In the three Disney Zombies movies, Naomi Snieckus plays Principal Lee, with the third instalment Zombies 3 releasing worldwide in July this year on Disney+ before premiering on the Disney Channel in the US in August. With the release of Work It on Netflix in 2020, Naomi played Maria Ackerman, the mother of Quinn (played by Sabrina Carpenter), and in the same year, she voiced the role of June in the animated Nickelodeon series Ollie’s Pack. Over her years as an actor so far, Naomi has been part of a number of projects including the TV series Carter playing Delilah Halsey, Mr. D playing Bobbi Galka from 2012 to 2018, and she runs her own podcast Firecracker Department, which she has recorded 150 episodes for so far. Chatting to us, Naomi talks about playing Principal Lee in the Disney Zombies films, being part of the Netflix release of Work It and recording her podcast Firecracker Department.
You play Principal Lee in the Zombies film series on Disney, was there anything that drew you to the role?
I love an awkward adult that’s trying to be cool! Obviously NOTHING like me – haha!
When I auditioned for Principal Lee, I was living in Joseph Raso’s (one of the writers) guest house in LA with my husband (Matt Baram). He would come and knock on our door and share music with us. He didn’t know I’d auditioned for it. The writing was so great, the character was so funny and I could see how much fun it would be to play this character, so I was pretty excited.
How is it working with Disney and being part of the Zombies films?
So fun! The folks at Disney (Lauren Kisilevsky) are such a delight to work with. You can tell they are so invested in the Zombies movies and making a difference in the world through stories like the Zombies trilogy. Honestly, I just spent the entire time I was on set trying to be chill so that Milo (Manheim) and Meg (Donnelly) thought I was cool! Haha!
What was it like reuniting with the rest of the cast to film the new release of Zombies 3 and why would you recommend watching it?
If they let me, I would hang out with that cast ALL the time! They are so fun, and so inclusive – it’s like a mini amusement park being on set with them!
What was Maria Ackerman like to play in Work It and what did you enjoy most about working on this film?
I so enjoyed playing this part in Work It. I loved how Maria was written by Allison Peck and directed by Laura Terruso because she was a real mom. They didn’t sugarcoat her or make her unrealistically sweet in any way. And, of course, having Sabrina Carpenter as my daughter! That was a blast! She is a force!
You voiced the role of June in Ollie’s Pack, can you tell us about this?
Ollie’s Pack was so much fun. My friend Mark Satterthwaite developed and created that project and you can really see his fantastic sense of humour and his playfulness in the scripts. There’s so much magic around the series for kids to ignite their imaginations and I loved being part of it.
How was it filming for TV series Carter as Delilah Halsey?
Carter will always hold a soft place in my heart. The crew of Jerry O’Connell, Sydney Poitier, Garry Campbell and Andy Berman created such a great set where you could just try new ideas and bring your own comedy to the script. That made for a really fun place to be… also, flirting with my real life husband, Matt Baram was pretty easy!
From 2012 to 2018, you played Bobbi Galka in Mr. D, how would you describe the character and what was it like developing the role over the years?
Doing Mr. D for eight seasons was a dream. The first year I was so nervous and excited about this project. I had seen Gerry (Dee) do stand-up and truly felt he was the second funniest man in the world. The funniest man, of course, being my husband! Ha! I quickly found out that I didn’t want to spend time in my trailer between scenes but wanted to hang out on set and be part of the jokes. Every summer we would film in Nova Scotia and it was like summer camp. Bette MacDonald, Lauren Hammersley, Jonathan Torrens, Emma Hunter and Mark Little are just a few of the names that were so fun to hang out with… and that crew was extraordinary! Everyone from the boom operator to the makeup and hair team brought their own senses of humour to being on set which made the whole experience fantastic.
Where does your love of acting come from and is it something you always wanted to do?
I think I’ve always enjoyed performing. My mother did theatre when I was growing up and I remember watching her in rehearsals as a kid and thinking how magical it was to be able to tell a story through a character, take an audience on a journey. When I decided to really invest in the comedy side of my career I feel like that’s when I knew I was home. I had grown up watching Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy and so when I became part of the Second City company, I knew I didn’t want to do anything else than try and make people laugh!
Do you have any favourite films and TV shows to watch?
There are a lot of great films and TV shows on right now. Some of my favourites are shows like Barry, I Think You Should Leave, Russian Doll, Baskets, The Other Two… I could go on!!
You are the host of Firecracker Department, can you tell us about this?
Firecracker Department started as a podcast to give another platform to women and non-binary artists to share their journeys and stories. We have since developed into a community where we are dedicated to encouraging and supporting other artists to take creative action in their chosen artistic venture. The core group of Firecracker Dept is made up of some of the most extraordinary artists I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. I feel like we are part of the change that is happening in the world, in our industry and we are dedicated to strengthening the voice of women and non-binary artists all over the world.
What are some of your stand-out highlights from working on Firecracker Department so far?
I have to say, the podcasts have been incredible. They have been like mini masterclasses for me. We have recorded 150 and I have spoken to everyone from Mae Martin, to Bilal Baig, to Lesli Linka Glatter… and so many more! I will also say a regular highlight for me is watching the core team stepping into their leadership roles and leading the community with such grace, positivity, kindness and, of course, fun! Our mentorship and writing department is building up steam and seeing how they are contributing to our industry is just beautiful.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
I love my career so much that as an artist there isn’t really time “away” from art. There’s art everywhere I look. I’m excited to travel again with my husband and we have a small cottage that I love. I get to be surrounded by nature and it’s one of my favourite things in the world to get grubby gardening or chopping wood.
Do you have any projects or career plans coming up that you can talk about?
Upcoming I will be going to Vienna for an improv festival where I will do shows and teach with international improvisers. I will pop over to Berlin to do a show as well with my friends Lee White and Inbal Lori. Being able to perform again live is something I’ve missed so much for the past two years so this is very exciting for me. I am also presently working on a BBC/YTV show for teens called Popularity Papers and that will be released in 2023. And finally, we will be launching a new podcast series where I will host with my friend Amanda Brugel from The Handmaid’s Tale, Kim’s Convenience, Pretty Hard Cases and Ashgrove. I’m really excited to share these conversations with our community and spend some time with a friend that inspires me and makes me laugh all in the same breath!
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