Contrary to popular belief, MTV isn’t just a network that only plays reruns of Jersey Shore and those Real World/Road Rules challenges. If you tune into the channel tonight at 10:30 p.m. EST, you'll realize it's also the home of its understated crown jewel, Awkward. A hugely successful teen series, Awkward follows social outcast Jenna Hamilton (Ashley Rickards) as she wades through hallways crowded with bullies, hot jocks and overzealous best friends with an acronym for just about every situation.
Complex recently spoke with the HBIC of all of Jenna’s BFFs, Jillian Rose Reed, better known as the show's resident live-wire Tamara, about her personal own high school experience, life on set, and how Awkward is impacting the lives of its teenage viewers.
Interview by Tara Aquino (@t_akino)
First off, how did you land the role?
I read the pilot and I thought that it was one of the best pilots I had ever read. I went in and I auditioned for Tamara and it actually happened really fast. I was one of the last characters to be cast so they loved me and they ended up sending my audition tape to MTV. I didn’t even have to go back and audition again, which is kind of unheard of, but I was really lucky.
How would you say the show compares to your high school experience?
As far as my character goes, she’s not the most popular and that’s kind of how I was in high school. I wasn’t super on-the-radar.
I do! She’s pretty sassy and I’m sometimes sassy. [Laughs.] She talks really fast, which I tend to do sometimes. That’s something I think I added to the character without even knowing. And she’s a really get-back-up-on-your-horse type of girl and I’m more sympathetic, so that’s where we differ a little bit.
She’s also infamous for being into band geeks. What’s your type? What group were you drawn to in high school?
I don’t actually know where Tamara gets her love for band geeks. I think maybe it’s because she’s no super popular, so out of the unpopular kids, she’s the biggest one. She can get all the band geeks. But I wasn’t really into band geeks in high school. I will say that I do gravitate more towards quirkier guys. I always date guys who wear glasses. [Laughs.]
Celebrity-wise, who would be an example of that?
Penn Badgley from Gossip Girl! I have been so in love with him for so long. I'm not sure if he has ever worn glasses, but that hair and that cute face gets me every time.
Did you participate in any extra-curricular activities in high school?
I was in the drama club and I was super into choir.
So are you planning on giving a singing career a shot?
Singing is more of a hobby than really something I want to do for a career. But I love musical theater, so I’m hoping I can go back to it and do a role on Broadway for a few weeks. That would be a dream come true. My dream role would be Roxie in Chicago.
In high school, where you're spotted at is a big deal. Where did you hang out in high school?
I'll be honest with you, I was never into the high school parties. I was more focused on school work and my small group of friends than the big social outings. But, I was always spotted in the drama wing and the choir room!
Tamara uses an immense amount of slang. Have you started using any in your daily vernacular?
[Laughs.] Yeah, I do. It’s funny because when you stick to these scripts for so long, you start picking them up. “DTR” is one from the first season that everybody on set still uses. In regular life, we say it all the time. “DTR” means “define the relationship,” which, in our characters’ lives, is a big deal all the time.
This season, I have a couple of really good ones that fans I think will enjoy. I think my favorite one was “Adora-whorable,” which is cute but slutty. [Laughs.]
Are you planning on doing more adult roles in the future? What would you gravitate towards?
I’m really into comedy. I would love to pursue more dramatic roles at some point in the future but, right now, comedy is kind of where I’m at. If Awkward ever came to an end, I would hope that I could get onto another sitcom because that’s what I really love to do.
Who are your comedic idols?
I love Jennifer Aniston. I’m a bit obsessed with her. I also love Kristen Wiig and obviously Bridesmaids is one of the funniest movies ever. I do have some of her SNL skits that I’ve saved on my computer and stuff. [Laughs.]
I feel like I can’t even watch TV anymore without picking up little tidbits from different actors and actresses, but they’re two that I definitely look up to and try learn as much as I can.
Awkward deals with a lot of serious issues, especially bullying, but puts a lighter spin on it. What kind of message do you think comes across with the show?
We definitely do put comedic twists on serious issues but that being said, we still like to teach lessons with our episodes that do deal with things like that. The bullying episode is a good example. We do have a bully in every episode, Sadie. Last season, we got to go home with Sadie and kind of learn that everyone has their own issues and there’s reasons behind the way people act. We just hope that with the seriousness of the show that we do teach people that certain things happen for a reason and there are certain ways to deal with things. We hope with our show people can just relate and learn from it.
Bullying is definitely a huge problem nowadays, especially on social media. What do you think about kids these days going online and taking to social media to threaten other kids and have you ever experienced any bullying?
I think it's absolutely terrible! Don't get me wrong, I love social websites like Facebook and Twitter, but I think it creates way too many opportunities for young people to bully. I am so happy that we have organizations like Love is Louder that are becoming more popular. I have never really had to deal with any bullying, but I definitely support anyone who stands up and fights against it.
Have you ever heard any personal responses from Awkward's young fans?
We get responses all the time. I think especially through Twitter, it’s the biggest way people reach out to us. All of the cast, we try to answer all of the people who write to us. But I’ve had a lot of people who’ve said they can relate to the show and it’s helped them through a lot of difficult times, especially the kids in high school now. Everyone kind of feels like an outcast in high school. Even if you’re super popular, you still have issues.
How’s the relationship between the cast?
It’s such a great environment. We’re a like a big family. We get along really well and we’re always laughing and pranking each other. It really is just the best cast and crew that I can ever hope to work for.
Everyone kind of feels like an outcast in high school. Even if you’re super popular, you still have issues.
We always hear that, on set, most co-stars have the tendency to prank each other.
Well, the boys like to pull pranks on me. I don’t know why I’m always at the end of the prank, but I think it’s because I just take it. This season, they did a lot. They filled my trailer with over 70 balloons. I couldn’t even walk in my trailer. Last year, they would lock me in my trailer. They’re always picking on me. [Laughs.]
How did they even fill up and transport all those balloons?
I think they sat in Beau Mirchoff's trailer for hours and they blew them all up by mouth and they stuffed them in giant garbage bags and just emptied them into my trailer. They had awhile between scenes and that’s how they chose to spend their time. [Laughs.]
Are you thinking of ways to get back at them?
You know, I was thinking about different things but they’re really clever and they tend to figure a lot of things out. They’re sneakier than I am, so they can always kind of get me back. So, I’d never try to pull any revenge because they can get me back ten times worse.
Since you’re done filming Awkward's second season, how are you spending your hiatus? Are you working on other projects?
Last hiatus, I did a movie. It was actually an MTV horror film called My Super Psycho Sweet 16: Part 3. I’m just getting back into the swing of auditioning, so hopefully I’ll have a new project that I can talk about soon.
Did you grow up watching MTV?
Yeah, but I’ve never really imagined myself getting this opportunity with MTV. Growing up, I did watch it and there wasn’t any scripted series on it. I grew up babysitting and watching TRL after school. But the fact that I’m part of the whole new scripted development program that they’re trying to launch is really awesome. We’ve been getting to see everything firsthand and be part of something new for the network, so that’s really exciting.
Interview by Tara Aquino (@t_akino)