The starlet says goodbye to Nickelodeon and hello to “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll.”
Photography John Hong
Styling by Lisa And Tyler J For Rex Agency
Makeup by Justin Tyme For Solo Artists & Tyme Cosmetics
Hair by Ben Terry For Solo Artists using R+Co & T3micro
Photographer Assistants Eli Nichol and Jonathan Navales
Story by Ethel Navales
Location Bar Riviera 31 at Sofitel Hotel Los Angeles At Beverly Hills (@sofitellosangeles)
Take a look at all of Elizabeth “Liz” Gillies’ past work, and you may be surprised by her current role on “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll.” After all, for five years prior to taking on the FX comedy, starring Denis Leary as an aging rock star, Gillies, now 23, was a well-recognized face on the children’s network Nickelodeon, appearing on hit shows like “Victorious” and “iCarly.” As Gillies points out, the title of her current show is “just about all the words you can’t say on Nickelodeon rolled into one.” Now that the season two finale has just aired (and no word about a season three), Gillies hopes to work on some music next. We talk to the talented actress about her stint as an American Girl doll, her transition from child actor to grownup starlet, and yes, even some sex.
Composure Magazine: You began your professional career pretty early on. Can you tell us about the moment you decided that entertainment was what you wanted to do?
Elizabeth Gillies: It’s hard to pinpoint one exact moment. I remember being fascinated with movies, especially musicals, at a very young age. I knew it was something I wanted to do. My parents always nurtured that curiosity and took me to Broadway shows and movies. When I was old enough, I started taking classes. I had been dancing since I was about 3, but I started taking singing and acting classes around 9 or 10. That’s when it all started.
CM: That’s quite a childhood! Can you describe how you were as a kid?
EG: Very hyper. Very animated. Always making jokes. Always doing impressions. I was voted Class Clown and Most Dramatic. I was only concerned with performing and making people laugh. I was like a mini female Jim Carrey.
CM: You started out in commercials and even an American Girl doll live show. What was that like?
EG: When I was first getting started, I was auditioning mostly for commercials and theater, so that was the majority of the work I got. The American Girl show was a trip because I grew up playing with the dolls and going to the store, so I figured it would be a nice, light experience. Turned out to be one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had. They were so strict, it was wild. I was also juggling it with school, so it was a lot of work. As far as the cellphone commercial goes, it was for Virgin Mobile, and I threw a milkshake on a mime. That was a little easier.
CM: How did you deal with nerves back then?
EG: I was a slightly anxious child, but those nerves always went away when I was performing or onstage. I’ve actually become more nervous as I’ve gotten older. You’re pretty fearless when you’re young and have nothing to lose.
CM: When you were 15, you debuted on Broadway in the musical “13.” Can you tell us about that experience?
EG: I had been with the show since the New York reading, all the way through the off-Broadway run, and then on to Broadway. Getting to watch it grow and change and getting to grow up with the show was a magical thing. I met some of my closest friends there. We were an all-teen cast and band (most of us only 14 or 15 years old, which was pretty rare), so it was an extraordinary experience. Those are very special memories.
CM: You then co-starred in “Victorious,” starring Victoria Justice and Ariana Grande, playing Jade, a role you’re largely recognized for. What attracted you to this show?
EG: I was always a big Nickelodeon fan growing up. I particularly loved Dan Schneider’s shows, so when I heard this was one of his, I was totally sold. Plus it involved music, so it seemed like a perfect fit for me. I remember the initial sides for the audition being generic. They had nothing to do with the show, and they were basically just a test to see if you could act and be funny. Once I passed that round and got the Jade sides, I remember saying to myself, ‘Oh, I get this girl. I can do this.’ I loved that she was dark. She didn’t feel like a typical “kids’ TV mean girl.” I knew I could have a lot of fun with her.
CM: Jade is described as a sarcastic, sassy “bad girl.” Are you anything like Jade in real life?
EG: I think so. I’m not as dark as she is, but we definitely share a lot of the same interests and disinterests. I have an immature habit of constantly saying “I hate” things, which is very Jade.
CM: What is the most significant thing you learned from your time on “Victorious”?
EG: Enjoy it while it lasts. We had such a good time doing that show. We all loved each other and loved what we did. Sometimes you get comfortable when you have it so good for so long, and you definitely miss it once it’s gone.
CM: How do you balance a crazy filming schedule with a personal life?
EG: I’m lucky — I have really good people around me. I think that’s the key. I always feel very grounded. My family is the best and so is my boyfriend and friends. FaceTime is also a big help, especially when I’m away filming.
CM: So after five years with Nickelodeon, you now find yourself on FX’s “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” as Gigi. Can you describe the premise of the show in your own words?
EG: I know, it’s funny. It’s just about all the words you can’t say on Nickelodeon rolled into one title. Basically, the show revolves around former lead singer and failed rock star, Johnny Rock [played by Denis Leary], who’s bitter, broke, and basically hopeless until the daughter he never knew he had [Gigi] shows up and offers him a bunch of money to make her a famous singer. So he gets a second chance through her, but this time, she’s in the front, and he fades into the background. We’re in season two now, so obviously a lot has gone down, and the dynamics have changed a bit, but overall, it’s about this dysfunctional rock ‘n’ roll family and how they all co-exist while trying to make it.
CM: Do you relate to Gigi’s character at all?
EG: We’re both very old for our age, and we’re both very driven. On the other hand, we can both be very goofy. I see a lot of myself in her.
CM: What have been your favorite and most challenging aspects of this role?
EG: Favorite? Performing the music. Most challenging? Recording the music. When it comes to recording, I can be a bit of a handful because I’m such a perfectionist.
CM: Judging from the title alone, “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” is quite different from your previous works. How are your family and friends reacting to it?
EG: They’ve all been very cool with it. They understand that I’m an actor, and it’s an accomplishment to break out of that “kid world” where I’m so recognized. This year was a smidgen more risqué, to say the least, but they’ve been really good sports about it. Although I will say, it’s never fun to watch a sex scene with your parents and younger brother.
CM: If you could give your teenage self some advice, what would it be?
EG: You look fine. Stop dying your hair and plucking your eyebrows; you’re only creating problems for yourself down the road.
Catch full episodes of “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” on FXnetworks.com.
Liz Up Close
- Guilty pleasure you don’t feel guilty about
Reality TV. I love my “Real Housewives of New York.”
- Biggest pet peeve
Listening to someone chew like a cow.
- Something fans would be surprised to discover about you
Don’t think this would surprise anyone, but I love ’70s singer-songwriter folk rock so very much.
- Hidden talent
I’m a decent tap dancer, if I remember correctly. It’s been a minute.
- Food you can eat every day of your life
Bagels. Too bad I’m gluten-free now. Cue the violins.
- Something that always makes you laugh
“The Brady Bunch Movie”
- Current fashion trend you love and one you hate
Love? Jeans that cut off at the ankle. Hate? Jeans that cut off around the calf. Not a big culotte fan.
- Job in another life
Lawyer or CEO. I’d need something high-powered where I could wear a great suit.
- Most awkward fan interaction
It’s always strange when they ask if they can touch you.
- Song you have the most fun singing?
“Alone Again (Naturally)” by Gilbert O’Sullivan.