Ja’mie takes stage

Ja’mie King is back and she’s meaner than ever. Guy Davis spoke with Chris Lil­ley, the man be­hind Ja’mie: Pri­vate School Girl.

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Some­where in your youth, you may have en­coun­tered a girl like Ja’mie King.

Brim­ming with con­fi­dence and charisma, she’s ac­com­plished at ev­ery­thing she turns her hand to. She’s charm­ing enough to wrap any­one she meets around her lit­tle fin­ger. And she’s a sweet­heart to boot – you’ll al­ways hear her talk­ing about how much she ad­mires and adores her cir­cle of besties.

But, if for some rea­son she doesn’t think that much of you, watch out. Be­cause then some­one like Ja’mie is a bit of a night­mare.

But is life all it’s re­ally cracked up to be for a girl like this? Or is she go­ing through the same teenage tri­als, tribu­la­tions and com­pli­ca­tions as her peers?

IMaybe even more so?

There’s no one bet­ter to tell us than Chris Lil­ley.

The multi- tal­ented writer and per­former first in­tro­duced view­ers to Ja’mie in his break­out hit We Can Be He­roes be­fore bring­ing her back for an en­core in Sum­mer Heights High.

Lil­ley: “If you were a teenage girl and she didn’t tar­get you and pick on you, you’d be pretty happy to be her friend. You’d feel

hot by as­so­ci­a­tion – ‘ She chose me!’.”

Now she’s tak­ing cen­tre stage in a se­ries of her own, the new six- episode com­edy Ja’mie: Pri­vate School Girl, which sees the self- ab­sorbed teenager in her fi­nal year of high school.

Ev­ery­thing seems to be go­ing Ja’mie’s way – she’s school cap­tain, lord­ing it over friends, fam­ily and en­e­mies alike, and even ap­pears to have found a hot boyfriend, al­beit one who’s a cou­ple of years younger than her.

“She kind of goes up a notch with this se­ries,” Lil­ley said. “And with ev­ery­thing that’s go­ing on, it’s a lot more ad­ven­tur­ous this time around.”

Still, there’s ev­ery chance the tur­bu­lence of ado­les­cence, not to men­tion her own ten­dency to­wards nar­cis­sism and nas­ti­ness, may be Ja’mie’s un­do­ing.

In his pre­vi­ous three “mock­u­men­tary” se­ries’ ( which in­cludes last year’s am­bi­tious An­gry Boys), Lil­ley has played mul­ti­ple char­ac­ters of var­i­ous races and dif­fer­ent gen­ders.

But Ja’mie: Pri­vate School Girl marks the first time he’s fo­cused solely on one char­ac­ter. Sur­pris­ingly, that may have posed even more of a chal­lenge than usual for Lil­ley.

“I think at first I thought it would be a bit of a walk in the park,” he ad­mit­ted.

“I’d just done An­gry Boys, which was kind of epic with its five dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters, so I thought this would be a breeze. But I had just as much screen time to fill, and Ja’mie is in ev­ery scene, so there was even more pres­sure on the char­ac­ter.

“You know, I couldn’t just go ‘ Mean­while …’ and cut to an­other char­ac­ter. So I didn’t find it eas­ier. But I like things to be chal­leng­ing.”

And bring­ing Ja’mie to life is a chal­lenge, ac­cord­ing to Lil­ley. He’s ad­mit­ted to in­ter­view­ers that he finds it “awk­ward” por­tray­ing a teenage girl. But plac­ing her in the spot­light was a move he couldn’t pass up.

“I was ex­cited by the op­por­tu­nity to do a show purely about one char­ac­ter, and I was ex­cited by this char­ac­ter,” he said. “I’ve dab­bled in her world so much on We Can Be He­roes and Sum­mer Heights High, and that sort of planted the seeds for a lot of lit­tle things that I thought would be fun to re­visit and ex­pand on.”

Ex­pand­ing Ja’mie’s world and de­pict­ing it ac­cu­rately re­quired re­search, though, and Lil­ley did his due dili­gence.

“A lot of what they say and do is taken from Face­book and tele­vi­sion and things I see go­ing on around me,” he said.

“But I also ar­ranged through friends to meet with groups of girls and talk to them about it. Peo­ple are ex­cited by the idea of be­ing part of it but I found they liked to tell me what to do – some thought I was there to get their ideas. ‘ No, you guys just talk and I’ll ob­serve’.”

Dur­ing his ob­ser­va­tions, Lil­ley found “teenagers al­ways like to think they’re the first peo­ple ever to be teenagers”.

“I was speak­ing to one girl who said she and her friend have been say­ing ‘ Oh my God’ a lot,” he re­called with a chuckle. “I thought, ‘ Re­ally? Well, that’s orig­i­nal’.”

He may have a sharp eye for the flaws and foibles of his char­ac­ters, es­pe­cially Ja’mie, but Lil­ley nev­er­the­less has af­fec­tion for them.

“I think you like to be en­ter­tained by Ja’mie and I think you like to watch her fail some­times, but I think you do like her,” he said.

“It’s the clas­sic doc­u­men­tary thing: she wants to ap­pear a cer­tain way but she’s be­ing ex­posed as some­thing else.

“And she’s per­fect for that be­cause she loves to put her­self out there and talk about her­self.

“But I think if you were a teenage girl and she didn’t tar­get you and pick on you, you’d be pretty happy to be her friend. You’d feel hot by as­so­ci­a­tion. ‘ She chose me!’ – so, yeah, I think you do like Ja’mie. I like her.”

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