Elizabeth Banks's new movie, Call Jane, the fictionalized story of the real-life women who worked underground in the years before abortion was legal to help women obtain the procedure safely, couldn't be better suited for this moment. Not that she wanted it to be that way.
"I think the film coming out now feels maybe like there's a greater responsibility on it," she tells Yahoo Entertainment. "However we made the movie knowing that there were what we call abortion healthcare deserts all across America already. So in places like Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, millions of women have to already travel so far for abortion healthcare that it really felt like the, the post-, overturning Roe world already existed for millions of women in this country."
Call Jane was filmed last year, before the court ruled, on June 24, to overturn Roe, which revoked the federal Constitutional right to abortion, via a ruling in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. Since then, more than a dozen states have completely banned the procedure, even in cases of rape or incest.
"It's a dangerous future that we're looking at," Banks says.
The Phyllis Nagy-directed project depicts Banks as Joy, an expectant married woman living in an America before abortions were legalized in the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. Joy, who Banks describes as "very judgmental and closed-off" early in the film, turns to the Janes in desperation, after an all-male panel decides that she can't terminate a pregnancy that her doctor says is threatening her life. After seeking help from the group, Joy has a "political awakening" and decides to join them in helping others in the situation she once faced, even as she feels the need to hide it from her husband, Will. He's played by Chris Messina.
One of her co-stars in the film, Sigourney Weaver, who plays Virginia, the leader of the Janes, recalls well the real-life world before 1973.
"Having been alive during that time, I felt that Roe vs. Wade released women to live their lives, to make choices, to have careers, to choose when to have a family or if to have a family," Weaver says. "And, it was very important to be part of that, cause I remember those bad old days and we don't wanna go back to them."
The Oscar-nominated star of Working Girl says the movie emphasizes the "need for sisterhood, for women helping women and women believing in our power to go beyond the Dobbs decision."
In the movie, Virginia finds common ground with Joy, something Banks hopes that the movie inspires others to do.
"It's very relatable to be quite judgmental of people before you have to walk in their shoes," Banks says. "And one of the things that Joy, this character learns, and I think a lot of women learn, is that you may think you are never gonna have to seek abortion healthcare. And this movie invites people to be a lot more empathetic to those who do need to seek abortion healthcare. It may not be you, but be a little more understanding and less judgmental of those who do, because as long as there are pregnant people in the world, there're gonna be people who don't want to be pregnant for various reasons."
Call Jane arrives in theaters Friday, Oct. 28.
— Produced by Jen Kucsak and edited by Leese Katsnelson