Miller’s Girl writer-director praises Jenna, calls her a ‘savant’

Jade Halley Bartlett expresses her admiration for Jenna in genius terms

[ sa-vahnt, savuhnt; French sa-vahn ]
noun,plural sa·vants [sa-vahnts, sav-uhnts; French sa-vahn].
a person of profound or extensive learning; learned scholar.

During a couple of recent interviews, Miller’s Girl writer-director Jade Halley Bartlett shared her admiration for Jenna quite glowingly, even so far as to call her “extraordinary”, “incredible” and “a savant”—a term most often used to describe someone who is a genius in their field.

First off, in an interview on, she was asked about how she selected Jenna for the role of Cairo Sweet:

I was curious because Jenna Ortega just absolutely kills it in this role. Was there a specific role she played in the past that kind of made you go, “Oh, she can pull off the nuance I need for Cairo”?

No, definitely not. I didn’t really know her work very well until I met her. I’d seen The Fallout, which I’d really resisted watching because I thought it was going to be so bleak, but it’s so wonderful. Totally, totally surprised me. And she’s hysterical in that movie. She’s so funny. Which is a weird thing to say about that movie. It’s not necessarily funny, but she’s very funny. She’s very charming. But when I met her on Zoom, she disarmed me so entirely.

She is from the desert. I’m from Tennessee, but we both have these very similar Gothic proclivities. And she said things to me about the character that I had never vocalized aloud. It’s like she climbed inside of my head and said those things. So it was almost like kismet. People talk about the wedding dress thing, and I’m like, “That’s not real.” It is real. I was like, “Oh, you’re the right wedding dress. Yes, it has to be you.” And she’s extraordinary. She’s so terrifying in a good way.

But it was in a separate interview on that Jade Halley Bartlett really expressed her admiration for Jenna:

Jenna Ortega is so great in this role, and it is such an interesting character for her to play. What did you like most about what she brought to the character of Cairo?

Well, I’d always wanted this character … I don’t want to say the birth of a villain, because villain is the wrong word, but maybe the birth of an antagonist. I wanted to watch this young person watch their heartbreak metastasize and then kind of turn into a bug. They kind of go through Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. By the end of the script, Cairo is not the same person she was at the beginning. It’s very easy to take Cairo and make her really melodramatic because the language is so heightened. But Jenna made it feel very natural. Even though she is sort of completing the transformation by the end of the film, you can still feel her heartbreak inside of her. There’ are still pieces of humanity that shine out of her.

And I think it’s very sad. I think it’s devastating. I think she’s also terrifying, without any spoilers. There’s the scene with her and Winnie where they’re passing a bottle back and forth, and there’s a photograph, and you watch her make a decision. You watch Cairo make a decision at that moment and Jenna’s whole face changes. The way she’s looking at the whole situation changes. But what’s astounding is that we shot the movie out of order, so she was able to make a choice in a scene way before we did the other scenes and carried it through. She’s a savant. She’s incredible.

Miller’s Girl is now showing in theatres across the US.

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