‘Big Sky’: One Actor Spoke on Being a ‘Distant Relative’ of Hollywood Legend Harvey Keitel

by Suzanne Halliburton

Big Sky fans know all about Jerrie Kennedy, the sex worker who was held captive up until the winter finale.

Jerrie is played by Jesse James Keitel. Big Sky picks up again Tuesday after a two-month absence. And from the video hints dropped by the show, we know that Jerrie is once again being harassed by Ronald. Except, this time she’s contending with Ronald by working for private investigators trying to find him.

But Jerrie stands strong, much like the actor who plays the character. Maybe it’s in the genes.

Jesse James Keitel is related to Harvey Keitel. We know Harvey Keitel plays a true “badass” on screen. Throughout his career, Keitel has worked with director Martin Scorsese. He’s played both cop and villian, even a pimp. And he gives his characters many layers. There’s no either/or about his performances.

Jesse James Keitel’s grandfather was Jerome Keitel. He was Harvey Keitel’s cousin. Jesse James Keitel loves that they’re related, especially now that she’s on such a well-written, multi-dimensional show.

“It’s kind of serendipitous,” Jesse James Keitel told the New York Post. “I don’t have a relationship with [Harvey Keitel] but he’s made a career out of playing these badass, tough, masculine men. In a lot of ways, I’m also playing a badass — but really subverting what that means in 2021.”

Jesse James Keitel certainly isn’t playing a cookie-cutter character on Big Sky. She’s one of the first non-binary actors to play a non-binary character on network television. She said she was expecting some blowback.

Jesse James Keitel Says She’s Received Positive Comments

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting to get a lot of hate,” she told the Post. “I started therapy before the show aired, mentally preparing myself to get ripped apart — and I couldn’t have been more wrong.”

“I’ve gotten messages from 85-year-old women who are very firm in their beliefs and who have fallen in love with Jerrie, who changed their perception of, not just queer people, but trans people. It’s been kind of shocking to me in many ways.

“I don’t know if I’m necessarily the most optimistic person, but it’s sparked a newfound optimism in me.”

She certainly has a role model in Harvey Keitel. And she’s also using her platform to shine a light on other Americans like her.

Keitel wrote in an Instagram post: “Being visible is a beautiful privilege and responsibility — but it’s also soul numbingly exhausting. Unpack your internalized biases, lean into your discomfort and unlearn your sour habits. Uplift the queer people in your life and demand that they are respected — because existing in 2021 is *hard* and I’m tired of trans people needing to pick themselves up when it feels like the world just keeps kicking us down.”