Jillian Kinsey will not immediately strike you as a daredevil. She has long blonde waves and bright eyes, she is reserved, but exceptionally polite (especially for the gritty city of New York). But if you get her talking about performing– instantly a fire is lit.
While her passion has always been performing, she took what was deemed the practical route after high school and enrolled as a communications major at Villanova University. Jillian quickly discovered she couldn’t get her mind off performing. Unable to shake the acting bug, she took a giant leap of faith – she applied to and auditioned for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts – which has produced many of Hollywood’s elite, including Robert Redford, Grace Kelly, Kim Cattrall and Paul Rudd. This change of heart seemed a lofty dream, while a Bachelor of Science was, in the very least, dependable. Still, she forged ahead into the unknown, leaving behind three semesters of a conventional education to chase her dreams.
Jillian has since graduated from the two-year conservatory program at AADA. Not even a month after receiving her diploma, she had already been cast as a lead in her first Off-Broadway show, which opens July 9th at The Snapple Theatre Center in New York City. I sat down with Jillian as she took a break from her tedious rehearsal schedule to discuss her risky behavior – and how it has benefitted her thus far.
What made you decide to make the big ‘switch’?
Growing up, I was always the over-achiever. I was involved in a million activities and competitions and writing contests and my friends were all very much the same way. Throughout senior year, they all seemed to be choosing lucrative career paths and top-notch universities, so I guess I felt that I should do the same. In spite of my passion for acting, I decided to major in Communication at Villanova University. It seemed like the safer, more logical decision. And it was. But after my first year, I was miserable. All I could think about was performing. And all of my free time was spent in shows or cabarets or reading Shakespeare atop my bunk bed. After months of prayer, I finally decided I couldn’t live the rest of my life always wondering if I would’ve made it as an actor. I had to try.
Are you glad you took that risk?
Moving to the Empire City from small-town PA seemed daunting at first, but was, without a doubt, the best decision I could’ve made. I was given the opportunity to share both the classroom and stage with such incredible actors from all over the world. AADA believes in producing well-rounded actors, so students not only study various acting techniques, but also singing, stage dialects, Shakespeare, Commedia dell’Arte, stage combat, fencing, theatre dance, on-camera work and a variety of other aspects of performing. I could not have been blessed with a better environment in which to train and grow, both as an actress and a person. During my time at AADA, I obtained a new-found confidence and an even deeper passion for my craft.
And you didn’t just stop there. How do you keep yourself focused in such a chaotic industry?
Upon graduating in April, I began auditioning and marketing myself like crazy. I also started to keep a binder. It has a record of every audition I attend – the location, the casting director, the role, and the details of the audition itself. The final bullet point is whether or not I booked the job. I always circle “No” immediately because it’s a way to move on and prepare myself for the next opportunity. It’s also such a great feeling to have to go back and erase “No” so I can circle “Yes!”
And you got to circle a big yes when you booked ‘Burying the Hatchet!”
It has been such a unique experience being part of an original cast and witnessing a show develop from the bottom-up. I am so honored to have this opportunity and VERY excited for opening night.
Can you leave us with an inspirational quote?
My favorite quote has always been “Do one thing every day that scares you.” And thank God for Eleanor Roosevelt because with that mantra, I can dare to live my dreams.
Read more about Jillian, check out her website: www.jilliankinsey.com. For more information on Bury the Hatchet visit: www.arch51.com.
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