March 30, 2017

It’s 2017, and Jessica Chastain is ready to break some serious gender norms.

In the two-time Oscar nominee’s latest project, The Zookeeper’s Wife, Chastain stars as real-life hero Antonina Żabiński, a polish zookeeper who fostered hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust.

Chastain, 40, sees her role as an incredible first in the vast canon of films that deal with the horrific chapter of history. “I don’t think we’ve ever seen a Holocaust film that focuses on women in war, and children in war, and animals in war,” she told CNN. "In the past, we've connected strength, leadership, ambition, power, as masculine traits. And we've connected compassion and emotion and kindness and softness as feminine traits,” Chastain said. “The great thing about today is the boundaries are being blurred."

The actress credits Żabiński as a crucial cog in the progression of female empowerment. "It was a great responsibility to play this character. “I definitely felt the weight of history. I felt the weight of the family," Chastain said, noting, “It’s exciting to release this film in a time where gender is being redefined.”

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The Zookeeper’s Wife opens nationwide March 31.