by jared bowen
photography by rené & radka
styling by gaelle paul | February 20, 2015 | People
From Yale to Hollywood, Jordana Brewster has charted a course from academia to soap operas to the mega-successful The Fast and the Furious franchise—and into parts unknown.
Printed silk georgette dress ($5,200) and leather belt ($360), Gucci. The Shops at Prudential Center, 617-247-3000. Cable pavé charm bracelet with diamonds in gold, David Yurman ($1,425). Copley Place, 617-236-8777. Rings, Jordana’s own.
When you consider that Jordana Brewster’s ancestors arrived on the Mayflower and that her grandfather was the president of Yale University (from which she graduated), it’s a little easier to accept that this exquisitely sculpted beauty is actually a bit of a nerd. Long before she rocketed to fame in the Fast and the Furious film franchise, Brewster mapped out her career as any methodical middle-schooler would.
“I was the lead in the school play, and I decided to prove to myself I can do this while still living under my parents’ roof and being supported by them,” she recalls with a laugh. “Who’s so practical that young to figure that out? But I’m glad I did!” Born in Panama to a Brazilian supermodel mother and an American investment banker father, Brewster moved around the world with her family before finally settling in New York at age 10. “I thought [acting] is what I wanted to do because I just loved role-playing and fantasy.” And just like her forebears, she enjoys discovery.
It was 1620 when William Brewster sailed to the New World, helped to establish the Plymouth colony, and was granted land on the Boston Harbor islands that still bear the Brewster name. The colony’s only university-educated member, he was a respected elder and became a close advisor to the governor. Four hundred years later, education remains paramount to the family. Brewster says her matriculation at the college where her grandfather Kingman Brewster Jr. was president for 14 years in the 1960s and ’70s seemed preordained, and her parents graciously gave her plenty of latitude in her Ivy League pursuits. “I remember my dad saying, ‘You know what? Explore. Just see what you enjoy and see what you like; that’s what these four years are for.’ That was such a luxury.”
By the time she reached New Haven, Brewster was already an established actress with a recurring role, Nikki Munson, on the television soap opera As the World Turns—a part she landed with one of her first auditions, when she was just 15. “The timing was great, because I feel like you have so much more guts as a kid than you do as an adult,” she says. “I’m glad I ventured into it early on.”
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For Brewster, the frenetic schedule of a soap opera—producing an episode in just one day, as opposed to the seven or eight days required by a prime-time series—made the experience like acting boot camp. “It was very rigorous,” she says. “It was a great playground for exploring. You also get used to having a camera in your face, which is what a lot of performers struggle with—letting go of that self-consciousness.” But nothing could prepare her for the global phenomenon that is The Fast and the Furious.
The latest installment, Furious 7, hits theaters this spring, and no one is more surprised by the series’ longevity and popularity than Brewster. The original film was released in 2001, with Brewster playing Mia, the grounded, good-girl love interest of Paul Walker’s undercover police officer. “With the first one, I took a semester off from school, and I really had no idea [how successful it would be]. I was like, ‘Oh, it’s a movie about cars—whatever.’ And then something really worked, so to be a part of it 14 years later is insane.”
The cast, which also includes Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez, has formed a tight-knit family, Brewster says. “It’s strange because on the one hand, there’s this larger-than-life aspect to it—it’s global and just gets bigger and bigger. On the other hand, there’s such a comfort level with being on that set, because you know everyone. We’ve been through so much.”
In November 2013, Walker, the franchise’s leading man, died in a horrific auto accident when the Porsche Carrera GT he was riding in crashed into a lamppost and burst into flames. Authorities determined that the car, driven by his friend Roger Rodas, a semiprofessional racer, was traveling at up to 93 mph and that speed was the sole cause of the crash. Ironically, the incident occurred during the filming of Furious 7 in California. Brewster still finds her costar’s sudden death exceedingly difficult to discuss. “Recently someone asked me something about Paul on the red carpet,” she says, “and I so badly wanted to say I can’t express what he meant to me or what the impact of him being gone has had on my life in one quote, because I loved Paul so much.” In the ensuing months, she found consolation in constant reminders of Walker’s compassion and humanity. She was particularly struck by the posthumous revelation that he had anonymously purchased an engagement ring for an Iraq War veteran to give to his fiancée after overhearing in a jewelry store that they couldn’t afford the one she wanted.
Paisley silk wrap dress, Etro ($4,674). Neiman Marcus, Copley Place, 617-536-3660. Resin bracelet ($250), green marble-effect bracelet ($250), yellow marble-effect bracelet ($250), and larger yellow marble-effect bracelet ($300), Missoni. Neiman Marcus, SEE ABOVE.
