Richard Jenkins made his screen debut in 1974, in a TV production called “Feasting with Panthers,” but he struggled for a decade and worked in a theater company until the mid-1980s, when he began landing a steady string of small jobs in films and TV shows.
“I don’t have to worry about [money] now, but I did for many years,” he explains. “I worried about it … I had two kids and it was like, ‘What do I do now?’ My wife, thank God, she was a dancer, and she’s a choreographer and she taught dance in an arts magnet high school. I don’t know what we would have done.”
That is one reason why Jenkins empathized with the Blakes in “The Humans.” Like so many working families, they face deep financial worries: his daughter Brigid (Beanie Feldstein) is attempting to make it as a musician, her fiancé Richard (Steven Yeun) is still in school, and the parents themselves are facing a perilous economic cliff that is revealed during the course of the film.
“It was very familiar, but I think it’s familiar to any of us,” says Jenkins about the characters’ plights and the movie’s dissection of them. “I grew up in a small town in the Midwest and the Blakes’ problems are not unique to the Blakes. They’re in every family — if not all of them, some of them. Health, money, betrayal, yearning, wanting to be loved.”
Although his days as a struggling actor are behind him, Jenkins says issues of money seen in “The Humans” can resonate with everyone. “There are so many people who live day-to-day not knowing if they’re going to have enough money to pay the electricity bills or the mortgage,” he says. “It’s a terrifying feeling, to have that feeling all the time.”