Q&A with AWKWARD’S Jillian Rose Reed
Following Wednesday’s interview with Matthew Fahey, I had a chance to interview another member of the Awkward cast yesterday morning: Jillian Rose Reed. The second season of MTV’s smart and witty teen comedy premieres on Thursday, June 28th at 10:30/9:30c. Reed spoke to me about the upcoming season, along with answering my questions about season one. One little tidbit I learned was that Reed’s younger brother, Robbie Tucker, is going to be making a special appearance on the show in the upcoming season. Given my love of Awkward, there maaaaay have been a little fangirling involved on my part, so you will have to excuse me. There are spoilers for the first season in the interview, so be warned.
Before landing her role of Awkward, Reed appeared on a number of other television shows, including Zoey 101, Weeds, Hung, The Middle, and Community. I had a lot of fun chatting with the actress, who was very charming and just as much of a fast-talker as her Awkward character Tamara. A girl after my own heart. (Yes, I earned the superlative “Gift of Gab” in middle school.) I hope that some of you caught the Awkward panel last night at the Paley Center, where Reed said that keeping up with Tamara’s fast-paced dialogue isn’t a challenge for her; in fact, sometimes she is asked to slow it down. You can find photos of the event here. Keep reading for the Q&A session. My questions are in bold, followed by Jillian’s responses. Enjoy!
I’m a huge fan of Awkward, I just want to say. I really love the show. I’m excited to talk about it.
Awesome! I love it when people actually love the show.
Oh yeah, I’m totally obsessed. I can’t wait for it to return. Tamara is such an interesting character. She’s sort of a comedic foil but at the same time, she really has a vulnerability, and the friendship is so central to the show. What drew you to Tamara, and what sort of still interests and excites you about the character?
The original thing that I liked the best, just about her whole character, was the fact that she really doesn’t really have a filter on anything that she says. […] and she goes with it and sometimes it’s dirty or mean or crazy and she doesn’t even care—she just says it. So, that was the thing that I thought was the best when I first read the pilot. And just going through the seasons and being able to play her, I get all of the really funny lines or the made-up words that nobody knows what they mean, and that’s just awesome because I get to play on all of that comedy.
And like you said with Tamara not having a filter, she’s not a popular girl and she really wants to be popular. However, even though she tries hard, she’s not really ever willing to change who she is. Which is, I think, what people really like about her. How does that sort of reflect your experience in terms of high school? Is any of this at all familiar to you?
Well, I definitely wasn’t super popular in high school either, so in that way I’m kind of similar. I had like my quirky group of friends, so that’s similar in that way. And I also never really tried to change who I was. I went into high school already being like an actor and sometimes people didn’t really like that. Sometimes they were a little judgmental of that. But, you know, I found my friends who didn’t care and you know, stuck to that part of me. So, that’s definitely similar to Tamara. Like you said, she doesn’t change who she is either. And even though she wants to be on top, she’s not willing to be a different person for it.
A lot of the humor seems to be in everybody giving her these significant glances that she just ignores. She doesn’t really read the room well, which I think adds to a lot of the humor. So, I really enjoy her.
Another thing that defines her is her style, her clothes. She does a lot of bright colors, mixed prints. She’s not at all mild. What do you think of her style, and how does that compare to your personal style?
Her style is so unique and so fitting to her character because it’s bright and sassy just like she is. So, I think that’s really awesome. And there are elements in my style that reflect Tamara. Like, through both of the seasons she had these floral Doc Martens boots, and I totally stole them off of set this year.
Yeah, I have them right now, and they’re like my favorite pair of boots that I own. So, like little things like that. I don’t mix as many patterns as she has, like as crazy as she does, but I do that sometimes. I like the whole boots with the dress thing that Tamara does.
You guys are done filming season two, correct?
Yeah, we’re done.
How was the production schedule for season two? Is it another twelve episodes? Since it’s a half-hour show, how long does it usually take to film an episode? Can you give us any insight into that?
Yeah. Everything with production is the same as it was last year. So, we’re still doing twelve half-hour episodes for this season. And as far as filming end of it goes, it’s pretty crazy. We film two episodes a week.
Yeah, it’s kind of unheard of and pretty crazy. But we try to crank them out as fast as possible. We shoot all twelve episodes in two months. It’s a little bit of a crazy schedule. We have super super long days, and we did some night shoots this season, which was kind of crazy. But, I mean, it’s always fun. We have a good cast, so it doesn’t ever seem like it’s that long.
Do you have any favorite moments from season one filming? Or even a favorite scene from the perspective of watching the series?
Yeah, actually I have both. My favorite scene to film last year was with Molly [Tarlov]—she plays Sadie.
Oh, I love her!
Yeah, she’s the best. And she’s one of my really close friends and we’re obviously enemies on the show, but we’re not like that in real life. And so last season, we got to do this awesome scene where we were both in bathroom stalls and we were crying to each other, and we didn’t know that it was each other, and then we walk out and share this kind of rude moment. So, that was my favorite scene, just because I got to work with her so closely.
And watching the episodes, I have to say […] my favorite episode to watch last season was episode eight, when we did the party episode. Something about it turned out really cool. And we had the little bit of drama at the end with Tamara and Jenna, so I thought that was an interesting episode to watch.
