The 35-year-old serves as star and executive producer of new Netflix series The Sinner. The story follows a young mother, Cora, who murders a stranger in public – without any idea why.
The show then explores the fallout and how it affects Cora’s marriage.
And, most importantly, her young son.
Here, Jessica talks to TV WEEK about the challenging role and how, thankfully, it couldn’t be further from her own life.
The Sinner really starts with a bang! Can you talk us through the premise?
"I play Cora, who is, at first, seemingly a very normal young woman. She has a family, a small child, a husband, and lives in Upstate New York. One day, she goes out to the lake with her family and, for reasons unknown to the audience, Cora commits this severe act of violence in front of hundreds of people. What makes The Sinner different is we’re not dealing with who did it, but why?"
Cora is a mother – and you and [husband] Justin Timberlake also became parents to son Silas in 2015. How has parenthood changed you?
“Being a mother has changed everything. When you become a parent, you think you’re a patient person, but you’re not. You think you’re a compassionate person, but you’re not.”
Has it changed your relationship at all?
“You see your partner in a completely different way, because you’re seeing them interact with this little, perfect thing you created. All ego and cool factor is gone when they’re lying on the floor, googly-eyeing a fat baby. I feel like I look at him totally differently some days. I’m in awe of him and how he interacts with that little dude.”
Time goes quickly as a parent. Have you started to think about what you want for Silas in the future?
“I don’t want him to be a musician. [laughs] – I know, good luck to me! Of course, whatever he wants to be, he can be. But it’s such a tough business.
"I watch what Justin goes through, and he’s at the top of his game. He has access to all the producers and he can get songs on the radio, but it’s still hard."
For any couple in your situation, balance is a big part of making it work. How do you and Justin manage?
"It’s something we’re constantly working on. We don’t have a foolproof equation of exactly what to do. But he has been the most supportive person in my life – specifically with the show.
"He knows how important this is and how much I love this material. I also think he feels like it’s my turn. I had this baby and, in the last couple of years,
I haven’t worked that much."
Now that you’re entering the realm of TV again, are there certain shows you can’t get enough of?
"I love TV! Along with everyone else, I’ve been watching Game Of Thrones and House Of Cards. We’re also really into Peaky Blinders. And I’ve just started checking out 13 Reasons Why, which is really interesting."