Like many of us, Jade Pettyjohn likes to travel and experience new things. Lucky for her, her job allows her to do just that. Whether she’s lighting up TV screens as Summer on Nickelodeon’s School of Rock or tugging at your heartstrings as Bird in the film Girl Flu, Jade Pettyjohn is ready for anything life throws at her. In fact, School of Rock was even nominated for an Emmy this year! With talent like hers, we think she’ll be living her dream and working alongside Meryl Streep in no time.
Cliché: What was your first acting role?
Jade Pettyjohn: I played the kidnapped daughter of a wealthy family in the crime drama, The Mentalist. Simon Baker is really great with kids. He treated me like an equal and not a child who couldn’t understand what was needed, which I loved. I learned what it was like to be on set with a really nice cast and crew.
When did you know that you wanted to be an actress?
I have been surrounded by artists my whole life. My dad is a musician, my mom is a photographer, and my aunt and great grandmother are professional modern dancers. Not to mention, all of my parents’ friends are actors, writers, and musicians, so it felt kind of fitting for me to lean toward the arts. I was about 4 or 5 years old when I realized what actors did and I realized that’s kind of what I was already doing. I would make up characters and create plays in my living room for my parents. I decided then that I wanted to pursue acting as a career.
What is your favorite part about what you do?
I think my favorite part of what I do is creating worlds. That’s essentially what I do. I like taking the writer’s vision and building a whole life and history for the character, to bring a fictional character to life and have them create an impact on the audience. I can’t tell you what an amazing feeling that is! I love it and can’t get enough of it.
You are currently on Nickelodeon’s School of Rock as Summer. What do you love most about your character? What are your hopes for Summer going into season 2?
Summer is such a fun character to play. I would say my favorite thing about her is her ability to get things done. She really doesn’t take “no” for an answer, and because of this, she has really helped the band. She is a total boss!
We actually just finished filming season two of School of Rock, so I already know what my character goes through in the second season. I can say that you will see Summer take a lot more risks. She learns a lot about relationships and is not afraid to make a fool of herself sometimes, which I think is a really important message for people watching the show. You have to be able to make a fool of yourself. There are so many spoilers I want to give right now, but I’m gonna be a good girl!
I like taking the writer’s vision and building a whole life and history for the character.
In the film Girl Flu, you play the character Bird. How is the process of working on a film versus a TV show? Do you prefer one over the other?
I gotta say, Bird is one of my favorite characters so far. I loved working with Dorie Barton, who was the writer and director of the film, and bringing her vision to life. It isn’t your normal coming of age film. It’s humorous and quirky, but really about the relationships. Getting to work with Katee Sackhoff and Jeremy Sisto was amazing! I learned a lot from them about the work of acting. That is one of the great things about Girl Flu. Every single person on set was really passionate about telling the story, even down to the things Bird wore and the decor on the walls.
I think the biggest difference between film and TV is the length of time working on the project. In film, it takes about two months to film. In TV, you are working for about six months. I guess you can compare it to a sprint versus a marathon. I enjoy both. I absolutely love working on School of Rock and getting to work with the cast and crew every day. Your relationships with the cast and crew run deeper because it’s a longer period of time, so you really get a chance to know each other.
Often with films, you get to travel or experience something totally new, like when I shot McKenna Shoots for the Stars. I went to Canada and trained with the junior Olympic team. I stepped into a world I would not have known otherwise. I suppose when it comes down to it, it’s about the experience, and I have had some pretty great experiences in both film and TV.
Who would you love to work with someday?
I would love to work with Meryl Streep! She is just so elegant and so good at what she does. I love her work and I also love the way she seems to live her life. Working with her would be absolutely amazing.
Jade Pettyjohn Talks ‘School of Rock’ and ‘Girl Flu’: Photographer: Quavondo, Hair: Ieva Radina, MUA: Lysette Castellanos, Stylist: Yesenia Cuevas