Accused: Wrenn Schmidt Ruminates on “Jack’s Story,” Being “Attracted and Repelled” by “Lightning Rod” Subject Matter


Two years ago, Accused Season 1 Episode 9 might have seemed dystopian. Less than a year after the Supreme Court dismantled protections afforded women with Roe vs. Wade, effectively transferring the matter to the states, it’s our reality.

“Jack’s Story” found Jack at the heart of a terrible situation in which one of his students desperately wanted to terminate her pregnancy but without a tenable route to do it.

Enter Jack, the teacher with a heart of gold, who made her problem his problem, everyone else be damned. It caused him much more than he bargained, but he didn’t lose the women he loved, Britney, played by For All Mankind’s Wrenn Schmidt.

I tuned into this episode just minutes after reading that the governor of Wyoming was looking to ban the morning-after pill, and as many southern states are considering the death penalty for women seeking abortion services.

It creates a very uneasy feeling, and with Howard Gordon’s always-provocative insights on Accused, and Schmidt playing a woman touched by the ongoing debate through her love for Jack, I reached out to her team about an interview.

Wrenn Schmidt SDCC 2022 IMDB Boat

She’s no stranger to provocative storytelling, starring as a scientist and NASA director on Apple TV+’s For All Mankind. If you haven’t seen the show and her compelling performance, you have homework to do.

As expected, Schmidt shared her thoughts, both personal and in reaction to the national argument, openly and honestly.

Howard Gordon has done a fantastic job of creating scenarios for Accused that really make people think. Why did the script for “Jack’s Story” appeal to you?

Honestly, I was attracted and repelled. It was such a tight script right out of the gate, but the subject matter felt like a lightning rod so soon after Roe v. Wade was repealed. It was a tough time for me to engage with other points of view.

I think that’s a universal feeling in America at the moment. The gulf between different points of view feels vast. I think that’s what’s brilliant about the show.

Britney listening - Accused Season 1 Episode 9

It’s great storytelling, and it’s culture in a debate that honestly engages with more than one point of view. Each character’s choices feel simultaneously understandable and confounding. It forced me to look at things differently. That’s what ultimately drew me in.

I’ll be honest. I watched this episode literally minutes after I saw an article about the governor of Wyoming making the morning-after pill illegal. When you were filming this, what were your thoughts about how the story could be changing in real-time?

I have a lot of strong opinions about this. I am a mother by choice. I wanted to get pregnant. I was excited to be pregnant and give birth. I am eternally lucky to have a beautiful daughter now.

However, I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone who didn’t want it. My body went through drastic changes that could only be repaired through multiple surgeries. Even though my daughter is now almost 4 years old, I’m still recovering.

Wrenn Schmidt at Acura Festival During Sundance Film Festival

Female bodies shouldn’t be a political battlefield. But they are. Geography, seemingly overnight (e.g., WY), determines access to essential, life-saving healthcare. At this particular moment, the focus is less about the well-being of women and children and more about elections.

It’s scary that young women can lose rights overnight. It’s a deeply personal decision they’re not allowed to make anymore.

You can see Jack and Britney love each other even as they struggle to understand each other. If you could have given both Jack and Britney advice, what would it have been?

Well, when you put it like that, ‘love each other even as you struggle to understand each other’ sounds more like advice than indictment, so… ̄_(ツ)_/ ̄  I think these two are going to need a few sessions on an Esther Perel podcast.

Slippery Slope - Accused Season 1 Episode 9

It was really interesting to me that Britney’s religious values seemed to counter Jack’s involvement with Clara, but she still stood by Jack. Why was that dichotomy important to the story?

Relationships are way more complicated than religious values, even if they’re often complicated by religious values. That’s what makes a rich story.

Britney is navigating her worst nightmare: the love of her life suddenly feels like a stranger. It touches a nerve at the very core of her identity.

She’s stuck trying to reconcile Jack’s choices with the guy she knows and loves and with what she believes. And that struggle includes seeing that Jack’s been falsely accused. No one deserves to go to prison for something they didn’t do.

Trying to Understand - Accused Season 1 Episode 9

Your roles often defy expectations. What do you enjoy about playing characters who are navigating the murky waters between traditional right and wrong?

I love the ambiguity. But I want to push back on your characterization. If it was about navigating right and wrong, the waters would be less murky.

But navigating between two different kinds of wrong and having no available option that is clearly right – that’s the ambiguity. And those kinds of characters are so hard for me to look away from.

I think this kind of storytelling can change perceptions and open dialogue. What conversations do you hope people have after watching Jack’s Story?

A great article by Elizabeth Kolbert, “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds,” appeared in The New Yorker six years ago, and it’s stayed with me ever since. It’s about the human mind and its limitations to reason.

Wrenn Schmidt 2023 Sundance Film Festival The Starling Girl Premiere

It helped me understand why debates about ‘issues’ feel impossibly entrenched. That said, and acknowledging the incredibly high bar here, I still agree with you.

I think a well-told story can create room for conversation and, more importantly, empathy. It doesn’t mean agreeing. But it maybe means allowing for honest experiences in this world that aren’t yours.

Margo Madison on For All Mankind could easily star in an episode of Accused, and the Season 3 finale was devastating. Is there anything you can tease about how she’s faring in Moscow?

Я не знаю. Я думаю, я не могу сказать. (Google Translate was not used for this response.)

Accused airs weekly on Tuesday nights at 9/8c on Fox.

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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