Lily Brooks O’Briant comes with Life By Ella, a new original Apple TV+ series that once more demonstrates why actors like her are always committed to telling stories that are important. She describes the show as a wholehearted and fun experience that will remind us how deeply we should enjoy life.
Therefore, we invite you to read the conversation we recently had to talk about her career and, of course, Life by Ella. So, do not miss this exclusive interview with Lily Brooks O’Briant only on Vanity Teen.
Telling stories that are important
VT: Personally, what is the best part of being an artist?
LBOB: The best part of being an artist is telling stories that are important to tell and seeing how people react to watching these stories unfold. One of my favorite moments from filming Life by Ella was when Kevin Rham, who plays my dad on Life by Ella, and I were filming an emotional scene, and when we were done, I walked over to the video village, and everyone was crying or tearing up. Tim, our script supervisor, came up to me and just gave me a big hug.
This was such an emotional and rewarding moment for me because I saw just how important telling this story was.
VT: You moved from Memphis to Los Angeles. So, how did your life change while pursuing your professional goals?
LBOB: I lived in Memphis until I was nine years old and then spent about eight months playing the role of ‘Matilda’ on the National Broadway Tour of Matilda the Musical. My family moved to NYC for a few years after Matilda & I loved NYC, but my mom, siblings, and I moved to LA when I was cast as a series regular on The Big Show Show.
It has been a lot of change, but we all really love LA! We do visit family in Tennessee, but then, it’s always nice to come home to the beach weather too.
VT: How do you get ready for a role? And how do you handle your nerves before going live on a stage?
LBOB: Getting ready for a role can look very different depending on what role I’m playing.
For Life by Ella specifically, I had the honor of talking with a few family friends who are childhood/teen cancer survivors and also were patients at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I was able to listen to their stories, take some of their experiences, and put them into my character.
It was so important to me to accurately portray what a lot of these kids go through. I am so grateful that I was able to talk to some of my friends! I also cut my hair to prepare for the role of Ella. It was a big step, but something I am so glad that I did because I feel as though it really connected me to the character of Ella and what she has gone through.
When I got nervous before going on stage, when I was playing the role of ‘Matilda’ on the National tour of Matilda The Musical, I really looked to my fellow castmates for support. I had the most amazing cast there to support me, and whenever I was nervous, they were always there to lift me up.
Another thing I did to calm my nerves was take deep breaths. I know it sounds cliche, but it really works!
A girl named Ella
VT: Before we comment on your new TV series, please, talk to us about your experience with The Big Show. How is it for you to be part of this TV family?
LBOB: I played Mandy Wight on Netflix’s The Big Show Show! I absolutely loved playing Mandy on The Big Show Show! Being a part of the Big Show Show family was an absolute dream come true! The entire cast and crew were so amazing, and it really just felt like one big family.
Big Show was really like a second dad to me – just like Kevin Rahm is for me on Life by Ella. We had the best time ever on set together! I remember one time we had a scene where we were supposed to pretend to wrestle with Big Show, and he gave me and Reylynn mini wrestling lessons. It was so much fun!
VT: How about Life by Ella? So far, what can you share with us about this highly expected show?
LBOB: Life By Ella is about a girl named Ella who is in remission from cancer. Ella returns to school after beating cancer and takes on a brand-new perspective, excitement for what the future holds, and a major seize the day mentality. With her best friend by her side, she is ready to tackle everything she was too afraid of before.
Ella is also determined not to let the minutiae of fake friends and social media status distract her. I am so excited for people to see Ella’s journey come to life and follow along as she lives life to the fullest and not be afraid of anything!
VT: How do you consider the story of Ella impacted your life and might help others in similar situations?
LBOB: Playing the character of Ella and learning from her has impacted my life so much because Ella has taught me so much about myself and life. Ella has a major “Seize the Day” mentality because cancer has taught her that you only get to live life once.
Ella has been given a second chance at life, and she isn’t going to waste it being afraid of anything. Ella has taught me not to be afraid of actually being my true self. That is something I really hope viewers will take away from watching the show. Life is so special, and it is so important to enjoy life.
Never give up!
VT: What other plans or projects do you have for the future?
LBOB: One of my biggest goals in my life is to become a director and also start a production company. I have always been interested in becoming a director. Working with so many amazing directors as an actress, I have been so lucky to experience their mentorship. One of my biggest inspirations is Reese Witherspoon and the amazing films she creates and the stories she tells through her production company, Hello Sunshine. I would love to start my own production company one day and tell stories with strong female leads that little girls all around the world can look up to and learn from.
VT: How do you take care of your mental health?
LBOB: The way I take care of my mental health is by taking time to myself every day and doing something that I enjoy that is not work-related. This could be anything!
For me, it could be sitting outside and reading for 30 minutes, as I really enjoy reading even, or driving down to Santa Monica to take a trapeze class. Doing these things and taking time for myself is so important and something I think everyone should do. Sometimes we get too caught up in what’s on our to-do list that we forget to take time for ourselves.
VT: Which words would you like to share with those young people who want to pursue a career in acting?
LBOB: The best advice I could give new actors is something very simple but so incredibly important: Never give up!
As an actor, you are going to experience rejection. Since I started acting, I have had over 500 auditions where I didn’t get the role or was told no. There have been so many times when I have thought I should just give up. Now my belief is that it only takes one yes for things to fall into place.
VT: Anything else you would like to share with Vanity Teen?
LBOB: I am a youth ambassador for St. Jude Children’s research hospital! I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, and had a few family friends who were treated at St. Jude for Childhood/Teen cancer.
Ever since I was little, I have loved helping to raise money for St. Jude by walking in the annual St. Jude Walk/Run.
Once I became an actress and my platform began to grow, I immediately knew that I wanted to do something meaningful with that platform.
I created Team Young Hollywood and Broadway, where teens and kids from all over the acting and Broadway community can come together to raise awareness and fundraise for St. Jude!
Over the past two years, we have raised over $40,000 for St. Jude Children’s research hospital. The St. Jude organization and all that they do for kids and teens all over the world mean so much to me. I am so honored to be able to tell the story of what so many of these kids go through- it is just really so special to me.
Before we go
Lily Brooks O’Briant is living a good moment in her career. However, the one thing we celebrate the most about it is that this young actress and singer is not only bringing to life the story of her character Ella McCaffrey but the story of many young people who want to live the fullest despite particular conditions or circumstances.
We appreciate her kind smile, many talents, lovely message, and how seriously she assumes her role as an artist who wants to reach others beyond current superficialities.
Life by Ella is available everywhere on Apple TV+, and if you want to stay connected with Lily Brooks O’Briant, you can follow her on social media @lilybrooksobriant.
Let us enjoy life and spread kindness.