“It's all connecting your heart and your mind,” the Hollywood icon says. “And it has resulted in a flurry of creativity"

By Jason Sheeler
August 04, 2020 11:19 AM
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Jamie Lee Curtis has a lot of godchildren. “I do,” the actress, best-selling author, advocate (she just launched the charity initiative My Hand In Yours), and Hollywood icon says on a Friday afternoon by phone. “Because I'm trustworthy and I love people. Look, if you're going to pick a godmother, you pick someone who's trustworthy and who loves people.”

As it turns out, two of her godchildren joined her latest project, the Audible podcast Letters from Camp. The serialized, middle school tale stars Curtis (she also produced) along with one godson, Jake Gyllenhaal. And it was written by Boco Haft, one of her goddaughters. It was Haft’s own letters which inspired the podcast.

“This past December, my friend Lisa Birnbach in New York and she was going through Boco, her daughter's room.” Haft, who’s now 26, lives in Los Angeles and is a comedy writer, best known for her work on Family Guy. “In a box, she found an unsent letter which was addressed to me, that Boco wrote when she was 11 and at sleep away camp.” Birnbach (a writer as well, known for the classic 80s style guide, The Preppy Handbook) sent Curtis the letter. “It was still sealed.”

Curtis called Haft. “This is a T.V. show,” Curtis told her. “We started talking about it with her to write it. And then the podcast people heard about it. They went insane for it. Because really a podcast is TV for your ears.”

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Letters from Camp, as Curtis explains it, is about sixth-grader Mookie Hooper, a Dateline -obsessed, fanny-pack-wearing eleven-year-old. Her mother is a world-renowned reporter and Mookie is eager to prove she can follow in the family mold as an investigative journalist. At camp, Mookie learns about a mysterious old case of a girl who went missing. “The story is told through weekly letters written from camp. And I play camp director Sue.” The podcast also stars her Knives Out costar Edi Patterson and Kirby Howell-Baptiste.

Letters from Camp
Audible

The story is very intentionally set in 2005, Curtis says. “It was such a needed breath of fresh air to be able to kind of go back in that time. We chose 2005, because it's pre-social media. It's pre the poison of social media.”

The entire season of Letters from Camp was created during the pandemic. Curtis was supposed to be filming Halloween Kills, the twelfth installment in the franchise right now. “Boco started writing this in May. And now you're hearing it. There was this freedom to it.” She and Gyllenhaal have talked about the new way of working.

“Jake and I were talking the other day. He sent me a picture of his ‘recording studio,’ which was like a little desk area in a house he was renting. He had cushions and blankets over the cushions. He told me, ‘When you're recording, you actually try things.’ This has been a very new, fun, creative Petri dish that is yielding great results. Like Taylor Swift’s new album. She was able to create something powerful.” The scrappy experience actually reminded her of the first Halloween she filmed, in 1978.

“That was made in 17 days with a really small group of people,” Curtis says. “It was guerrilla filmmaking. It was innocent. Everyone was young. Everyone had nothing to lose. No one had any money. No one had any property or prestige. Everybody was hungry for being creative.”