Bianca D'Ambrosio On Call Jane's Importance After Roe V. Wade — Exclusive Interview

Sundance welcomed two films this year that touched on the Jane Collection (via NPR). If you're currently wondering what the Jane Collective is, you're not alone. Bianca D'Ambrosio — who stars in "Call Jane," which is one of those two films at Sundance this year — also had no idea what the Jane Collective was before being cast in the film. It makes sense, as the Jane Collective dissolved shortly after Roe v. Wade was passed in 1973 and abortions became legal for all Americans. That was nearly 50 years ago, but the story of the Janes seems as relevant today as it was when they first existed. 

According to Smithsonian Magazine, the Janes were a group of activists in Chicago who ended up helping thousands of people receive abortions at a time when the procedure was still illegal. Their story is now being told through films like "Call Jane." While "Call Jane" is a fictional story of Joy (played by Elizabeth Banks) who ends up getting help from the Jane Collective and becoming an activist herself, the story is an important one, especially after the overturning of Roe v. Wade on June 24. The List spoke exclusively with D'Ambrosio, who plays the daughter of Kate Mara's character in the film, about the Janes, the right to abortion, some advice she received on set, and her career start on "The Young and the Restless."

The timing of Call Jane after the overturning of Roe v. Wade

What did you know about the Jane Collective before you accepted the role?

Before going into the movie, I researched a little bit about the Jane Collective, but I read more about the script. I learned more about what were the issues regarding Roe v. Wade and what issues women were facing during that time before I went into it. As I began filming, I learned more about the Jane Collective as I was on set and hearing experiences.

What were some of those experiences that you heard about from people on set?

I heard from some of the writers and producers. They talked to some people who were involved in the Roe v. Wade movement and were there. I learned so much talking [to] people and talking about how it was so hard for women to speak up. It broke me inside because it's sad to see that. Going backwards in time — filming a movie where you have to be in a world where women didn't really have a voice — it was challenging, but it was an enlightening experience.

Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, do you think that's going to change the way the audience watches the movie or takes away anything from the film?

I believe so. This topic is so important and it's always been important. We knew going into this movie when we filmed it a year ago that the topic of abortion rights, it was so relevant even a year ago, before there were talks about it being overturned. Now that the movie's going to be coming out soon and everything's been going on, it makes the filming experience, when I look back on it, it's like, "Wow, we really did that." We're making a movie that's going to elevate the conversation and talk about the truth and about women in the '60s before this all happened and showing that. It's sad that we're going back to that, and it's crazy. The movie coming out is going to be powerful. At least, I hope.

When making the movie, was the potential of Roe v. Wade being overturned ever discussed on set or brought up at all?

I don't think so, but when we were filming, there were people in the area that were not as happy that this was being filmed. It's a really controversial topic, although Roe v. Wade being overturned wasn't discussed in detail because it was a faint idea at the time. If I would sit down with the producers again, I'm sure that's all we'd be talking about, because it's happening right now.

What Bianca hopes the audience takes away from Call Jane

What do you hope that the audience does take away from this movie?

I hope that the audience takes away that women want to choose. This is their right. It's their bodies, it's their choice. This movie does an amazing job of touching on that, and we also, in the movie, talk about women who go through different experiences and go through different reasons why they need to have an abortion. For people to see that nowadays, it will maybe change their minds on how they feel about it. I hope that's what people take away from it. They can see the whole big picture.

I was going to ask, did you think that this movie could change anyone's ideas on abortion or right to abortion?

I hope so.

There were two movies at Sundance this year about the Jane Collective. Do you think that just proves how important of a story it is to tell, and especially right now?

100%. It's amazing that there are a lot of movies talking about the Jane Collective and about women's experience in the 1960s before Roe v. Wade and afterwards. [With] all these films coming out this year, especially, it's going to be powerful. 2022 is going to show that although women's rights are being tested, there's going to be a movie that shows this is the experience, you need to see this. This is about women and it's made for women. These movies were made to show these experiences. I'm getting all happy thinking about how everyone's going to see these movies. I'm so excited.

The advice Bianca got from Elizabeth Banks

"Call Jane" has an amazing cast. You have Phyllis Nagy as your director. Did you get any good words of wisdom or advice from any of your co-stars like Kate Mara, Sigourney Weaver, or Elizabeth Banks?

They were all amazing. This wasn't direct advice, but from Elizabeth, I learned that although you could be filming a really intense, sad scene, you could still be happy in the in between moments. In between a really sad scene in the beginning of the movie, she's experiencing some symptoms [and] in between takes she'd be telling jokes and making people feel happy to keep everyone positive. That was what I noticed. I was like, "Hmm, that's such a great tip to like, keep everyone motivated to keep going too."

Did you feel a sense of like sisterhood or collective on set, because it was a fairly women-led movie?

