Little is known of Newman's past, other than that she was born to Tom Newman and his unnamed wife before her brother David, as their first child. Eventually, her parent divorced, much to her outrage, and her father fell in love with another woman, Amy, who he married, causing Newman to grow resentful of her. Soon after this, her father, a hydroelectric engineer, was contracted to supervise the building of a dam in South Africa, deciding to bring along Newman, her brother, and new stepmother.
Jessica Newman made her debut in the film arriving South Africa with her family, being disgusted by her father and stepmother's affection for each other, before not wanting to climb up into a car due to wearing a skirt. Her father forced her to anyway, her being uninterested in the various animals they saw along the way to Leopard's Rest Lodge, where they were to stay on this venture(her father was here for a contract). When they reached the lodge, Newman openly mocked her stepmother as she swam in a bikini she called skimpy, before her brother, David, told her to lower her voice. At supper later, she refused to try any warthog, being a vegetarian, and took offense to Amy's, her stepmother, laughing at her Lion King remark, storming off. Followed by her father, Newman voiced her hate of Africa's heat, dust, and animals, before being unconvinced when her father asked her to give Amy a chance, saying she loved him and her mother, but her father said it couldn't be the way it was anymore, before they all later retired to their rooms for the night. The next morning, Newman and the others woke up early to go on a game drive with a ranger named Brian, who her father had met previously, her asking why it had to be so early, before ending up in the back seat of his SUV with Amy. After they got on the road, Newman asked Brian if they would actually see animals, prompting him to drive more off-road. When David needed to use the restroom, Brian stopped and they got out with his rifle. Whiel they were out, Amy tried to talk to Newman about their new lives now, but she interrupted her saying something was wrong outside, them both watching in horror as they saw a lioness eying David and Brian, which furthered when Newman pointed out a lion behind them. Amy got out and tried to draw its attention, only for it to signal the female, who charged. Though David made it back in time, Brian shut himself out to keep them all alive, and was killed by the lioness before their eyes. Afterwards, they found that the pride consisted also of another female as they devoured his body nearby. Later, Newman asserted they should get Brian's rifle, but Amy refused to let anyone get out, before she later refused some water. That night, as a rainstorm happened, Amy allowed them to open a door and window to drink, before lightning struck a tree and scared them. The next morning, after Newman and David located them, Amy decided over her get the keys, them arguing before Newman mocked her.
After Amy said they'd talk when this was over, she got out to get them, with Newman and David alerting her when one of lionesses appeared. Amy made it back just barely, but drove the wrong way and wrecked the SUV, which then wouldn't crank again. At this point, Newman suggested that they maybe should just try to make their way back, but Amy again refused to let anyone leave the car, and they again argued on this subject. When a helicopter flew by without noticing them, Newman got out against Amy's command and tried to draw their attention, failing to do so and crying in despair while Amy held her. Quickly, they were attacked by one of the lionesses, who was shot in the head by a native hunter(or poacher), who, with his friend, began to skin her, seemingly uninterested in their situation. Though newman and Amy both got back inside the SUV, they quickly got back out to ask if they knew where water was, Newman, with Amy's hesitant consent, leaving with one to a watering hole, where she filled two gourds with water to bring back. They heard a shot, and when they got back, the other hunter had been taken by the lion, his friend leaving after him and Newman getting back inside after Amy caused her to drop one of the gourds. Later that night, after her iPod died, Newman asked Amy how she first met her father, and though she at first unwilling, she said it was on a plane to Chicago and how he asked her out the first time; with one white rose. As they both asked laughed at this, Newman declared this cheesey, before Amy assured her Tom and her mother had already divorced before they met and that she would not have dated him otherwise. This began the point of their reconciliation. Seconds later, they were alerted by the sound of something outside, which was the hunter getting back. After they let him in, the lion smashed through the winshield and dragged him out, them barricading the hole, before getting further back. The next morning, things seeming more hopeless than ever, Newman asserted that they would eventually be forced to get out and go find help with the SUV falling to pieces, before agreeing with David that she didn't want to die either. Amy, however, declared she would not let them die and that they would use all they had to survive. After Amy gave her the knife the hunter had dropped, she used it to cut the seat belts so that the seat could be better used to block the opening and cut padding from the floor to make shade.
Meanwhile, David prepared a list of inventory, reading it off, before revealing a lighter which he believed was Newman's. She denied it was, and Amy revealed it was hers and that she smoked when nervous or stressed. They both promised to keep this a secret, before David later asserted that the hyenas nearby the hunter had suddenly just left. Quickly the lion arrived, but left soon, before they all heard the sound of a car engine on the other side of the valley. After Newman convinced her that the lion was gone, Amy got out to try and alert them, getting back inside after successfully doing so. When they saw that one of the men was Tom, they were all delighted, but that quickly turned to terror when the last lioness appeared close to him. However, his guide shot her through the heart before she kill him, only for the lion to kill him in revenge. After they couldn't get the door to open, Tom was forced under the car by the lion. After confirming this, Amy broke open the gas tank, puzzling Newman, who, with her brother, agreed that they trusted her, being instructed to make for a tree with their father when she said so. Doing so when the word was given, Amy then lured the lion inside the SUV and lit the gasoline to blow it up. At first it seemed like she died as well, however, Amy quickly appeared beside the fire alive, and newman took her hand, before they all headed back to the other car to return to the lodge.
Newman has always loved her father, mother, and brother, and became outraged when they divorced. After her father fell in love with a woman named Amy, and married her, Newman, in exact opposite of her brother, David, grew resentful of her, openly mocking her on more than one occasion. However, they reconciled towrds the end of the film, after Amy assured her she and her father dated after he and her mother were divorced. Newman, like most females in an overwhelming situation, easily gave up hope of survival, needing to be spurred on.