Interview: Get to know actress and musician Jillian Shea Spaeder
Jillian Shea Spaeder is a young singer, songwriter, director, and actress. At the age of eighteen she’s already had her directorial debut with the short film It Counts, acted in numerous projects from Nickelodeon to Netflix, and is currently working on a new music album.
Spaeder’s most recent role is Jane in the Disney+ movie Godmothered.
We had the lucky opportunity to ask Spaeder some questions about her new movie, her music, and a few other aspects of her career – here’s what she had to say.
How did you get started in acting? What drew you to it?
I’ve always been drawn to performing. I grew up in a musical family, and my parents say I started singing as soon as I could talk. As a child, I often held shows for the family where I did all the jobs: ticket maker and taker, usher, and of course, the star! I did some elementary school shows and took some theatre classes, which really gave me the bug. I got private coaching and eventually booked roles in several local equity theatre productions.
Could you tell us a little bit about your history as an actress?
Acting on screen wasn’t something that I’d ever thought about, to be honest. The summer I was 11, I flew to L.A. for a performing arts competition. At a seminar there I met Susie Mains, who is now my manager. She asked me to come in for a cold read later that week and she immediately expressed interest in signing me. This was all new to me and my family, so Susie encouraged me to come out for pilot season.
The following February my mom and I flew to L.A. for two months. We were very realistic about our expectations, hoping to maybe just book a commercial or “one little thing,” so we looked at it like an adventure. I had a lot of TV and movie auditions, tons of private coaching, and a few callbacks here and there. I was so excited when I booked that “one little thing,” several OMG skits for DreamWorksTV.
The day I was supposed to fly home to PA, I auditioned for the series regular role of Bailey on Walk the Prank. I got a producer callback for the next day, and then found out that night I would be testing for the role. While waiting a few weeks for the testing, I booked a guest star spot on a Nickelodeon show and several more OMG skits. Then I got the role of Bailey.
One of your most recent projects Godmothered was recently released on Disney+, can you describe what it’s about for those unfamiliar?
Godmothered is about a young fairy godmother-in-training (Eleanor) who finds out that her chosen profession is going extinct and sets out to prove that people still need fairy godmothers. She finds a letter in the file room asking for help and heads to Boston, but when she arrives, she finds out the girl who wrote the letter is now a single working mom with two daughters. I play the older daughter, Jane, who has a horrible case of stage fright. Eleanor tries to help the whole family find their happily ever after.
What excited you about Godmothered when you first heard about it?
I was excited to audition for a movie where I would get to act, sing, and play guitar. Then when I read the script, I was even more excited to find out it was set at Christmas time, had magic, and some Cinderella-type moments.
What’s your favorite on-set story from working on Godmothered?
The day Jillian (Bell) found out that Isla (Fisher) had never tasted Taco Bell, she immediately ordered a ton of tacos from there. We ran around giving them out to the cast and crew, and then we sat down on the floor of Isla’s warming tent and had a taco picnic in our costumes!
You recently released a really lovely version of “Let it Snow”, what inspired you to create a slower acoustic version of the song?
The first audition for Godmothered required me to sing a verse and chorus of either “Let It Snow” or “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” When I saw that the breakdown for the character read “guitar skills a plus,” I decided to come up with my own acoustic version of “Let It Snow.” My family loved the version so much, they encouraged me to record it. My dad helped me produce it, and we released it in November.
Over the past year you’ve been releasing a number of original singles too – are you able to tell us when we could potentially expect a full album?
Funny you should ask! I’m planning to release an album in early 2021 that will include most of the singles I’ve released, plus four or five new songs.
Earlier this year you directed a short film called It Counts (and acted in it), what led to the creation of this short?
I turned 18 in September, so this year’s election was my first time as a voter. I’ve been pretty passionate about encouraging other people to vote, too, especially with the pandemic. My friend Lilia and I were trying to figure out how we could use our voices and make a difference in the election.
We were awarded a grant to make a short film encouraging younger audiences to vote, whether in this election or a future one, and we worked with some of our friends to get it made quickly and safely. The point of the film is that every vote counts!
Can you walk us through your process when getting into a new character?
When I go through my day, I try to think about how the character would do certain things, even like sitting or brushing her teeth. Sometimes I try to write a song from that character’s perspective. On the Godmothered set, our acting coach had Willa (who plays my character’s sister Mia) and I keep journals for several weeks as Jane and Mia.
Who or what would you say your current creative influences are?
Musically, Julia Michaels inspires me. Like her, I’m hoping to write songs for other people and record some of my own. For acting, it’s definitely Jennifer Lawrence. She’s so believable in every role she plays.
What part of acting do you geek out about the most?
The first day of work is always so exciting, and it’s really cool to have a job where I have infinite first days.
Have you worked with mentors in the past? How would you recommend people go about finding them?
In just about every project, I’ve had multiple mentors: actors, producers, directors, musicians, and crew members. Some of my closest mentors have been the hair, make-up, and wardrobe professionals who became like family to me. You don’t need to find mentors; if you ask people questions about what they do and how they do it, they just become them.
What’s your mission as an entertainer? Name the most important thing you want viewers to experience when watching or listening to your projects.
Whether I’m acting or singing, I want people to walk away feeling something.
What’s your favorite film of all time, and what did you learn from it?
Silver Linings Playbook is one of my favorites because it takes place in Philadelphia (where I’m from), and because I just love everything about it! I feel like I always learn something when I watch Jennifer Lawrence act.
Are you involved in any acting communities?
I have not been in any formal acting groups, but I have so many friends who are actors, so we have our own little community.
Do you have any tips for people looking to start either a musical or acting career?
The best way to get started in either career is to find ways to start doing them. Take music or acting lessons/classes, get into school or local theatre shows, and see if you have a passion for it. Either career takes hard work, so you really have to know you love it before you head down that road.
Are there any upcoming projects you can tell us about? What are they?
I have one or two possible movie roles coming, but both projects are still in pre-production at this point.
And finally, a fun one, cats or dogs?
If you want to stay up-to-date on Jillian Shea’s latest movies or music releases you can follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or TikTok.