Jillian Rose Reed, who rose to fame as Jenna Hamilton's (Ashley Rickards) over-the-top best friend on MTV's hit show "Awkward," has landed her next big role. The Florida native will be starring in, and producing, a webseries called "Elevator Stories," which is being crowd funded through a Kickstarter campaign she and her co-stars recently launched. International Business Times was able to catch up with the actress-turned-producer to discuss the project, her final year at Palos Hills High and more.
"Elevator Stories" is a love story set in present day. The series is told through the eyes of Ezabel (Nicole Pacent) and Samantha (Reed), a couple who's love story began in the elevator of the building they both live in. Each episode of "Elevator Stories" is based on a page of a comic book created by Samantha and based on the daily happenings of the various people living in her diverse apartment building. Reed, 23, was initially drawn to "Elevator Stories" because of it's script and characters. She said it was an added bonus that the series featured an LGBT narrative, which Reed found both "timely and important." The former "Weeds" actress was cast as Samantha, who she describes as an artist "who wears her heart on her sleeve." While Samantha is a serious departure from her role as Tamara on "Awkward," Reed says she's ready for a change.
"I love playing Tamara, and we definitely have similarities, but she isn't me 'exactly," Reed told IBT. "Tamara is a big character. It's fun sometimes to step out of that and play more of a grounded person...or a person my age for that matter."
— PopWrapped (@PopWrapped) October 4, 2015
Reed and her castmates are looking to Kickstarter to fund production of "Elevator Stories." On Sept. 22, they created a page on the popular crowdfunding site seeking $36,000. To date they have raised $2,147 through generous donations from fans. In an effort to inspire supporters to reach deep into their pockets the "Elevator Stories" cast has come up with a list of incentives including, but not limited to, T-shirts, autographed posters, and even a spot in the show's credits. Reed said she and her co-stars are hopeful that by offering fun rewards people may "actually want" they'd be more willing to get on board. Although many celebrities have successfully gotten projects off the ground through Kickstarter and similar sites, Reed notes that it was not without it's fair share of challenges.
"For me, my biggest challenge is that my fans are young. Are my fans going to their parents and asking for money? I'll never know," she told IBT. "So I have to make sure I'm engaging my older fans, as well as making sure my young ones know why this project is important. The most rewarding thing has been seeing people so excited about it…and about my character."
The webseries marks the first time Reed has stepped out from in front of the cameras to give producing a try. She told IBT she "totally" wants to do more of it in the future. Reed said she'd like to be as "well-versed in the industry" as possible, which will give her an upper hand when looking for other gigs. She also revealed that, while she loves TV, she has also grown fond of Web-based content. Reed shared with IBT that she has no preference, but said "Web is huge," adding that it is also much cheaper to shoot that way.
— Jillian Rose Reed (@JillianRoseReed) October 2, 2015
"Digital content is extremely popular and generating almost as many views as a regular TV show. I think the biggest difference is budget, we can shoot cheaper for the web, but that doesn't mean that the work is any less hard," Reed said.
As for "Awkward," the actress says viewers should prepare for the rollercoaster ride that will be Season 5. Much like co-star Monty Geer, who plays Cole of the infamous duo Theo (Evan Crooks) and Cole, Reed said many relationships on the show will be tested as college acceptance and rejection letters begin rolling in. Just like actual high school, the Palos Hills High crew has no idea whether or not they'll be getting into the same schools. With all that uncertainty they've each become painfully aware of the fact that one day soon the group they've come accustomed to spending every day with may be no longer.
"It's just like real high school," Reed said. "You and your best friend probably won't get into the same college, or won't have the same career path once you graduate. These characters are finding out right before out eyes that it may not be there little group forever. We have to figure out how to make that work. Can we all stay friends if we aren't together every day? With graduation comes a lot of changes, and I think we are doing it in a really relatable way."
While it has been said that this will be the final season of the MTV show, Reed remains hopeful that we haven't seen the last of Tamara, Jenna and the gang. Reed says they've grown so close since "Awkward" first premiered in 2011, adding that she's not all too convinced she and the rest of the cast "have told our full story yet."
— Jillian Rose Reed (@JillianRoseReed) October 5, 2015
"Elevator Stories" will continue accepting donations to their Kickstarter page until Oct. 17. Check out a preview for the webseries below and be sure to check out Jillian Rose Reed in "Awkward" Mondays at 9 p.m. EDT on MTV.