Those are definitely two of my favorites as well. That bonding scene in the bathroom … it was such a great scene. And yeah, episode eight was amazing. I had actually asked Matthew about that episode because that’s the one where Ricky Schwartz makes out with Jenna, and it sort of becomes this horrible moment for the two girls and it kind of breaks them apart. What did you think when you read the script and Tamara said that she wrote the letter. Did you know that that wasn’t true when you read it? Had they told you in advance?
I had a suspicion from the very beginning that it was going to be Jenna’s mom. And I mean, I didn’t know, because we actually didn’t get to read the final script—the last scene—so we as the cast had to find out just like the audience that it was Jenna’s mom. But I had this suspicion. And when I read the script, and it said that I wrote the letter, I just had this feeling it was said out of anger.
And it definitely makes sense. As a viewer watching that scene, even though Jenna is the main character, you’re still pulling for … you still understand why Tamara did that. I think, at the time, I didn’t totally believe that Tamara wrote the letter.
Well, I’m glad about that though. Because I would hope that viewers didn’t think that Tamara would do something like that.
Yeah, and one of the things that I really love about the show is the female friendships. It’s so great to have a TV show about teenagers where—yes, you guys do fight and you fight about boys and all the normal things—but you still have a really strong bond. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience acting as part of the friendship and filming it, and your reaction to that aspect of the show?
Well, it’s not hard to act in that part as far as the friendship with Jenna goes because Ashley and I are friends. I’ve actually known Ashley since I was like twelve. We used be in acting classes together when we were younger. So, acting like her friend is not really hard. We have so many laughs and so many fun times on set that it’s just easy to go right into a scene. But with all of that drama, with the whole letter and the fight and everything, it was kind of difficult. We both had to throw ourselves into these places of being hurt by each other, which we never have been before. And I remember there was a scene in episode … I want to say nine or ten, when we’re underneath the bleachers and we’re kind of fighting about why I said that. And there were some lines in there that originally I was even worried about saying because I just felt like I didn’t want Tamara to be so upset and I didn’t want her to be so mean to Jenna, and take that step into their friendship where they’re really fighting. But in the end it all turned out in a good way, so it was okay.
And since, you know, the relationship with Ricky was sort of a catalyst for tearing them apart briefly, what do you think about the relationship with Ricky? And do you believe that turnaround in the finale? Is it too good to be true? What do you think about the Tamara and Ricky relationship?
Well, it’s never going to be good, I’ll tell you that. [Laughing.] Ricky is that guy that every girl has who she just can’t get over, and she just keeps going back to no matter what they do. He’s definitely a little bit of a scumbag. But no, their relationship is never going to get better. It’s always going be up and down, and it’s always going to be crazy. This season Tamara gets a little bit more of a backbone and she tries to stand up for herself and kind of give Ricky the boot. And I mean, it works on and off. But it’s always going to be a crazy roller coaster for them.
I’m glad you said that—the thing about Tamara getting a backbone. Can you tease anything else about season two? Anything else that’s coming up?
I can tell you that there’s one episode that I’m dancing in a full sequin unitard.
I won’t even tell you why, I won’t tell you what happens, but just look forward to that.
I will. That’s great. Obviously, Tamara didn’t end up writing the letter, so what did you think about the reveal that it was Jenna’s mom? How do you feel about that plot development?
It’s obviously a very interesting twist, because you wouldn’t expect or want a mother to write something like that to her own daughter. But as far as storylines go, I think it creates for a lot of drama for the show, which is really awesome. It creates a lot of family drama for Jenna at home in season two. So it’s a really good storyline, but it’s like a shock factor. You know what I mean? You don’t expect that to happen. So, it was interesting for me to find that out and actually learn that my suspicion was right.
And since the production schedule has been so quick, what have you been up to, other than Awkward this past year?
I actually did, over my hiatus last year, a horror film for MTV. It was called My Super Psycho Sweet Sixteen [Part 3. Jillian stars as best friend “Sienna,” and this last part of MTV's horror trilogy will be released in March 2012.] That was not only my first horror film, but my first film. And now, I just actually started auditioning again because our schedule was so crazy I didn’t really have time to do a lot of that. So, auditioning now, and hopefully I’ll have a new project coming up soon.
Great. Are you a TV fan at all? Are you obsessed with any shows that are on right now?
Yeah. A little bit obsessed with New Girl. I also have to tell you … don’t judge me, but I love Dance Moms.
Oh, I haven’t seen that one, but I know a little bit about it. Tell us about Dance Moms and why you love it.
It’s a terrible reality show, but I love it. Because … well, I grew up dancing, so I liked it at first because it was another dance show and I seem to be obsessed with those. But the woman who owns the studio is just so terrible that I just can’t stop watching it.
Yeah, it’s like you can’t look away. Actually, speaking of dance shows, there’s this Australian dance show called Dance Academy. Have you ever heard about it? [Yes, I did use this interview to promote Dance Academy, and I don’t regret it.]
You should watch it. It’s on Netflix Instant. Each episode is only half an hour, and if you love dance shows …
I’ll have to check it out.
What else do you do on your off time? For fun and to relax?
Well, actually right now my best friend from my hometown is visiting, so we’re going to do all of like, you know, going to the beach and that kind of stuff. That’s usually what I like to do. I go hiking a lot. I do certain dance classes and stuff. Just try to keep busy and active, I guess.
Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to tune into Awkward next week. You can follow Jillian on Twitter @JillianRoseReed.