Jillian Estell’s acting career has seen her appear in TV series and films such as The Night Shift on NBC playing Dr. Syd Jennings’ daughter, Riley and in the role of Eloise Anderson in the 2014 feature film Black or White, where she was nominated for Outstanding Breakthrough Performance. Having Celiac herself, Jillian is a Student Ambassador for Celiac Disease Foundation and likes to raise awareness for the cause. Talking with Jillian, we find out about being on set of a professional production, working with Celiac Disease Foundation and her time filming for Black or White.
How did your acting career start?
My acting career started when I was around four years old. I started modelling when I was three, then my agent started sending me on auditions for commercials, TV shows and movies.
What do you remember from your first time on set of a professional role?
My first time on set for a professional role in a commercial was for a toy by Mobi-Go and first time in a movie was when I was in the movie called, So This Is Christmas. The toy commercial was fun, but crazy because there were a lot of kids in it. We all had a great time playing all day, we thought we were at a play date. The movie, So This Is Christmas, was filmed in Oklahoma. It was so much fun. I loved every minute of working on set.
What was it like playing Eloise Anderson in Black or White alongside Kevin Costner?
It was the most amazing experience; the whole cast and crew were so awesome, kind and fun. We all became like a big family. I couldn’t wait to wake up and go to set every day! They spoiled me rotten. I wanted to go to set even on my days off. I really bonded with Kevin and we had so much fun working together.
How did you feel when finding out you’d booked the job?
I was so excited!!! It was my Golden birthday. I turned nine years old on the ninth of June and they called on my birthday and told me I booked the role. I don’t know about you, but that’s the best gift I could ever ask for. They called me and asked if I wanted the biggest birthday gift I would ever receive… of course I said YES!! I was so excited, I started to cry. My mom was trying to figure out what they were telling me, I couldn’t even talk I was so excited. So I handed my mom the phone, and they told her… then we were both crying and jumping around with excitement. We were in the lobby of the hotel in New York where they had us stay when I went to meet Kevin Costner and we were getting ready to head back to the airport to go back home to Dallas, Texas. We were so excited, but we couldn’t tell anyone until they announced it. That was hard!
How long were you filming for this role?
I was in New Orleans filming the movie Black or White for a month and a half, almost two months.
As a young cast member, how much did you learn from your time on set?
I learned so much on set, working with some of the greatest actors/actresses in the business. I learned many different ways to deal with people and different personalities. I learned how to stay in character and how to be teachable. I learned that everyone makes mistakes and it’s ok. It was an amazing experience and I am so blessed to have been mentored by Kevin Costner, Octavia Spencer, Anthony Mackie, Bill Burr and others.
We understand you travelled to film festivals with the movie, what was this experience like?
It was such an amazing experience! I absolutely loved seeing the cast, because I missed them all so much after we finished filming. Travelling is one of my favourite things to do, and my mom and I got to travel to several different cities first class and stay in some amazing hotels. They spoiled us!
You were nominated for the Outstanding Breakthrough Performance award at the Black Reel Awards, can you remember how you felt when finding out?
I couldn’t believe I was nominated for Outstanding Breakthrough Performance, because it was my first lead role and I was only nine years old. We were in L.A. for the premiere of the movie when I found out about the nomination, it was a very exciting time in my life.
Who was your character Riley in The Night Shift?
I played the role of Riley in the NBC show, The Night Shift. I was the daughter of Jennifer Beals.
How was it filming for an NBC production?
It was a blast filming for NBC! I loved the producers, the cast and the crew! It was so fun, and most of the cast were in their mid-twenties, so they were younger and more wild. It was an honour to work with them!
Did you have to do much training before filming started?
I had to go to training for Brazillian Jiu Jitsu for the role, which was something new and different for me to learn. I loved the challenge and am always excited to learn something new for a role. I am pretty athletic, so I pick up on athletics quickly.
What’s it like working on commercials?
I love working on commercials because they are fun and quick. It gives me opportunities to work with a lot of new people. Commercials usually shoot in a day or two (sometimes more), but you could do commercial shoots every day! I love being on set, so I would love working every day!!!
Can you say more about being a Student Ambassador for the Celiac Disease Foundation?
I have been a Student Ambassador for Celiac Disease Foundation for almost two years now. It’s great working with them. I have Celiac Disease and it’s great learning more about it. Last year, I had a big red carpet party to raise awareness about Celiac Disease.
Are you able to tell us about any upcoming career plans you have?
I am not able to say, but great things are coming soon. If you follow me on Instagram, I will be posting all announcements on there!
What do you hope 2019 brings for you?
I hope 2019 brings me a lot of great times, series regular on a TV series, lead role on a feature film, commercial shoots, and many more memories.
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