Photo Credit: Louise Vessey for The 2015 Charlottetown Festival
"I love to make people laugh. It is so heartwarming to hear the sound of smiling laughter! Everything I do is for the audience, so if I can shed a little positive light on their day, I'm doing my job."
At a Glance:
- Grew up in Ten Mile House, Prince Edward Island
- Has two sisters, a brother-in-law, a Mother who saves peoples lives for a living, a Father who can literally fix anything, and a boyfriend who is also her best friend
- Lives for the beach! There's no place she feels more at home
- Favourite quote is "Hakuna Matata." It reminds her to not worry so much
- Studied acting in Los Angeles, Musical Theatre in Ontario, & Improv in Toronto
- Previously starred as Diana Barry in Anne of Green Gables- The Musical
- Loves roller coasters, concerts, writing, and biking
Jessica as Diana Barry
Tell us how you began acting?
I started to fall in love with acting was when I was 10 years old. My family lived in Grande Prairie, Alberta, for a year and a half, and my parents put me in a musical theatre camp. The show we were performing was Beauty and the Beast, so naturally I was given the role of Dancing Plate #3. My mom says I was jumping up and down so people in the audience would see me, so I think that's when I caught the performing bug.
Jessica as Pippi Longstocking in 2005
How does it feel to be a Prince Edward Islander playing Anne of Green Gables?
It's completely indescribable. I've tried to wrap my head around it, but I don't think it will truly hit me until opening night. I'm only the second Islander ever to play Anne (with an e, thank you), so it is absolutely surreal. I grew up watching astounding ladies portray the role, such as Jennifer Toulmin, Amy Wallis and Chilina Kennedy, who is currently starring on Broadway! I feel truly honoured to have this opportunity, and am going to relish every moment. My childhood dream has come true, and I don't think a lot of people get to say that!
When it comes to performing, what are you most passionate about?
I love to make people laugh. It is so heartwarming to hear the sound of smiling laughter! Everything I do is for the audience, so if I can shed a little positive light on their day, I'm doing my job.
Who or what has inspired you to follow your passions and take the leap to becoming an actress & musician?
Definitely my parents. They never restricted me when I wanted to try something new growing up. When it came to acting, they embraced it with open arms. I remember driving in the car with my Mom one day. I was in Grade 12 trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. She said, "What about acting and singing?" And I replied with, "Yeah, but that's not realistic." She shot back calmly with, "Of course it is. You love it. You should do what you love." I'll never forget that.
Reflecting back on it, what were some of the most inspiring and exciting moments you experienced so far?
I think one of the most exciting moments for me was singing the National Anthems at the Blue Jays game in Toronto. There were 30,000 people in the crowd, and I felt like I was in a dream! Another was definitely my first day rehearsing with the Charlottetown Festival in 2013. It felt like the first day of school. I was so nervous, but bubbling with excitement!
What advice do you have for people aspiring to follow their dreams?
Dreams don't work unless you do. When you realize your passion, work hard at it and you will be rewarded. You can never stop learning, so continue to educate yourself and you'll continue to grow!
What advice were you given through the years that stuck with you?
To follow my instincts. This was something I heard in an acting class, but I think it can be applied to everything in life. You have to trust and believe in yourself. Trust when your heart is telling you to do something. Don't ignore it, follow it! Follow your heart, and you will live a happy fulfilling life!
What's in store for you in the coming months?
These next couple months are going to be very busy and exciting! To begin the summer season off, I recently played my first official solo set at the Trailside Café & Inn. I was so excited and a little nervous, but it was an amazing evening. I'm also stepping into the role of Anne Shirley at the Charlottetown Festival in their beloved musical Anne of Green Gables. It's been a dream of mine since I was little, and I can't wait! I'll also be featured in Alice Through the Looking Glass, so be sure to get your tickets!
What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?
I've experienced so much kindness in my life, which is all anyone can ask for. The kindest thing for me was when Annie Allan and Wade Lynch gave me a spot in the Confederation Centre's Young Company in 2010. The reason I find it so kind was because my audition was absolutely horrendous! I dropped all my sheet music on the ground, forgot my monologue, ran around the room to shake my nerves, and started crying when Annie asked me, "So darling, why do you want to be in the Young Company?" That experience changed my life, so it was thanks to their kindness and vision that I'm where I am today.
Who is the one person you’d like to thank and what would you say to him/her?
My Mom. She has been my rock, my light, and my protector. She has always encouraged me to follow my dreams, see the world, trust in myself, and love with all my heart. She is the kindest woman you will ever encounter and has a laugh that can be heard from here to the Prairies! Thank you will never be enough, but I will continue to thank her for the rest of my life. She's the best! I love you, Mommy!
I imagine there have been moments when you've been afraid to pursue your dreams, how do you overcome those fears?
There have definitely been moments of fear, and still are, when pursuing the unknown! I always remind myself, when one door closes, another flies right open. I think living with the "glass is half full" perspective also helps eliminate any fears I may have, as well as being grateful for everything I have TODAY. I try to live in the moment rather than fearing what may happen in the future. I trust that everything happens for a reason!
What do you love about Prince Edward Island?
This question is my favourite! I purposefully try to bring up the fact that I'm from PEI when meeting someone new, just so I can talk about how much I love it! First off, the generosity and kindness of the people. We Islanders hear that a lot, but you don't understand how true it is until you leave and come back. It's like we're part of one big family. Which brings me to another thing I love- the pride we Islanders have for our home! You can take the girl out of the Island, but you can't take the Island out of the girl. The beaches have to be my all-time favourite thing about PEI. How can you not love the sight of pearly white sand, grassy green sand dunes, and a blinding blue ocean!? I'm obsessed.
Lakeside Beach (Photo Credit: Naomi Cousins)
Where can people see you perform?
You can see me perform at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Anne of Green Gables and Alice Through the Looking Glass from June-August! Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming local performances, and check out my YouTube channel HERE.
Check out Jessica's YouTube Series: Singing in the Shower with Jess