Janet Montgomery has been difficult to miss in 2010.
In a single week this summer, Montgomery made her first appearance as E’s assistant Jennie on “Entourage,” popped up on my “The League” premiere screener as fantasy football advice-dispensing stripper Ambrosia and was cast in a key role in the second season of FOX’s “Human Target.”
Then in August, the first trailer was released for Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan,” featuring Montgomery in a supporting part, and one day later, I found myself on the Vancouver set of “Human Target,” discussing the 25-year-old British actress’ busy year.
Ambitious British assistant to sport-loving American exotic dancer to friendly ballerina to ragamuffin thief trying to go straight with the help of Christopher Chance and company? That’s a breakthrough year.
Before “Human Target” returns on Wednesday (Nov. 17) click through for my full interview with Montgomery from that August set visit…
HitFix: Let’s start at the top. Tell me a bit about your character on “Human Target”…
Janet Montgomery: She’s called Ames and she’s like a new, young energy for the show. She’s like a young, badass tough girl. She’s kinda looked after herself and she’s independent. I know everyone’s going on about this female energy to this show, but that’s not what this character’s about. Personally, I don’t think she’s feminine enough to be classed as a female energy for the show. She’s kinda one of the boys.
HitFix: What’s her background?
JM: Her background? Well, she’s been on her own for a long time. I would say that for me, personally, the background story that I’ve made up is that she’s gone from foster care to foster care until she met some people and built her own family through friends. She’s got a couple good friends who have her back, but they’re all doing the same thing. They’re thieves. She’s an Artful Dodger.
HitFix: So she’s not a glamorous thief?
JM: The best thing about Ames is that she becomes these different characters. They’re all part of her. She’s like an actress, really. She’s the best kind of actress. She does it to survive, not as a job. Well, it is a job, but she becomes these different characters and I get to play with wigs and accents. She’s just constantly tricking people.
HitFix: And is she American?
JM: Yeah, she’s American.
HitFix: Did you watch “Human Target” last season?
JM: I didn’t! But I have the DVDs on the way.
HitFix: And what have the guys told you about the way the show was last season and the way it is now?
JM: I did my research, so I know that the fans loved the show last year because it was these three guys and I know some of them are dubious about having women come in, so I was very aware of that. And I can understand why, because if a show’s working the way it is, there’s no reason to like suddenly have whiney women coming in. But I don’t think that’s what’s happening, especially not with Ames. It’s much more about the way the guys react to her. She’s so much of what Guerrero and especially Chance were when they were younger, so they can see themselves in her. They can see a lot of that and they don’t want her to be bad. They want her to help other people, because she’s skilled and she’s smart.
HitFix: How bad *was* she?
JM: Well, I don’t think she’s killed anyone. I had a quick discussion, but I don’t want to contradict the writers if that’s something that’s coming up. But I don’t think that in her past she’s ever killed anyone. I think she’s too young and also, she’s compassionate, even if she spends her whole time trying to fight that and wearing masks to hide behind. But yeah, she does bad things because she kinda has to.
HitFix: But at her core, she’s not a bad character? We’re supposed to think that her attempts to go straight are in earnest?
JM: I don’t know if that really matters. There’s no such thing as “good” or “bad” and that wouldn’t be interesting for the show and that wouldn’t be interesting for me to play. I think she’s playful and funny and it doesn’t matter if she’s doing something bad or good at that moment. You can’t help but kinda love her. You know? I know I love playing her for that reason, because even when she’s in the middle of doing something that’s gonna hurt someone else, she’s so funny when she’s doing it and doesn’t give a f***, so you can’t help but be like, “Oh, fair play.”
HitFix: So who have you gotten to share the most scenes with so far?
JM: Me and Jackie have had a lot of time together and obviously I’m such a big fan of his work and he’s such a fabulous actor and I’m getting to learn a lot from him. He’s played some creepy characters — I always say this to him — for one of the nicest, most put-together guys. He’s just an absolutely doll and I’m like, “Seriously, man. You’re the pedophile from ‘Little Children’!” but he’s just so lovely. He’s just the nicest guy.
HitFix: Is it a father-daughter dynamic that Ames and Guerrero have?
JM: There’s that. She’s annoying to him. She’s this annoying little side-pincher just getting on his nerves, but also she’s good. So she’s annoying him, but she gets the information that’s needed. So there’s that kind of thing, where he’s like, “OK. I could have done it myself,” but she kinda gets it quicker, because she’s young and smart and she has different ways of manipulating people like the guys can’t do, like a woman only can.
HitFix: So that *is* some feminine energy, then?
JM: Well yeah. I think that’s what people were afraid of, that it was going to be all sorts of women getting sexy and bringing this estrogen thing to the show, but that’s not how she always is. It’s not about being feminine and more about being young and cocky. That’s how she goes about it. Rather than being a scary guy, it’s more about being young and cocky and becoming different people in different situations.
