Lily Brooks is already a seasoned actress at just 16. Her résumé practically shimmers with memories. “I have been very lucky to have been a part of some amazing projects, so it is hard to pick one most memorable moment. For theater, it was my first show as Matilda on the Broadway tour of Matilda the Musical at the Kennedy Center in Washington. I was only nine and I was so nervous, but the show was amazing and my first curtain call as the lead role was magical,” she beams. “For film and TV, it is a tie. My first live show taping day on the The Big Show Show was so special because it was my first series regular role. This had been a dream of mine since I was seven years old, and it was in front of a live studio audience which I loved! My other favorite film/TV moment was our last day of filming Life By Ella. Being the lead of the show was absolutely wonderful, but also a huge responsibility. I put so much of myself into making sure I was doing all that I could to help bring this character and her beautiful story to life. After we cut on the very last scene that last day the creators, Tim and Jeff, had me give a speech. I was so grateful for every single cast and crew and creative team member who helped support the show. I won’t ever forget that last day.”
Her supportive network means the world to her. “My improv/acting coach, Katie Pohlman, has been working with me since I was eight years old. Throughout our time together, Katie has taught me to trust my instincts, take chances, feel comfortable with my acting choices, and has always believed in me. I have had the extraordinary opportunity to work with over 20 female directors, but Kelly Park and Christine Lakin have taken me under their wings and acted as mentors for me. The Life By Ella creators, Tim Pollock and Jeff Hodson are two of the most kind and supportive writers. When I was up for the role of Ella, one of the crew members from The Big Show Show, who is a family friend, told me that if she could choose anyone for me to work with it would be Tim and Jeff. They always listened to me, encouraged me, and led the show with kindness. The two actors who play my parents, Kevin Rahm and Mary Fabor, are acting veterans. I learned so much from just watching them, but they also gave incredible advice and absolutely supported me. I am so very grateful for Kevin and Mary.”
Along the way, she’s never forgotten valuable words of wisdom. “I have received a lot of great advice from some amazing people but my TV dad, Kevin, gave me some advice that really stuck. One day during filming, I was having trouble connecting to the scene and was getting frustrated. Kevin told me not to worry about how you want the scene to turn out, but to let it happen naturally and if you do that, it will be real instead of planned,” Lily Brooks remembers. Every role gives her insight into a different slice of life. “I am so lucky to have played so many different types of characters. What I have enjoyed most is that each character has taught me something not only about life, but also about myself.” This is especially true of her latest character, Ella McCaffrey, a high school student and recent cancer survivor. “Ella’s experience battling cancer taught her not to be afraid of anything. While undergoing treatment, she was constantly faced with things that were larger than her and out of her control, but she beat cancer and survived. Now that she has been given a second chance at life, she isn’t going to shy away from living the life she wants to live just because she is afraid. Cancer has taught her not to let fear stop her from living.” Beating cancer motivates Ella to pursue joy without being held back by fear of judgment. “Ella is fun, brave, and determined to embrace each moment of life. Before cancer, Ella was focused more on pleasing others and was afraid to be herself. She spent most of her time being afraid of what might happen; what might happen if she didn’t fit in, or if people didn’t like her, or if she was just her true self. Cancer taught her to live in the moment and to live life to the fullest without being afraid of what people might think. We meet Ella when she is returning to school after beating cancer with a brand new perspective, excitement for what the future holds, and a major seize the day mentality. Post cancer, Ella is not afraid to be herself, and she is also incredibly adventurous. I really admire Ella’s strength, determination, and excitement towards life.”
Lily Brooks herself has deep personal connections to the fight against cancer. “I grew up in Memphis, which is where St Jude Children’s Research Hospital is based and have a few friends who were treated at St. Jude. Their lives were saved due to the research and strides in curing childhood cancers St. Jude has worked towards. I did my first trike-a-thon for St. Jude when I was in preschool and did my first kid version of the St. Jude marathon when I was six years old. When I began to grow my platform, I immediately knew I wanted to use that to shine a light on the lifesaving work that St. Jude does. The St. Jude Walk/Run is at the end of September and I am leading Team Young Hollywood (that I started in 2020) and I hope it will be the biggest fundraising year yet for the team. I am also planning on hosting another big event in the spring… so stay tuned!” By supporting St. Jude’s work, we can enable families to focus on their kids, rather than be distracted by the financial burdens of treatment. “St. Jude shares its research freely with doctors and hospitals around the world to make sure that all children battling cancer have access to the lifesaving discoveries made at St. Jude. Another thing that I love about St. Jude is that the families of the children being treated at the Children’s research hospital never pay for a single thing while undergoing treatment. They do not have to pay for housing, food, transportation, etc. In Life By Ella, we see that the McCaffrey family has to move from a large home to a smaller apartment after Ella’s treatment due to the high medical bills. St. Jude’s believes that it is most important for families not to be worried about money, but instead only focused on making sure their child is happy.”
Ella has illuminated the importance of living a life you can be proud of on a daily basis. Lily Brooks knows this firsthand. “Ella has taught me that life can become really stressful and overwhelming if you are constantly thinking about what others might think of you. It is so important to Ella that she lives life the way she wants to live it, not the way other people expect her to live her life. I have definitely learned so much from my character. The most significant thing I have learned is that you never want to focus too much on the future or look back to the past that you forget to live in each moment. You have to cherish each day and enjoy life moment by moment, day by day.” We can all benefit from remembering that a little more often. Life By Ella is streaming on Apple TV+ starting September 2.
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Lily Brooks Seizes the Day in “Life By Ella.” Photo Credit: Kevin Scanlon.