you ask me, and so diverse. I had My Chemical Romance on there, and then I had Nina Simone on there. Just so many things happening in that playlist.
What kind of training did you have to do for the role?
I have a sports background and an athletic ability, but there was no way I could have prepared for what was to go down with this training. I had a personal trainer beforehand, and right before we started shooting, we had about a week of military tactical training. That was everything from learning the terminology to how to move as one unit, how to clear an entire room or floor moving as you would in combat, and how to hold and shoot a gun properly. I’m in this training session for six to eight hours a day with this heavy gun slung over my shoulder. Needless to say, I had many chiropractic sessions after training. But it really did prepare me in order to be able to hold up against the physicality that this role demanded. It also helped me get in touch with the character. I found my character’s walk when I was in training. Because of all the gear she has to wear, the walk just came naturally to me. As did the fact that you really have to be so mentally aware. I very easily could have slipped into this mental fatigue of just going through the motions, but you can’t do that in combat, so I really had to keep bringing myself back to the present moment and stay grounded, just as my character would. It was great, but it was hard.
One of my favorite things to film was the opening scene that you see in the trailer with her coming down into the soccer field. It was a personal triumph for me because I’m scared of heights and I had to fly in from 30 feet in the air. There was this overcoming of a fear that I had, which wasn’t unlike my character. This is the first time anyone has ever time-traveled, and for her, there is a fear of, “What if these people don’t hear me? What am I going to do if I can’t get through to them?” But she had to overcome that fear and deliver the monologue anyway, just as I did with my fear of heights. So that was incredible, and to be able to command the space to 150 extras in one of my first scenes in my first film ever and just to be able to hold my own was so rewarding.
You star opposite Chris Pratt in the film. Can you tell me what it was like working with him?
The thing I love most about him and what I look for in people and in leaders in general is that they lead from the heart. And he does. You can tell he cares about each and every person that he comes in contact with, so that alone was enjoyable to be around. He is so positive. At the end of a 15-hour day, he is still full of energy, and I don’t understand how. I don’t know where he gets all that energy from, but to be able to watch him as an actor and an executive producer and wear both hats was true mastery. Sometimes, he would even, from an executive producer’s approach, be like, “Hey, Jasmine. Why don’t you try it this way?” Just volunteering information and advice. One thing I really took away from him, I asked, “How do you step away from your character at the end of day?” He really is able to do that, jump into the scene and then jump out of it and out of his character. It was so fascinating to me because here I am walking around brooding as Lt. Hart in between takes, and he’s over here laughing. I’m like, “How do you do that?” And he just told me, “You have to leave her at the door at the end of the day and compartmentalize,” and I really took that to heart and learned it finally. He’s incredible to work with, super funny, and charming, and it’s been an honor to be able to experience this with him.
Virtual press junkets are still very much a thing, but it doesn’t seem to deter people from having fun with fashion and beauty. How are you and your styling and glam team approaching this press tour?
I love a good theme. Since we are in this sci-fi, spacey world and it’s my first movie and an introduction to Hollywood in a sense, my theme is galactic debutante. It’s my galactic, cosmic coming-out, and what that signifies for me is an acceptance and a sharing of who I am on every level—as a human but also as a spirit, as a being and a light, and all of the multidimensions that make up Jasmine. I want to share and give all of that and not hide it. It’s like, “Hey, guys. I’m here!” I created this lookbook of 50 to 60 pictures of inspiration for my team and let them do their thing after that because they are artists in their own right. From the styling to the makeup to the hair, they are artists, and they got the message. They understood the assignment, and they are doing what they need to do. There is also some Afrofuturism I have thrown in there, which I am in love with, so you will see a lot of homage to that and natural hairstyles. I am really big on accepting your hair as it is, especially as a Black woman. It’s been fun. I’m really excited for the premiere look.
When playing Heather McNamara on the series Heathers, you got to wear some pretty fantastic looks. Are you someone who loves to play with fashion in real life?
Honestly, it depends on how I’m feeling. There are so many different layers to who I am. Some days, I just love to dress up as this Barbie prima donna. I love to get dolled up and throw on a pair of heels and a flowy dress and feel like a divine feminine. Other days, I am into my tomboy cargo pants, Dr. Martens, a crop top with a full Afro, and I’m like, “What’s up?” So it depends on how I’m feeling, but I am one to push the limits on fashion a little bit, more than probably the average person would, because why not?
Now that summer is officially upon us, what are you excited to break out of your closet?
Well first and foremost, I would like to apologize to the hot-girl committee because I am such a disappointment. It’s not a Hot Girl Summer for me. I cannot keep up. Let’s see. I got these really funky, retro colored glasses with a butterfly in the center of them, and they have this wing shape, so I am really excited to bring those out. I got this beautiful dress. I can’t remember where I got it from because it was in the pandemic and I was doing a lot of shopping, but it’s this flowy dress that you can tie in a thousand different ways. I think I’m going to do it as a bandeau top and have the dress flow out, and it has a slit on the left side. I think that dress, in particular, I’m going to have fun with [and] pair it with some gladiator sandals or something.
I read in a previous interview you did that you describe yourself as a professional empath. Can you elaborate?
Yeah. I have always been this way, but the older I get, the more accepting of it I am. I am a really sensitive soul, and I pick up on other people’s energies pretty well. At any point in time, I can walk into a room and feel the energy and take that on and walk out of the room and end up exchanging my energy for theirs. So I will leave the room in a better place, but I will have taken on the energy that was in that room. What I’ve had to learn being an empath and being so sensitive is to set boundaries, and even when I do feel someone else’s energy, it’s not my responsibility to make them feel better. I will offer them love. … My intention whenever I walk into a room and no matter who I come across is to lead with love and compassion and understanding, but for my well-being, I have to say, “I see you. I honor what you are going through, but I cannot take that on.” That was super important for me in this pandemic because the collective as whole was going through so much. I would wake up one morning and feel super down and couldn’t understand why until I tapped in and heard, “This isn’t yours,” and I’m like, “Oh, I’m purging for the collective. Well, let’s release that. Let’s go do something that brings us joy because this is not yours, and it’s not your responsibility to take on.”
What were some of those things that brought you joy during that time?
The sun. My gosh, I’m such a sun baby. Anytime I’m in the sun, I can just sit out there, and it instantly would raise my vibration. So being in the sun, being out in nature. I picked up painting a bit. Although, I am super terrible at it. It just allows my inner child to play. And dancing. Dancing, for me, is just incredible and really releases energy that is not serving me quickly. I took singing lessons, which was really fun. And puzzles!
Don't miss Jasmine Mathews in The Tomorrow War, now streaming on Amazon Prime.