Yes. 100%. We have incredible female producers. We have an amazing female director. We have a strong and powerful female cast, and I felt amazing being there. I was honored to be even standing in the same room as the people in this movie. I was like, "Wow. They have amazing energy and they're all so nice." Everyone [was] so nice and everyone was so excited to be there because they knew what this movie was going to be and how powerful this movie was going to be. I can't speak too many good words about it. It was an awesome experience.

Do you have any favorite memories or like a fun story to tell from set?

On my first day, I worked with Elizabeth and Chris Messina. When we were filming with Chris, he comes in the room and he's cracking jokes, like, "You know what? Let's improvise a bit in the beginning, and if they don't use it, they don't use it. Let's just do it." We did in the beginning and it was so fun and easy. Elizabeth, in between those takes, was also telling jokes. I was surprised she was so happy [during these] really sad scenes going on, but that was my fondest memory and  my family was there. We all got to experience this together.

How Call Jane makes a serious subject relatable

I read some reviews that this movie keeps a lighthearted touch to it and it's got some humor to it, too. Do you think that helps in telling the story of the Jane Collective and that it makes it more palatable and less like a serious topic?

This topic is serious, no matter what way you put it, but our movie does a good job of showing you could smile, because this movie follows a bunch of women who are running an underground abortion clinic and helping other women who are struggling. There's moments between each member where they can have a joke or two, and our film wants to show that, although this is dark times, there could be lighthearted conversation during it.

What ways do you relate to your character in the movie?

Erin is keeping a lot of her feelings down, especially because her dad just passed away and she's dealing with her mom spiraling out of control. It's the '60s so you have to bite all that down and be a strong front. There's some experiences [in which] I don't relate to Erin, but the one common thing we have is that we always put up a brave front for others and we hide back our feelings, so then our family and friends could feel better. That was an interesting discovery. When I started filming, I was like, "Wow. There's some parts [where] we relate to each other."

Bianca is setting her sights on the director's chair

You just graduated and you're planning to attend UC Berkeley for film and law. What are your ultimate career goals?

I'm so glad you saw that. I want to continue pursuing my acting career, but my ultimate dream is to be a director. That is what I've always wanted to do. I see myself making ... female driven movies, and that's what I really want to do. I'm pursuing a field of law because I'm really interested in law and I want to learn more about the business side of the industry, too. I'm going to juggle both.

Since you're interested in directing, did you pick anything up from Phyllis Nagy while you were on set?

Yes. The way Phyllis directed this movie is very aesthetically pleasing to me. When I watched the movie for the first time, I was like, "Wow, that is how I want to direct a movie." She got the color scheme right. She got the angles right. It felt like watching a movie from the '60s, and that also helped everything feel authentic. I loved her directing style, and this was her first feature film to direct. I was honestly so surprised and I was honored to be a part of her first film.

Would Bianca ever return to The Young and the Restless?

I know that you and your sister, Chiara D'Ambrosio, actually got your start on "The Young and the Restless," where you both played Summer Newman. Do you have any memories from being on set? I know that you were very young, but do you have any memories?

One comes to mind. I was three years old when I played Summer on "The Young and the Restless," but I remember, because Chiara and I were young, we played one character so they can switch us out because of our hours. It just so happened that my turn was filming the Halloween episode and I got to eat candy over and over again in the scene. I remember, as we filmed the last take, I looked to my sister on the right, and she was so mad, but I was happy, so it didn't matter.

Would you ever want to return to daytime or "The Young and the Restless"?

Yes. I am currently a part of a daytime digital drama called "The Bay" and I was nominated for my role in "The Bay," so I am a big fan of daytime. I absolutely love it. If "The Young and the Restless" called me back, I would do it in a heartbeat.

I was going to ask you actually, [because] you have two Daytime Emmy nominations for your work, what was that experience like [while filming "The Bay"]? What was it like finding out that you were nominated?

Being a part of "The Bay" has been such a fulfilling experience. I've been able to play my character, and she's gone through so many ups and downs and I've really tested my acting abilities through this show. I'm really grateful for this experience, and finding out I was nominated, it's a blur, to be quite honest with you. 

I finished my morning workout and I purposely did it right before so I would have other things to think of, because I knew the nominations were coming out at a certain hour and I didn't know what was going to happen. I was like, "Okay, you know what? I'm going to workout and blah, blah, blah." I finished my workout, I run upstairs and all of a sudden, the article comes out and I'm scrolling to see if my name's on there. 

I see it and I scream, and I'm like, "Mom!" She comes running down the stairs. We have this big group hug, and then I called my best friend and she started crying. It was a fun experience.

Summer Newman has actually been played by a few different actresses over the years, so if the opportunity ever presented itself for you to play her again, would you?

Oh, 100%. 150%. I've actually followed a little bit of "The Young and the Restless" after I was on the show. I would watch with my mom, and [Summer is] an interesting character. I would love to play her again.

"Call Jane" is set to premiere in theaters on October 28.

This interview has been edited for clarity.