Actress and performer Elizabeth Gillies has certainly done her homework: Before her current starring role on Nickelodeon’s Victorious as mean girl Jadelyn West, she had a guest spot on a Nickelodeon show in the ’90s (6 to 8 Frozen Zone), and in 2008 she appeared in the Broadway musical 13 playing — you guessed it — a huge snob who also belts out hit songs.
Victorious, entering its second season, is a sitcom about Tori Vega (Victoria Justice) and her struggles to fit in at Hollywood Arts, a performing-arts school. (It’s also the brainchild of Dan Schneider, creator of iCarly, Kenan & Kel, The Amanda Show, and more.) In addition to the usual high school relationship woes, Tori and her friends — including frenemy Jade — find themselves having to write and perform original songs, and deal with filmmakers and divas. Crushable sat down with Gillies at the press junket for the new Victorious soundtrack and chatted about ’90s Nickelodeon shows, veganism, and Justin Bieber‘s recent troubles with fans in Liverpool.
You know, I saw 13 when it first ran on Broadway, a few years ago.
You did? No you didn’t!
I did! You’re the one who sang “It Can’t Be True”—that is the only song I downloaded from the show.
Oh, no way! Oh my gosh, thank you so much. For some reason, I have this thing, even though I know a lot of people saw the show, I have this vision that no one saw the show. So whenever I hear it, now that I’m on Victorious, it’s like… It was an extraordinary experience to work on that team. A lot of us were making our Broadway debut at 14 or 15, and it was incredible. It was just the best experience in the entire world. I really miss getting to sing up there and have my little moments, it was a lot of fun.
I’m not just saying this, but Lucy was my favorite character.
Oh, thank you. I usually get the antagonist—I’m really not that mean!
What is it like playing the mean girl on Victorious?
It’s fun to stir up the drama, but I couldn’t play a character that was one-dimensional. Jade cries, she’s weird; she has so many sides. I would just die if I had to play a one-dimensional, queen-bee mean girl who walks the halls and pushes books out of people’s hands. I could never, ever do that, so I’m excited that I get this sort of weird, twisted character. I love Jade.
Do you draw on any famous mean girls from TV or movies?
I love Mean Girls the movie; I think you can get a lot from that. There’s an essence of control that I like to play with mean girls. There are mean girls who scream and go crazy, which Jade does, but I think the calmer and freakier it is sometimes, when you’re victimizing people, I try to do that a little bit. But it’s whatever feels right in the moment, whatever the situation calls for.
Speaking again of 13, your co-star Ariana [Grande] was in the show as well. Was it comfortable, then, for you to move into Victorious already knowing someone?
Oh, totally. It was amazing. It was surreal because we went through the whole audition process for 13 multiple times, and they kept recasting it. It’s basically our fourth job together, because they recast 13 three times and only three kids made it. So we were in that cast; it was wild. We shared a dressing room for 13, and we lived together last year. It’s been a crazy journey for us, knowing each other and knowing where we started and where we are now, it’s amazing to see the transformation. I was looking at a picture this morning of us, in the beginning of 13. I had this curly, light-brown hair and big eyebrows, and Ariana had this crazy, curly black hair. We were so young… We look completely different, and we’re completely different people. It’s wonderful.
What is it like on the set with Ariana, with the other cast members?
It’s wonderful; we get along so well. We were all hanging out til crazy-late last night, just talking. We just love each other’s company; we can’t get enough of each other. Just chilling out, hugging, we really love each other. I’m so thankful that we get to work with a cast that embraces each other, because nothing’s worse than being in a cast that doesn’t want to be around each other. I’ve been in all casts where everyone loves each other; I’m very lucky.
Photo: Andrew Stiles