Jessica Michelle Chastain is an American actress best known for her role as Maya in Zero Dark Thirty and as as Celia Foote in The Help. Raised in a middle-class family in a northern California suburb, she discovered dance at the age of nine. By the age of 13, she was in a dance troupe. She took her mother's maiden name and began performing in Shakespearean productions all over the Bay area.
An actor in a production of "Romeo & Juliet" encouraged her to audition for Juilliard as a drama major. She became a member of "Crew 32" with the help of a scholarship from one of the school's famous alumni: Robin Williams.
In her last year at Juilliard, she was offered a holding deal with TV writer/producer John Wells and she eventually worked in three of his TV shows. Jessica continues to do theatre, having played in "The Cherry Orchard", "Rodney's Wife", "Salome" and "Othello". She spends her time between New York and Los Angeles, working in theater, film and TV.
She has been nominated for and won a number of awards, including a 2012 Oscar nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for The Help. In 2012, she was named as one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people in the world and was Runner-up for Esquire magazine's Sexiest Woman Alive. In 2013, she had the distinction of being the first woman in nearly 50 years to have the leading role in the top two films at the box office: On the weekend of January 18-21, Zero Dark Thirty dropped to the number two position as her other film, Mama, ascended to the top spot.