Having joined the cast of The Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix at the end of Series 1, Anais Lee played Jessi Ramsey, and continued her role throughout Series 2, having become a series regular character. Anais has appeared as Steph Greene in the comedy series The Upshaws, and amongst her numerous roles over the years, her work has included playing Marcella in an episode of Danger Force for Nickelodeon, Young Natasha in the feature film The Sun is Also a Star (based on the book of the same name by Nicola Yoon), and she is currently working on a new project. Alongside her twin sister Mirabelle, Anais was part of the music video Die For You by The Weeknd last year. We caught up with Anais about playing Jessi Ramsey in The Baby-Sitters Club, working on feature film The Sun is Also a Star and appearing in The Weeknd’s Die For You music video.
You played the role of Jessi Ramsey in the Netflix series The Baby-Sitters Club, what was she like to play?
Jessi was such a fun character to play because her personality is so similar to mine. She’s a ballet dancer like me so those scenes were especially fun to film. The Baby-Sitters Club was my favourite project I’ve ever worked on and I’ll forever be grateful for that experience.
How was it seeing the fan response to the show and what was it like returning to film Series 2?
It’s always so cool to see the fan response once the show comes out and to watch all of the edits people make from our behind the scenes pictures and videos. Returning for Season 2 was amazing because I already knew everyone and we had been texting and calling each other for the past year since we filmed Season 1. That first day on set will always be one I remember because it was just such an incredible moment seeing my best friends again after so long.
How much did you know about the franchise before booking your role and was there anything that drew you to the character?
Before getting the audition I hadn’t read the book series, but I did know it was a very popular one. When I got the audition, I did a ton of research on the character and read every analysis of Jessi up until my callback. When I booked the role, I started reading many of the Jessi books and the Super Special books. When I would finish my schoolwork for the day on set, I would always pull out a Jessi book and start reading. All of that reading and preparation really prepared me when I went on as a series regular in Season 2.
How was it working with the rest of the cast and what are some of your favourite memories from working on The Baby-Sitters Club?
The rest of the cast are my best friends. I love them all so much and I’m so lucky that they became my chosen family. Some of my favourite memories took place when Kyndra (Sanchez), Vivian (Watson), and I would all get tired of doing school and go to crafty for a quick break. But instead of going to the crafty that was 10ft from the school trailer, we would go to the office crafty in the main building of the studio lot which was a lot farther away. Even though it seems so simple, it was always so fun. Another one of my favourite memories was when Vivian, Sophie (Grace), and I went to the park over the weekend to have a picnic. We brought an assortment of food and for the entire day we hung out and had fun in the park. That was one of the best days ever.
Can you tell us about your character Steph Greene in The Upshaws and what do you enjoy about playing her?
Steph Greene is your typical mean, popular girl. She is so different than any other character I’ve played so it was so fun to play around with this one. Steph loves fashion so I was always excited to see what my wardrobe was going to be.
What’s it like filming for The Upshaws and working on a comedy series?
Filming The Upshaws was very different from any other show I’ve done since it’s a multi-cam show. The crew was so amazing and always so kind — and of course the show is hilarious too! Watching the run-throughs and the table-reads were so fun to watch.
Last year, you played Marcella in an episode of Danger Force, how was this?
Even though I only filmed Danger Force for two days, it was still a fun set to be on! I met some really cool people and everyone on set was awesome.
What was Young Natasha like to play in The Sun is Also a Star and how was your time on set of the film?
Playing Young Natasha in The Sun is Also a Star was an amazing experience because I got to meet and learn from so many amazing actors. Yara Shahidi is someone I truly look up to so it was surreal meeting her in real life. Gbenga Akinnagbe, who played my dad, was such an amazing actor to work with and was such a kind person as well.
Is there anything you enjoyed most about working on The Sun is Also a Star and how was it seeing the completed film for the first time?
I mostly enjoyed the experience when working on The Sun is Also a Star. Being surrounded by talented actors allowed me to learn a lot from them. On every set I work on, I take a new piece of information home with me. I saw the completed film when I went to the premiere. It was one of the most glamorous fun nights ever and I loved the film!
We understand you’ve worked on The Weeknd’s music video for Die For You, how did you find the experience?
When we were booked for this music video, it was such a surprise — we didn’t even audition! I remember being at school and my mom texted me and Mirabelle that they were coming to pick us up early because we were booked to film a music video! I was so confused because I didn’t even remember auditioning for one in the first place. When I saw that the music video was for The Weeknd’s Die For You, at first I thought that it was just a cover name. I didn’t even believe it was real at first. The song came out five years prior so, to me, surely it wasn’t really for that song. But when I arrived on set, we quickly learned that it was real and I was shocked but also equally as excited. We filmed the whole thing in one night and it was such a cool video to film. Mirabelle filmed all of the indoor scenes while I did all of the outside scenes. The scenes in the rain were especially fun to film.
Over the years, you’ve been involved with a number of other projects including Unleashed, The Blacklist, Madam Secretary and The Following, can you tell us about some of them?
I love acting and the entertainment industry — it’s my passion — and I plan to do it for the rest of my life. The Blacklist was a really cool show to work on because I had to get shot in the scene. And while that sounds gruesome, roles where I have to express a lot of emotion are my favourite to play.
Where does your love of acting come from and how did you start?
I started in this industry by accident. I was discovered in the park when I was three years old and started modelling from there. After a couple of years I got a movie audition and ended up booking the role! I had so much fun filming the movie, I continued to do acting. From my first set, I knew that acting was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
What are some of your favourite films and TV shows to watch?
I honestly read more than I watch TV but some of my favourite movies are Black Swan, White Chicks, I, Tonya, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I recently watched Season 4 of Stranger Things like I’m sure everyone else has, and it’s been amazing!
How do you like to spend your time away from acting?
When I’m not acting, I’m usually baking or reading. I took up baking during the start of quarantine and reading last summer. Some of my favourite things to bake are cookies, my best friend even gave me a cookbook with 100 different cookie recipes so I’ve been having a fun time going through the recipes. I’m constantly reading and some of my favourites are Sparrow by Mary Cecelia Jackson, Pointe by Brandy Colbert, Verity by Colleen Hoover, The Last Mrs. Parish by Liv Constantine, and If He Had Been with Me by Laura Nowlin.
Have you been given any advice over your career so far that has stuck with you?
Something that I always say is never give up. And though I know everyone says that and it sounds cliché, it’s really the truth. This business is made up of 99% noes and 1% of yeses. But that one yes that you do get can be the thing that jump-starts your career. You can’t let the noes get to you because everyone’s path is different. You could get your big acting break within your first audition or ten years from now. And just because yours might be later, doesn’t mean you’re any less as good of an actor. It just means your role hasn’t come yet.
You have worked with your sister Mirabelle on a number of projects, what’s it like being in the industry together and what do you enjoy most about working with each other?
We’ve shared a role on The Blacklist and in the movie Blood Ties but we’ve never played twins on a movie or TV show but that is for sure one of our goals for the future. We’ve worked together on commercials and photoshoots and they’ve always been so fun. My sister is my best friend and every time we do anything together it’s always the best time.
What are you hoping the rest of the year brings for your career?
I have a really exciting project in the works right now that we’ve been working on for some time, so hopefully by the end of this year, it will move forward and can be announced to the public!
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