Vancouver actress Jill Morrison is lighting up both the small and big screens this month with a recurring role in the hilarious new comedy “Package Deal” on CityTV, filmed in-front of a live studio audience, which is rare for Canadian television, and the world premiere for the film ‘LEAP 4 YOUR LIFE’ at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with the talented actress to talk more about her new hit show “Package Deal”, her new film “Leap 4 Your Life”, and more.
Tell us more about ‘Package Deal”, and what we can expect from the show.
Package Deal is a brand new Canadian Sitcom filmed in front of a live audience. This show is developed and created by some of the funniest people I have ever met in my life. The set had constant laughs. It tells the story of a young man, Danny (Randall Edwards) who meets and falls in love with Kim (Julia Voth) As a child, his parents died. He was raised by his two older brothers, so you can imagine…. they did not get good parenting magazines delivered but raised him with a whole lotta love and protection, which never goes away. Kim enters the scene, and has to deal with the colourful behavior of his brothers- hence, PACKAGE DEAL. You can expect the unexpected, to see and experience something new- to laugh, and to feel for the characters as well.
What drew you to this role/character? How did it all start?
My experience with Package Deal was unique. I was a re-cast for the production, and joined later on. I work as a coach in Vancouver, and during the search for Nikki, I had even coached a number of actresses for the part. Casting decided to see a wider range of ages and types to find their Nikki. I got the call- and I knew, I had to stand out, I had to make a strong choice. So I began to create the character that you will see on the show. I was called a couple days later, and told it was down to me and one other girl. I went to my very first chemistry read and met my lovely friend Julia Voth and my soon to be new funny family. At the time, I was working on a movie called What an Idiot, and on set, a few hours after the audition my agent called to tell me the part was mine. My dream literally came true and it changed everything forever. With my first episode I was overwhelmed, excited, and very challenged by having to learn the four camera technique and the technique with sitcoms. What’s so amazing about working in front of a live audience, if the joke does not work and you don’t hear laughs, the writers try another joke. They give you the new line on the spot, so you really have to be on your toes. At first, this made me so nervous and by the end of the series I was craving the challenge, loving it. It was wonderful for me to be able to draw upon my theatre experience and to use those skills. The joy of having the camera but also having a live audience; Two worlds colliding in the most wonderful way. Nikki makes a strong introduction and her character continues to grow and becomes an interesting addition to the gang. Nikki has been there, done that, and has the scars to prove it- not that she cares. She will tease you with a sarcastic line, have a drink, make a joke, and stick up for her friend Kim.
How do you think it compares to other comedies currently on television?
It has always been a dream of mine to be on a sitcom, I still cannot believe that the one that came to Vancouver, I get to be a part of. I think it is really special because of the people that created it and what it stands for. On set, it was all about what was funny. Egos did not get in the way, if someone had something funnier to offer then that would win. That type of openness and desire to make a great show really created one. I feel that when the audience watches the show, they will really be able to feel that. That the cast and crew of Package Deal were having the best time, trying not to laugh themselves, and that energy is infectious. The show was made with a lot of sweat and love, and the episodes just get better and better as our gang gets closer. I love so many funny shows on TV, but I do believe ours has an element not seen before and has new types of characters, especially wacky ones, that I think people will really enjoy. As well, the sense of love between the brothers with the silliness is very strong and gives it such a nice balance. It’s one of those shows where you have to listen really closely cause if you don’t you are gonna miss something really witty.
You work with a hilarious group of individuals. What was the dynamic like on set?
I did work with a hilarious group of people that’s for sure. It felt like a huge accomplishment to make them laugh with your own joke because you are surrounded by comic geniuses. I loved it, you never knew what to expect, and what was going to happen. It was wonderful and exciting. Like I said, I joined the cast later on, and I was welcomed with open arms. The rest of the cast had already learned the four camera technique so they were so helpful to me with that. We were all so supportive of each other, and if we needed help or to run lines, someone was there. I developed a lovely relationship with all of them. We worked hard and laughed hard. Harland Williams has been doing this for so long, and really helped me with his suggestions. If I needed help with a joke, Jay was there. Randall was always being supportive and so loving, and Julia is my dear girlfriend now. Andrew Ornstein is like a mentor now; I was a huge fan of his before having grown up on his sitcoms. His work inspired me as a child. The writers, the producers, the directors, costumes… I could go on and on about how wonderful everyone was. I had always dreamt of spending everyday with a cast and crew, a family, and on the drive home and back to work I was ear to ear smiles. The part I loved though, especially as an actor, was to grow with the writers with the show and the character. They begin to write for you and developing the character was the best part. I can’t wait to go back to her!
Beyond television you do a lot of film. What projects are currently in the pipeline?
I am a busy girl right now working on a new Hallmark show, called When Calls the Heart- it takes place in 1910, and it’s lovely to work on a drama. Most recently, a dream came true when I got to be in Tim Burton’s film Big Eyes. It was incredible to be on this set, and to be in his presence, to watch him create, and to be in the 1960’s. I also have a movie coming out in 2014, a comedy called What an Idiot. It’s expected to hit the festivals. I was lucky enough to do a completely improvised role in the new Step Up 5, which is so fun for me, I love to do improv.
Tell us more about “Leap 4 your Life”.
Speaking of improv, I got to do a lot of it in Leap for Your Life. Much of it was scripted, but with a lot of it they let me get creative. It is a hilarious movie. I could not stop watching it, and being the pick of VIFF, I look forward to seeing it again at the red carpet event. It is full of so much talent, and it’s wonderful to be in a project where the whole team worked with heart and soul to create. Taylor Hill, the writer and star, called me up one day when a fellow actor friend recommended me. She was a fan from Mean Girls, told me the premise of this mockumentary of a dance competition I fell in love with the idea. I am a huge Christopher Guest fan and this was one of her inspirations for the movie. I immediately said yes to playing a difficult dance instructor with all of the hilarious comedic performers. It was a blast. I knew when I was doing it, it would be a hit- and it is. It will just make you laugh, and I love to be a part of that.
What was your favorite aspect of this film?
My favorite aspect of the film is the group of people that I get to act with. I tell my students, I did not realize that I had created a good reputation for myself as an actor because I was so busy working, and I have realized that I get to be on the same level as these incredible talents. I love to be considered with them and to be a part of work made here, at home, by my friends. I admire them for their hard work, for doing something that is so hard to do and to do it well. I feel honoured to be on the cast list, and to call them all my friends.
When you are not filming, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I have a love affair with my dog, Gidget; she is a rescue black lab. She is my best buddy, and we love to have adventures together. We hike, and sniff (well I stand there and watch) and enjoy nature together in our beautiful province. I love to hang with her, and a few select dear friends. We are often surrounded by good food, babies and dogs. I feel pretty blessed. But when I really have spare time, I hop on a plane to Ontario to my two favourite humans, my nephews, Jackson and Henry.
Wrapping up, tell us something that people would be surprised to hear about you.
I save everything from people that I love, even the envelope that it came in, I can’t stand to throw away their writing. I am so glad for this, I have everything my dad gave me, and he is in Heaven now.
Thank you for your time.
Don’t forget to catch Jill on “Package Deal” Monday’s at 9:00pm on CityTV.
Photo credit Kyle Cassie.