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Transatlantic: Why Gillian Jacobs Was Tapped To Play Mary Jayne Gold

Gillian Jacobs continues to prove herself among the most versatile actors in the game, and these days her immaculate dramatic and comedic wiles are well on display in her portrayal of Mary Jayne Gold for Netflix's WWII drama "Transatlantic." 

An American heiress, Gold played a key role in helping thousands of refugees escape occupied France during the war. As portrayed by Jacobs in "Transatlantic," she did so under the guise of being a boozy socialite who enjoyed a good time. And according to "Transatlantic" showrunner Anna Winger, the duality of that character — particularly in the context of the series' complex mix of screwball farce and hard-hitting drama — made the role incredibly difficult to cast.

Winger admitted as much during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, telling the publication, "It was really hard to cast the Mary Jayne Gold role. We had trouble even thinking of someone who would work. We were really stumped." Per Winger, the trouble arose as they needed an actor, "Who had a kind of old-world sensibility, a kind of Katharine Hepburn glamor heroine who's also really smart but has funny bones." And yes, they needed her to be able to handle the heaviness of the drama too. Though it apparently took a while to land on Jacobs, Winger admits the "Community" standout was more than suited to the material, stating, "Gillian was absolutely perfect."

Jacobs was not the series' only tricky casting job

If you've seen an episode or two of "Transatlantic," you know Gillian Jacobs is one of several actors who are able to carry both the hyper-specific style of comedy required and the dramatic weight inherent to the story. As Anna Winger told The Hollywood Reporter, even if Jacobs' role was maybe the trickiest to cast, others proved just as complicated. 

"But it was really interesting in general with the casting on the show," Winger said, continuing, "It was so hard to find the right people, but then, for each of them, the casting seemed exactly right. Cory Michael Smith is so unbelievably great as Varian Fry. Lucas Englander, as amazing as Albert Hirschman."

Beyond the talents of the individual actors, the chemistry of the cast was really able to reach its fullest potential when the production landed in France, where Winger said everyone became extraordinarily tight-knit. "Everybody was living in Marseille. The whole experience of coming together to make the show replicated what the show was about."