Gillian Jacobs: “I’m not a rule-breaker, so for a long time I wondered why people cast me in these parts”
Community and Love star Gillian Jacobs may be a Juilliard grad, but she might be one of the few that wouldn’t recommend the experience. In a conversation with her Community co-star Allison Brie for the recently-defunct Interview magazine, Jacobs talks about her rough experience as a student at Juilliard, how Community rekindled her love for acting, and how she’s completely different than her character on Love.
Jacobs reveals that one of her favorite parts of playing Mickey on Love is that it allows her to portray someone totally different from who she really is. She says, “It gives me the ability to act out in a way that I don’t give myself permission to in real life. It’s a very safe place to do and say whatever impulse I might’ve had that I don’t allow myself to in real life, like telling people to go fuck themselves. But I totally had imposter syndrome, of like, nobody’s gonna buy me as this character, because I’m so not this person in my real life. I’m much more like Paul [Rust]’s character on Love… I like rules, and I like people in positions of authority to like me. I’m not a rule-breaker, so for a long time I wondered why people cast me in these parts.”
Though Jacobs is a Juilliard graduate, she admits that her experience at the renowned school actually pushed her away from theater (she recently returned to the stage in a 2018 Public Theater production, Kings). She tells Brie, “I had such a horrible time at Juilliard that it kind of killed the dream I had as a kid, to be a theater actor. I didn’t feel like I could act on stage anymore, like they convinced me that I was no good. I did a couple of plays after college, and then it was 10 years in between the last play I did and this one. In the last 10 years, I regained my love of acting. I feel like Community allowed me to have fun.”
In fact, Jacobs nearly flunked out of Juilliard — and because of its unique programs, she was concerned with having to start all over again at a different college. She recalls, “I was nearly kicked out, so it was this real possibility of, if they kick me out of this place, I’m gonna have to start all over again, and reapply for college, and then none of my credits will transfer, so I’ll basically be a freshman all over again with two years of college under my belt.”
To go even further, Jacobs believed that being thrown out of Juilliard was a sign that she wasn’t cut out for acting. She says, “I placed so much importance on their validation that I thought, if they kicked me out, I’m not supposed to be an actor. Even though there’s so many actors who got let go from Juilliard and went on to have incredibly successful acting careers. It actually means nothing, but I’m such a people pleaser, authority figure pleaser, teacher’s pet… I was just so afraid of getting kicked out that I somehow got through that year. And it kind of killed my joy for acting. So then I felt stuck in this mindset of, ‘I can only be an actor because I studied acting.’ It wasn’t until Community, that I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I do like acting.'”
She elaborates on regaining her love of acting because of her experience with the cast of Community, adding, “That was really the special thing about that group of people, was that I felt like I could make the weirdest, dumbest choice as an actor, and everyone would celebrate it. I had no background in comedy so I was intimidated when they would give me a physical bit or when I would have to sell a joke. I know it’s funny, but I don’t know how to deliver it, so I would just steal from everybody.”