Born in Bahia, Brazil, Jéssica Barbosa, 24, became known to wide audiences after starring in director João Daniel Tikhomiroff’s movie Beetle (Besouro), for which she was awarded the Breakthrough Artist in the 2009 Brazilian Black Film Festival. Beetle tells the story of the legendary capoeira fighter Besouro Mangangá, and was selected for the 2010 Berlin International Film Festival. In 2009 Beetle was also voted best movie in the yearly poll by newspaper Folha de São Paulo.

Jessica was discovered by Besouro’s renowned casting director Fátima Toledo, who is known for other successful movies, such as The Elite Squad, City of God and Central Station.

Director João Daniel said, “As soon as Jessica started auditioning, we saw that besides being a great actress, she seemed to have been molded body and soul for the role of the hero’s romantic interest Dinorá, as well as African-Brazilian deity Iansã (master of the wind and storms).” Apart from the challenge of portraying two key roles in the movie, Jessica performed acrobatic fight scenes choreographed by wire effects specialist Hiuen Chiu Ku, the action scenes director for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Matrix and Kill Bill.

Jessica started her theater training at 18 in Salvador, Bahia. In 2006 she moved to São Paulo, where she received vocal training and performed in two musicals. Since 2007 she’s been in Rio de Janeiro, where she participated for two years in the Performance Group Liquida Ação. She continues to study vocal technique and capoeira, as well as refining her dance and body language skills at the prestigious Angel Viana school.

In 2010 she will receive her graduate degree in acting from Escola Martins Pena, the first school for actors in Latin America.

Inspired by movie and theater legends such as Meryl Streep, Isabelle Huppert and fellow Brazilian Wagner Moura (from The Elite Squad), Jessica believes that “an actor’s work is uninterrupted. Artistic development is a lifetime’s project,” and concludes, “truly great artists are those who never stop learning and taking risks”.