HitFix: And as a young actress yourself, how easy is that to relate to?
JM: Well yeah, we have to manipulate a lot of people, so yeah.
HitFix: Does it come naturally for you?
JM: In every character you play, as much as you hate to admit it as an actor, but there’s an element of you that you bring to it. Either the character helps you discover that element of you or the other way around, where that element of you helps you discover the character. So yeah. I can relate, especially when I was younger. There’s a lot of me getting to go back to me a couple years ago and remembering how exciting was and just having that raw, “I don’t give a f***!” attitude, just running your mouth. That’s what she’s like.
HitFix: So how, exactly, did you come to be all over American TV this summer and fall?
JM: I came out here last May and I was testing for a movie and I did a movie for Lifetime and then… this year especially, I’ve been really lucky. I’ve worked with some great directors. I did Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” at the beginning of the year. I’ve played so many different characters this year as well. I just worked with Paul Rudd on a movie. I did “Entourage.” I did an episode of this improv comedy called “The League.”
HitFix: And you were hilarious in that. How much fantasy football did you know?
JM: I didn’t know any! And thanks to Jerry Ferrara, who I’m on “Entourage” with, who’s a big fantasy football fan and plays all the time, I called him on the morning of my audition and I was like, “I have to go in and improv. There’s no script, so I can’t even read it and pretend what I’m saying. I have to know it for the improv.” And he prepped me and I wrote it all down and I was in the car going over it. Without him, there was no way. Fantasy soccer? Or football in England? I might have been alright on that. I’d just throw in a “Ryan Giggs” or a “Wayne Rooney,” but American football? I’m clueless.
HitFix: And have you seen the “Black Swan” trailer that just went up?
JM: I saw it yesterday! I e-mailed Darren and was like [sarcastic], “Thanks for letting me know the trailer’s up!” and he was like, “It’s been up for 13 minutes!” And I said, “You still could have told me!” I’m so excited.
HitFix: The trailer is so intriguing, but you can’t tell a thing about the movie from watching it. How would you describe the movie?
JM: It’s typical Aronofsky, though not in the way “The Wrestler” is, but what’s great about it is… My favorite Aronofsky movie is “Pi” and he has mixed elements from “Pi” and “Requiem for a Dream” and the shooting elements of “The Wrestler,” so you have that documentary feel to it, all together into a movie which I’m so excited to see. He’s one of those directors where you don’t know what he’s shooting, when he’s shooting it. You just know you have to be on-set the whole time. You don’t even know if the camera’s on you. It’s just how he works and you just do it. I cannot tell you what the movie’s going to look like, but I’m sure it’s going to be good.
HitFix: And what can you tell me about your character in that one?
JM: I play one of the girls in the ballet company, one who’s friendly to Natalie Portman’s character. Now there are other girls who are quite bitchy, because she gets to play the Swan Queen, the big part in the show. She’s this clueless, sweet girl. She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body and even if the other girls are being bitchy, she’s kinda like smiley. In every take, Darren was like, “Just smile more in this one, Janet.” So the whole time, I just have this big smile on my place.
HitFix: And was that a challenge for you?
JM: It wasn’t hard for me, but she just comes across as a bit goofy, I guess.
HitFix: And it’s hard to tell from the trailer. Are there supernatural elements? Just psychological elements? What’s happening?
JM: Well that’s the the million dollar question and that’s the great thing about Aronofsky movies. You’ll have to come up with that yourself after you watch the movie. Everyone has a different perception of what they think. I think people have to watch “Pi” like 20 times and you still don’t know the answer. I can tell you from the way I perceive it, but my opinion doesn’t matter. You have to see it for yourself and see what you think.
HitFix: What are you looking for in terms of upcoming projects? How long are you attached to “Human Target”?
JM: At the moment it’s undecided. I’m doing it as a recurring role. I just want my career to carry on the way it is this year. I’ve got parts in mind that I’d like to do. I’ve never done a period piece. That’s something I’d be really interested in doing. My background is more horror or thriller and you can’t get better than horror fans, as far as I’m concerned. I’d love to do like a modern day “Shining” and play the Jack Nicholson role. I want to play parts that are written for men. After this action element, I’d love to do an action movie. I just want to keep doing what I’m doing and keep playing so many different roles.
HitFix: How on Earth do you get to be a 20-something British actress without doing a period piece?
JM: I know! I know, right? I think it’s because I’ve been working on American TV. I’d also like to do a French movie. I feel like they make such interesting movies and I’m desperate to go over there for six months, learn the language and just play a really small part in a French movie, just to be like “Check that off the list!”
HitFix: But you don’t have French skills?
JM: In England you learn French in school, so I speak French, but maybe not the way French people would like… Maybe I’ll do Meryl Streep and just learn a language. [She laughs.] If *she* can do it!
“Human Target” returns to FOX on Wednesday, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m.