Jack Nicholson is openly a father to five children: Ray, Jennifer, and Lorraine Nicholson, Honey Hollman, and Caleb James Goddard. He is also the biological father of actress Tessa Gourin, though he has never publicly acknowledged this connection.
Tessa recently penned an essay for Newsweek in which she discusses the term “nepo baby” and the connections that some celebrity children enjoy in Hollywood.
At the beginning of her essay, Tessa explains, “Having grown up without my father, I’ve sat on the sidelines and watched in frustration as other celebrity children have seamlessly secured roles or been signed to huge agencies. More recently, I have grown even more frustrated at what I think is a missed opportunity for these so-called ‘nepo babies’ to own their position and embrace it instead of complaining about it.”
She then explains that she understands how difficult it can be to get in front of casting agents and directors as an actor, but that there are some in Hollywood who are able to bypass the traditional routes because of the connections their parents have.
Tessa writes, “It is no secret that Hollywood was built on connections. However, once those doors open, you have to roll up your sleeves and get to work, which should be an exciting prospect if you truly love acting as an art form. You can’t continually book the work without the talent.
“Look at Drew Barrymore. She comes from an acting dynasty and she’s also incredible in her own right. And would we really dismiss Jane Fonda as a ‘nepo baby,’ given that she is a talented woman who has achieved longevity through countless incredible performances?”
Tessa also dives into the relationship she’s had with her dad, or the lack of one.
“Although I flew from New York City to Los Angeles to meet on the odd occasion as a young girl (at the behest of my mother), it was always clear that he wanted no part in my life,” she explains. “Have you ever been on a date and sensed that the other person just wasn’t feeling it? That’s pretty much how every interaction I have ever had with Jack Nicholson has gone. Harsh though it may seem, I hold no bitterness toward him for his decision, though it’s taken a while for me to understand it.”
She continues, “I even read Anjelica Huston’s memoir, Watch Me, for the sole purpose of gaining an insight into the years she spent with him. I think he’s one of the greatest actors of all time (groundbreaking opinion, I know). I heard he likes to paint, as do I. He is also said to be a student of method acting, which I am too. If there is anything I am mourning, it is not a father-daughter relationship, but an artist-to-artist connection that we could have shared had the circumstances been different.”
Ultimately, she concludes, her biological father has impacted how she feels about pursuing a career in acting entirely. As Tessa puts it, “Here’s the deal: in many ways, I appreciate that my upbringing was unique. Jack Nicholson has affected every part of my life imaginable. One of the most influential actors happens to be my biological father and for whatever reason, he isn’t interested in having a relationship. This has always left me conflicted about pursuing something I truly love.”
In short, nepo babies need to calm down. Tessa adds, “I hope that those privileged enough to be called ‘nepo babies’ are taking the same approach. Yes, your mommy or daddy might be famous, but just embrace it and be thankful it opened a door for you. Then put in the work to prove that you deserve it.”