Las Vegas Sun

January 21, 2018

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Q+A: MTV starlet Jillian Rose Reed is far from ‘Awkward’



Jillian Rose Reed at Body English in the Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas.


MTV’s hot new star Jillian Rose Reed from the hit series “Awkward” says that she was bitten by the acting bug when she was 7 years old. By 12, she’d performed in 27 musicals and plays at home in Michigan and was ready to move to California to find fame and fortune.

The decision paid off, and she garnered praise for Showtime’s “Weeds,” which led to “Awkward” and awards, including a People’s Choice Award for Best Cable TV Comedy.

Jillian just turned 21 and came to the Hard Rock Hotel to celebrate another friend’s 21st birthday. She was excited as it also turned into a celebration for getting an early Season 4 renewal for “Awkward” as the series reached the halfway mark of its third season.

Jillian will be seen in the upcoming “Confessions of a Womanizer” and has guest roles on Jack Black’s web series “Ghost Ghirls” on Yahoo Screen and the Disney Channel series “Jessie.”

With her bright-red punk hairstyle and unique fashion sense, she’s become a darling on E! Entertainment’s “Fashion Police,” blogs and celebrity websites for her eclectic style.

We talked in the Hard Rock’s Nirvana Suite.

Awkward is a disturbing word that describes people in all sorts of circumstances because it could mean shy, it could mean frightened. Were you an awkward kid growing up?

I definitely wasn’t shy. If I had to use awkward to describe me growing up, I would say I was just very eccentric. I was a theater kid, so I kind of had that nerdy theater awkwardness about me. That would probably best describe it.

If you walked into a room, were you awkward with strangers?

I was pretty outgoing. I grew up around a lot of adults because I did musical theater. I was just always around adults and always having to have conversations with them, so I was pretty used to just going into a room and talking to whoever was there.

As a teenager, was your first kiss awkward?

Yes! My first kiss was actually in my theater that I grew up in, in the basement getting ready for a play. I think I was like 13, and he might be gay now, so that is definitely awkward. You know, it happens. It was very forced, actually, it was a dare. My friends and I were getting ready for our show, and they were like, “I dare you to give him a kiss,” and we did, and it was strange. And great.

What was the most awkward moment of your life?

I recently had a very strange encounter with a fan who was working out at the gym that I go to. She says how much she loves “Awkward,” but she had a very large sized pimple on her forehead and she said she really needed my opinion about popping it. It was very weird and very noticeable, so I did what any good person should do and told her she should pop the pimple. Then I very quickly exited the room.

The MTV show has a lot of love, a lot of romance and a lot of broken hearts going on. Does that make it awkward for the cast?

Not really, actually. We have been doing the show for so long now, we are all very good friends. Unlike a lot of other shows, there is no drama among cast members. Nobody is dating each other on set, so there is no weirdness there. When we have to do romantic scenes, it is just kind of fun, and we embrace the weirdness. I mean kissing on camera is never romantic. It is always very awkward, so we just kind of do what we have to and laugh our way through it.

What makes it awkward kissing on camera?

You know, there are cameras, first of all, in front of you, and unless you are into that, it can be pretty strange, and with the lighting, you have to angle your head a certain way and stay there. It is just not natural. There’s no spontaneity, and everybody is staring at you.

What makes the show such a success?

Honestly, I think that it is just that we are so relatable. We deal with issues that real teenagers are going through. Of course it is TV, so it is exaggerated, but these are things people are going through now or they went through 20 years ago or they are going to go through 20 years from now because that is just what life is when you are a teenager. I think that everyone has a little bit of each character inside them, so they watch it and they feel like we are talking about their life, and it makes it easy and fun.

Is it tougher to be a teen today than it was 20 years ago?

Yes, especially because there is the Internet now, which makes bullying a lot more prevalent. There are more issues that teenagers have to deal with now because times are different. They are going through the same things that maybe you went through 20 years ago, but it is all heightened now.

In the show, do you touch on subjects such as bullying?

Absolutely, yes. One of our main characters is our “bullying” character, but she is not just a bully. We take a look at the inside of her life and what makes her the way that she is, and she is actually hurting. She actually has problems of her own that make her the way that she is. We like to do that because we like to show people that there are two sides to every person, or more than two sides to every person, and there is a reason for the way that people act. Going back to why the show is so relatable, it helps people understand other people.

What sort of things do you hear from fans, from viewers?

A lot of “will you ask the boys to prom with me?” “Will you ask them to go on a date with me?” There is a lot of that, but there is a lot of really awesome stuff. We have tons of parents who will come up to us and just say that this show has opened up so many conversations with my daughter or my son, and it has really helped us to get through some tough times in high school.

So, where does “Awkward” take you to next?

We are going into Season 4, we start production in January, and we are hoping to go more seasons than that. I would love to be on the show for as long as they will have us. After that, I really want to do more comedies. I would love to see myself on a very long-lasting sitcom, something like “Friends” was … or something like “Modern Family” is now. I would love just to get on a show that people just love, and I could make people laugh every week even more so than I do now.

How do you describe yourself? You walked in here today, you’ve got semi-mauve red hair …

Did you call me punky? I like that! I guess I could be; I’m definitely a little bit edgy, I like to have fun. I am here in Las Vegas with my group of best friends, so we are spontaneous. I would like to think of myself as a very fun-loving person.

You are 21, and your friends who are celebrating their 21st birthday here at the Hard Rock Hotel — why did you pick Las Vegas?

It is the best place to celebrate your 21st birthday. You can have your first drink, hopefully your first drink, but for some of you, it may not be your first drink. You can gamble; it is fun. My girlfriends and I, we just love to dress up and go out and dance, and this is the best place to do that. They have the best clubs here.

I know sometimes that what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. There are always those pictures that you don't want posted on the Internet. Now that could be really awkward! Fortunately, I don’t have anything like that. I have been very good. I think the worst picture that is out there on the Internet of me, and this is honestly the worst one, is last year at the MTV VMAs. ’N Sync did a reunion, and I cried because I love ’N Sync. They are like my childhood idols.

I cried and my cast members made fun of me, and they took pictures and those circulated for a while, just me bawling my eyes out watching Justin Timberlake onstage and Lance Bass. I love him. He was my crush when I was younger, but it didn’t work out for me.

Did you always want to be an actress?

Yes. I started when I was very young,. I always knew there was nothing else. People would always say what do you want to be when you grow up, and I never thought of anything other than acting.

And how did you get from Michigan to the bright lights of Hollywood?

There was a lot of begging of my parents. I have the most supportive family; they are so wonderful. They knew this is what I wanted to do, and at about 12, 13, I moved to L.A. I wanted to expand and learn about TV and film, and that led me out there. Today, I am working and my whole family is with me in L.A., and it is great.

I have an awkward confession, though: If I wasn’t in Las Vegas dancing the night away in the clubs and eating at Pink Taco, I’d be in bed by 9 p.m.”

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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