×

How Carla Gugino Is Redefining the Anti-Hero in Cinemax’s Crime Drama ‘Jett’

“This is like no character I’ve ever played,” Carla Gugino told Variety on the red carpet at the premiere of Cinemax’s “Jett” on Tuesday night. “I think television is filled with great roles for women, which is such a godsend these days. But the anti-hero — there’s still a double standard there.”

In the new series, Gugino stars as Daisy “Jett” Kowalski, a world-class thief fresh out of prison and returning to the game for one final heist. At the intimate premiere, held at New York’s Roxy Hotel, Gugino explained what makes the crime drama stand out and how its female-driven perspective aims to reclaim the genre — and the dated Hollywood archetype of the femme fatale — for a new era in American television.

“We have Walter White [in ‘Breaking Bad’] and Ray Donavan, these great male anti-heroes. But when a woman is an anti-hero, when she doesn’t behave as you might expect her to behave — when she doesn’t conform to social norms — there has to be a reason, like ‘Was she abused?’ or ‘Does she have some sort of social condition?’ We have to make an excuse for it,” she continued. “What I love about this woman is that she’s not particularly introspective. She keeps her own council. She’s very practical. She’s more like a Lee Marvin from ‘Point Blank’ or a young Clint Eastwood; yet, she’s fully a woman. The role wasn’t about taking on male characteristics, and I was struck by that.”

While a comparison could be drawn between Jett and the Ava Gardners of the film noir genre (and in a clever nod, one episode features Jett masquerading as an actress playing Gardner while undercover on a heist), this series’ protagonist sources her power not just from an unapologetic sexuality, but from a certain impervious confidence — and the potential for that confidence to topple male dominance around her.

“I was raised, as a young girl, in a way where my self-worth was dependent on how I was perceived from the outside, and Jett doesn’t give a s–t about that. She just doesn’t. It’s not the way she looks at the world. She’s a thief; she’s great at her job; she’s not Robin Hood; she’s not neurotic. And that was a really refreshing character to play,” Gugino explained. “The woman are the more practical, grounded characters and the men are the more romantic ones, which is fascinating.”

Gugino also serves as an executive producer of the series, which sees its protagonist brought back to the world of million-dollar heists by a mastermind gangster and former lover (Giancarlo Esposito), only to be entangled in a deadly snare of ruthless criminals. Gugino’s husband and collaborator, Sebastian Gutierrez, penned the script.

Len Amato, Carla Gugino, Sebastian Gutierrez

“Oftentimes, when you have a quote-unquote ‘strong woman’ in these male dominated worlds, they’re on a mission of revenge or they’re ice-cold or they show no emotion, and I wasn’t interested in that. Carla is great for this role precisely because her humanity and empathy is on her face in every frame. She doesn’t have this mask of coldness; she’s playing a character that gets to observe and assess these impossible situations, to navigate through them in a calm, pragmatic way,” Gutierrez told Variety.

The inspiration to approach the high-powered, action-filled show from the perspective of a woman instead of man — and a woman who’s left the crime world to focus on raising her daughter, no less — came from Gutierrez’s childhood experiences growing up in Venezuela.

“I was born and raised in South America, and that’s a very macho, patriarchal society. And I translate that as: women do everything,” he continued. “Men leave, for whatever reason. They go off to war, or the drug trade, or have an affair. So, I grew up surrounded always by groups of women. And I thought: huh, you can treat the crime world exactly the same way. We’ve seen many of these crime stories that have these archetypes of the crime boss and the stripper and the killer. And I thought it’d be fascinating to shine a light on, to make a path, for female characters in this world.”

“Jett” debuts on June 14.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • T.J. Dillashaw, right, kicks Cody Garbrandt

    Disney Plans UFC Broadcast for FX

    UFC matches will return to FX  – but not on a permanent basis. ESPN has been showing preliminary bouts to UFC pay-per-view events for the last while on ESPN and ESPN2, and then showing the main card on its ESPN+ subscription video service. In September, the early lineup will air on FX, which the UFC [...]

  • George RR Martin

    George R.R. Martin Says HBO's 'Game of Thrones' Ending Won't Influence Future Novels

    Geroge R.R. Martin is sticking to his original plan when it comes to the future of “Game of Thrones.” In an interview with The Observer, Martin claimed that HBO’s controversial ending for the series would have no affect on the endings of the last two novels. “No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t change anything at all,” [...]

  • Listen: 'Pennyworth' Producer Talks Delving into

    Listen: 'Pennyworth' Executive Producer Talks Delving into Alfred's Backstory

    Bruno Heller may have served as an executive producer on the Batman-inspired series “Gotham” for the past five years, but it’s actually real-life people (not superheroes) that intrigue the producer the most. It’s for that exact reason that Heller’s newest series finds him exploring the origin stories of Batman’s butler Alfred in the Epix drama [...]

  • "Trust Issues" - Dylan and Lizzie

    'Instinct' Canceled After Two Seasons

    CBS has canceled “Instinct” after two seasons. Series creator Michael Rauch announced the cancellation Friday on Twitter, writing, “I’m very sad to relay the news that @instinctcbs won’t be renewed for a 3rd season. We will double up this Sunday and our season/series finale will be Aug 25.” Rauch also thanked series stars Alan Cumming [...]

  • Maisel Day

    My Mostly OK Maisel Day (Column)

    When Amazon announced its first-ever Maisel Day, I was intrigued. For one day, Aug. 15, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” fans and Angelenos (fangelenos?) could hit up various restaurants, theaters and retailers throughout Los Angeles for special deals, all at 1959 prices. Among the gems: $2.50 makeovers, $0.99 pastrami sandwiches and $0.30 for a gallon of [...]

  • Nordisk Film & TV Fond Announces

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond Backs Joachim Trier, Ole Bornedal, Yellow Bird

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond has announced three features, two series and a documentary set to receive $1.4m in financing, as well as distribution, dubbing and cultural initiative support recipients. Doing so, it highlights some of the key titles moving forward in the Nordic region. Already backed by the Danish Film Institute’s largest ever grant [...]

  • TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley' Final

    TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley's' Final Season Sets October Premiere Date

    In today’s roundup, “Silicon Valley” returns to HBO on Oct. 27 and Quibi greenlights a new cooking competition show “Dismantled.” DATES The fifth season of Netflix‘s “Peaky Blinders” will premiere on the streamer Oct. 4. The newest season will continue to follow one gangster family in the lawless streets of Birmingham, UK during the midst [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content