This month’s interview is with the delightful and talented actress, Jade Pettyjohn. Jade began her acting career at the age of seven in Los Angeles. She first began singing and dancing in a local performing troupe.
After booking a national commercial at the age of seven, she then went onto co-star on the CBS hit show, The Mentalist. After that, Jade continued being cast in many different TV projects and movies such as Steven Speilberg’s United States of Tara, as McKenna Brooks in An American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars, The Last Ship for TNT and the upcoming feature film, Girl Flu and she currently stars on the Nickelodeon hit television series, School of Rock.
The producers and director of Girl Flu, had this to say about Jade:
“The minute she walked into the callbacks, we knew she was the right actress for the role. Jade is not only gifted and brilliant, but she is going to be a big star.”
Jade shares her advice on how she got started as an actress and gives you some of her successful tips.
What made you want to become an actress?
It seems so simple, but I liked making up characters and as I got more into it I fell in love with how you can make an impact on people. The power of what this can do is pretty amazing. To inspire, to stir, to change. That’s what I love about what I do.
How did you get started as an actress?
Well, my mom is a photographer and knew a few agents and managers. I asked her if I could do this and she set up a meeting with Karen Renna, who is still my manager today. Within a month of being with Karen I booked my first co-star role on The Mentalist, which was a great experience. This was my first time being on a set. Simon Baker was the perfect person to work with for my first role because he was kind and also treated me like an equal as opposed to just a kid. I remember really liking that.
What was the process of getting cast in the Nickelodeon hit show, School of Rock?
It was a long process. For the first audition I received about 10 to 12 pages of sides. They also asked for us to perform a song with my instrument of choice. I worked on the script first by getting the character and comedy timing down. Then I chose a song that I could sing and play well on guitar that fit the School of Rock vibe, which was a Red Hot Chili Peppers song. About a month later I got a callback for it. All in all there were a number of callbacks.
Once casting had an idea of who they wanted to take to network, they had many network rehearsals. We all did chemistry reads with all the top contenders for each role. Some of these rehearsals were about 4 to 5 hours. The day of the network audition, I woke up and had a good breakfast and actually practiced lines for a film I was shooting right after that audition. It always helps to have other work to focus on. Sometimes, I pull out my guitar and work on my music to take a step back from something I have put a lot of hours into. It really helped that we had so many rehearsals because the more you practice something the more confident and calm you are about it.
Usually after network tests you know pretty quick if you booked it. This was not the case with School of Rock. It was a little over a week later when I found out I booked the job. That can be nerve racking when it takes a while, but for some reason I just wasn’t worried about it. After the audition, I have sort of practiced throwing it out of my mind.
What advice do you have for young actors who are just starting out in show business?
There is a lot of advice that could be given in show business, but as an actor, there is one thing I found that has helped me so much in delivering a great performance. It is one simple word: Commit. Commit to the character. Commit to the scene. Commit to the work. Don’t be afraid to take chances and make choices. This doesn’t just apply to the field of acting in my opinion. When in doubt, commit.
How do you prepare for auditions? Do you ever get nervous and how do you handle that?
The first thing I do is read the script over and over. I like to think of it as detective work, searching for hints and clues of what the writer has created for my character. To memorize the lines, I’ll say the dialogue in as many different speeds, pitches, and accents as humanly possible. The point is to get the lines implanted in your head without getting stuck to one performance delivery. I then focus the rest of my time on my character, what my character wants from the scene, and what is actually going on in the scene.
As far as nervousness, there is not a single actor on the planet who hasn’t gotten nervous at one point or another. How I handle the nerves is to focus on the work and only the work. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the “what is casting going to think?”… “Am I tall enough?”… “Am I too young?” and all of that. But I can’t control if I have the right look or if I am too old or too young. When it comes down to it, it’s about the work and that is something I can be in control of. Voila! The nerves disappear!
Any funny stories that happened to you as an actress that you want to share?
I was working on a commercial. Long story short, there was an elephant on set and it stole my popsicle. It’s funny now, but stealing a seven year old’s popsicle was very serious business!
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