Ilana Rapp / Huffington Post
In Part One, we discussed Jill’s new TV series Package Deal. In this part, we talk about Jill’s other project, Hallmark’s When Calls the Heart, and learn more about her bionic dog. Plus, some bonus stuff that we always wanted to know!
Where was your upcoming Hallmark series When Calls the Heart shot? Describe your audition.
What wonderful questions! When Calls the Heart is filmed in Jamestown, Langely, BC. The area has been transformed into a 1910 set, in a Coal Mining town. It’s so cool! You feel transported to another time being on set. The character I play is named Carla Noonan. The show begins with a huge explosion in the mine, and many of the towns men dying, leaving widows. Carla is one of them. She is left pregnant, and with a child. My agent sent me the sides and I got to read the whole script later. I only auditioned once, and it was for Michael Landon. [the wonderful Candace Elzinga casting]. Michael Landon’s energy is infectious. He has such warmth and caring, and understanding of storytelling, that when he was working with me in the room, I really felt like I could be truly vulnerable and artistic. I love this type of storytelling, to portray the strength of women. I connected to her grief in the fact that I have had my own. I am not a mother yet, but know what it is to love a child more than anything [my nephews]. These women, these people, were just amazing what they persevered through, how they struggled. When I got to set, in such a warm environment with incredible actors and directors, it was easy to connect to the material. I think its going to be a wonderful show-and luckily I get to keep working on it.
Tell us about your dog, Gidget.
I was raised in a home with many animals, always dogs, cats, birds, ponies and chickens. We even had a cow when I was a kid. I have always been a lover of animals, and will fight for them if I have to, and save them when I can. I decided to adopt a dog after my dog Thomas, of 15 years, passed away. I love dogs, just love them, so I wanted another furry companion. I was looking to adopt an older dog from A Better Life Dog Rescue. They came to my place to check me out, and had picked Gidget up from a West Vancouver home. G was very scared, and that family did not believe they could handle it, luckily for me. Gidget and I met at my front door. I saw her adorable face and asked her who she was and she walked up to me and we fell in love. I could not name her for about 24 hours, and then she felt comfortable enough to quit the shy game and show me that spicy side. I named her after the Gidget movies — I was restricted on movies growing up, so grew up watching the Gidget movies. Gidget was in a puppy mill, and does have a sad story behind her before she entered her princess life. After having her for a couple of years, she developed a horrible limp. After taking her to a specialist, it was decided that Gidget needed her back legs replaced because of earlier trauma to her body [she looks normal, walks a little funny]. She had a surgery called ACL on her back legs, and has titanium wiring through her front legs to support those joints. She’s my little robot. These surgeries occurred in 2010, and she has been doing really well with joint support meds and water therapy. I think our relationship is even more bonded because of these surgeries. She’s a special girl, being one of those labs whose tail is constantly wagging, and just as sweet as can be. Thanks for asking about her!
What’s it like working on Indie films such as Leap 4 Your Life, versus working as a TV series regular, versus working as a TV series guest role?
They are certainly very different experiences. That’s what I love about sets — you never know what to expect; you have to roll with the punches. Working regularly on a show, you get to really know the crew and cast, and the chance to develop a character. It has always been my dream to be a part of a TV family — to say “hi,” to the same folks everyday — and that’s a wonderful dream come true. Leap for Your Life was very special. I only had a couple days on set, but was able to build really strong bonds and friendships with people. It was a family project and everyone was pulling together, doing any job to make it work. I always feel the pressure and challenge to do a good job, no matter what. But on independent films, like Leap, I don’t feel as much pressure to keep a lot of different people happy. The group making the movie is around me and with me, and we are doing it together. Entering a TV show as a guest star does rule — especially if you already know the characters and the storyline and it’s super exciting to be a part of it. You are often on the outside of their TV family, so it’s always really interesting to watch the dynamics and to feel the energy on different sets. But to know you just have to roll with it, because anything can change, at any second, on set. You have to be on your toes in all situations!
Anyone ever make fun of you when you were a child?
Oh sure! When I was 13, my family moved from BC to Ontario, to a small farming town. Tough time to enter a school. My peers were pretty mean when I came, not welcoming. This went on for a while, but then I won them over. I remember this time though because it was one of the only times at a child when I was bullied by my peers. I have always had good friends and I remember being so sad that I didn’t have any friends when I moved there, that I would eat lunch in the bathroom stall. Oh, poor 13 year old Jill. I was lucky to be able to move out of that, and make a good group of friends at the time, and have a wonderful high school experience. But it sure makes me feel for people who are victims of bullying, and I was never one, no. I always stood up for people, I am proud to say. I have a memory of my dad getting my sister in trouble for something as kids, and I was telling him not to get her in trouble, and I remember he turned to me and said: “You keep doing that, you keep standing up for people,” [he was a union leader] and I have, maybe sometimes to a fault. I have had to learn to hold my tongue and learn to pick my battles. I’m Irish after all, we have a fiery side.
Do you have a spouse/partner?
I do not have the best track record with my taste in men, my family will tell you. I laugh at it now, because I like to think my days of destructive relationships are over. I know now I really want someone who is kind, and funny, and wants a family. I have been dating a nice fella though, so hopefully this answer does not scare him away!
Anything else you’d like to say?
I would not have such a nice life if I did not have such an amazing supportive family, over the years if I have needed anything they have been there. They have always believed that I had what it took to really make it. This is continuous, and it’s really nice for me to watch them enjoying the outcome of Package Deal and my other projects. I have also been lucky to have the best friends a girl could ask for. I really like being in my 30s; I feel so much more comfortable in my own skin. And I’m continuously working to try to be a better person. What I have personally been working on lately, when someone is rude to me, instead of giving attitude back, which my fiery Irish side jumps to, I have been “killing them with kindness,” and the results have been amazing. I want to be an evolved person, and am always working on that. If only we could have more compassion for ourselves for our mistakes, we may have more compassion for others. I really do believe most of us are good, and although there is a lot of darkness, there is a lot of light. That’s why I am glad I do what I do, I make people feel better at the end of the day.