“What Paul had was the gift of being really present to everyone around him,” Brewster says. “It’s something I’ve worked really hard on. I think all of us try so hard, and it’s difficult to have that innately.” Walker was also her on-set confidant, she adds, someone with whom she could speak without any judgment. “It’s one of the best qualities you can have in a friend. He didn’t want the drama. He didn’t get wrapped up in the stuff that so many people in the industry do…. So I was just blessed to know him at all.”
With her easygoing manner, Brewster herself seems pretty detached from the trappings of Hollywood. Even though she has spent years atop various magazines’ “sexiest women” lists and has stirred a frenzy in many a Furious fanboy, she comes across as unaffected. In fact, the actress, 34, has no qualms about pulling back the curtain to reveal the ever grinding cogs in the Hollywood machine. “I used to think that everything in this business happened really organically,” she says. “I didn’t understand that your agent or your publicist or your manager and all these people were working really effing hard to get you a job, to get you on covers and pitching you. I thought it must all be coming because there’s really something special about you. And now that I get how much work it is and what you have to put into it, I see the artifice behind it. That helps me separate who I am day-to-day versus the chick who got her hair and makeup done who’s going to the premiere and looks stunning because of all the work people put into it.”
Dress, BCBGMaxazria ($798). 760 Boylston St., 617-236-1729. Resin bracelet ($250), yellow marble-effect bracelet ($250), and larger green marble-effect bracelet ($300), Missoni. Neiman Marcus, SEE ABOVE. Rings and earrings, Jordana’s own.
And how does the Ivy League grad feel about the fawning over her looks? “I used to take it so seriously in my early 20s. I was like, ‘I don’t want to be objectified blah blah blah,’” she says in a mock Valley girl accent. “But then I realized, Wow, this is super fleeting…. It allowed me to not take everything as seriously and kind of enjoy everything more. So that’s been really, really great for me.”
Today much of Brewster’s time is centered on her 2½-year-old son, Julien, and her husband, producer Andrew Form, whom she met on the set of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 2003. The couple live in California, although their work often divides them. “We chat about 10 times a day…. It’s really nice to want to talk to your best friend all the time,” says Brewster, who reportedly dated Boston’s own Mark Wahlberg back in the day. And motherhood, she confesses, has changed her: “Just becoming a mom, I’ve done two things I swore I would never do.” For starters, she decamped from the trendy West Hollywood to a much more family-friendly enclave closer to the ocean. And she’s shocked to find herself on the hunt for preschools. “I’m trying to figure out where I want him to go and what would be the best fit,” she says. “I thought I would be so mellow about this stuff, but I’m really not.”
Silk and cotton dress, Dolce & Gabbana (price on request). 11 Newbury St.. Earrings, Jordana’s own. Rings, stylist’s own.
With the latest Furious film about to be released and her work on the Dallas reboot over with the cancellation of that series last year, Brewster is considering her next steps. She finds herself drawn to darker material these days, counting Showtime’s national security thriller Homeland and the BBC psychological crime drama Luther among her favorite shows. It’s their gritty reality that compels her, and she attributes that to motherhood, too: “It’s sort of deepened everything. I feel everything so much more, and the stakes are so great.” Sounds like the sentiment of a woman who, like her forebears, is setting sail for uncharted territory.
beauté: Caudalie Beauty Elixir ($18) and Vinoperfect Day Perfecting Cream SPF 15 ($64). Sephora, The Shops at Prudential Center, 617-262-4200. SK-II Signs Eye Mask ($115). Saks Fifth Avenue, The Shops at Prudential Center, 617-262-8500. Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation ($62). Saks Fifth Avenue, SEE ABOVE. Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage Concealer Duo in Sc-4 ($34). Saks Fifth Avenue, SEE ABOVE. Givenchy Phenomen’Eyes Mascara ($30). Sephora, SEE ABOVE. Chanel Le Vernis Nail Colour in Secret ($27). 6 Newbury St., 617-859-0055. Sachajuan Root Lift ($29) and Volume Powder ($32). Barneys New York, Copley Place, 617-385-3300. Balmain Paris Argan Moisturizing Elixir ($28). Photography by René & Radka/Art Department. Hair by Makiko Nara at Walter Schupfer Management for Sachajuan. Makeup by Kathy Jeung/Forward Artists. Nails by Stephanie Stone/Nailing Hollywood for Chanel. Video: Nardeep Khurmi
November 16, 2018