Interview: Jade Zaroff and Sarah Franco from the Award-Winning Web-Series, ‘Jade & Jaded’

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Jade and Jaded Interview
The best vehicles for actors to showcase the full range of their talents is often material that they have self-generated. For a fresh new example of this, look to JADE & JADED, an award-winning web series about two girls trying to “make it” as health and wellness vloggers. It stars Jade Zaroff and Sarah Franco as Jade and Sarah, two lifelong eco-friendly friends who decide to ditch their well-meaning activism-driven performance art to become YouTubers. The two New York artists struggle as they learn that becoming Enlightened Influencers isn’t all tea and yoga. Will their newfound medium save the planet, and their friendship?

Daily Actor took a moment to sit down with the co-creators of the show.

Congratulations on all the awards you’ve won on the festival circuit for JADE & JADED. You’re killing it and the show is very funny. What do you want viewers to take from this web series? 

Sarah Franco: Our goal is for viewers to enjoy the episodes themselves, relate to the characters, have a laugh and learn something about approachable sustainable living along the way.

Who is your target audience for the series? 

Jade Zaroff: The target audience was originally teens, inclusive to the babysitter or parent/guardian watching behind a young person’s shoulder and genuinely enjoying too.

Sarah Franco: 18-25, the years you get to decide the kind of life you want to live, and you’re doing it with your friends. Also you’re all on TikTok.

You happen to be friends in real life. Tell us the story of how you two met.  When did you become interested in collaborating together? 

Jade Zaroff: Sarah and I met in college! We were musical theatre majors together at Emerson College. We were also in a “mini musical” of Legally Blonde. When I came up with the Jade & Jaded concept, I actually made a good ole’ fashioned Facebook post seeking a comedy writer that Sarah responded to, and the rest was history.

Sarah Franco: Ahhh yes, in December 2014 Jade announced to the room of stretching musical-theater majors preparing for a jury that she was opting out of the BFA program so she could pursue Business & Entrepreneurship as part of her degree, and she wasn’t even a little bit afraid of switching her degree. I had such a deep admiration for her in that moment, that when I saw she was looking for a female comedy writer in New York three years later, I jumped at the opportunity. And the rest is history

What did you learn from this project? What would you do differently?  

Sarah Franco: I learned that no one person can do it all, but even a small team can accomplish huge goals! Next time I would probably try to accrue some kind of budget before!! But running a no-budget operation taught us how to operate efficiently, how to value our own work and the work of our collaborators, and that when you take money out of the equation you learn who’s really passionate about what you’re doing.

Jade Zaroff: I learned PATIENCE. The intense amount of passion I have for the initial concept for Jade & Jaded (to make a difference in the world for young people, using art/film/comedy as the vehicle) is something I immediately wanted to share with the world at large. However, the amount of time Sarah, myself, and the team invested into the process showed me that, as cheesy as it is, it really is about the journey rather than the destination. The more I just enjoyed and dropped into the process, the more I recognized that the content itself was educating me just as much as I wanted it to educate others. What I would do differently would be to put forth a longer-term strategy with set goals prior to starting. That being said, I have no regrets because the spontaneity of jumping right in is what made it so fun, and do believe it will all work out as it’s meant to regardless of any initial planning we could have done at the forefront.

Why does sustainability matter to you? When did it first become important? What was your life like before you were conscious about these issues? 

Jade Zaroff: Sustainability matters to me because if we don’t make choices that are quite literally sustainable, we won’t be able to positively sustain both ourselves and the planet long-term, and for future generations. Ultimately my passion for sustainability is driven by my sincere love for the planet, and kids/teens. While I’m not a mother (yet), I have always loved young people and feel that we are objectively making their lives harder by the choices we make daily. Environmental care has been important to me since I came out of the womb, as my mom trademarked “EcoFashion” in the 90s and has been in the sustainable fashion industry for decades. It has been so special for me to experience the evolution of seeing my friends growing up and their curiosity around sustainability, to generations under me who are so driven by conscious consumerism. I am proud and grateful to say that I don’t have a time in my life where I wasn’t aware of these issues due to my upbringing. It’s been my lifestyle since day 1, so the authenticity behind the making of this show is REAL!

Sarah Franco: Sustainability has always lived somewhere in my consciousness, but the attainability of living sustainable came into my life when I met Jade! I had never met anyone before who lived a “normal” day-to-day that happened to be eco-friendly and committed to bodily and mental wellness. I felt a lot of personal power once I adopted the lifestyle myself, “we can all live under a rainbow, but we have to choose to make that rainbow for ourselves every day”. Jason Mraz said that once.

How different are you from these on-screen embodiments of yourselves as the characters?

Sarah Franco: It was very important for both of us to solidify the differences from our characters especially since we share our names with them. Jade asked me about this early-on in the process, “what’s the difference between ‘Jade’ and Jade Zaroff”. I said “Jade” doesn’t have a business degree (which Jade Zaroff does, you have to check out her nonprofit!). I think ‘Sarah’ is kinda lost in what she wants to do. Sarah the character doesn’t have a ton of confidence, which may have been true for me in the past but being the show runner on this process really pushed me into my own. Each of our characters are less-formed versions of ourselves.

Jade Zaroff: I think character Jade is like real Jade’s little sister. She does everything Jade does as a younger sister would do with her older sister in terms of wearing the same clothes, eating the same foods *aka an obsession with seaweed snacks,* passion for the planet, pursuit of inner peace, etc. BUT character Jade hasn’t acquired the life skills and wisdom that comes from experience and age. While real Jade is FAR from perfect, character Jade is a bit more animated and youthful. I think my approach to an on-screen embodiment of me really just came down to being unapologetically myself, married with Sarah and Kendall’s brilliant writing.

Describe the collaboration process. How does creativity flow with a co-lead also being the director?  How are creative differences settled or compromises reached if there is a conflict of vision? 

Sarah Franco:This was my directorial debut, as a professional anyway, so collaboration was key in this process. I felt very lucky to learn from our brilliant DP Erik Kandefer, who also joined our team as a producer.

Jade Zaroff: I believe that collaboration is about staying open to everyone involved, respecting one another’s needs, and listening actively. I definitely feel that working with Sarah has taught me a lot about myself because we are different in many ways. She’s more structured, and I’m more “free spirit, free bird, go with the flow.” She balanced me out. I found that, in the spirit of how I feel collaboration should be approached, we really had healthy ways of settling any differences that came up by listening and responding to one another. Plus, when you’re fully honest at the root level, there is a deeper understanding of why someone is doing or saying something in particular. It is an understanding of that person and how they operate / how they exist in the world in relation to others. It really comes down to truly seeing and hearing each human being involved with the project. Everyone is different and has a new perspective to offer. If conflicts arise, I always make sure to stay super solution-oriented, responsive instead of reactive, and continuously treating others the way I would want to be treated.

Describe your overall philosophy about acting?

Sarah Franco:I genuinely believe that acting is reacting, plus given circumstances. I rarely think you need to invent a new walk or a facial tick or something unless you’re doing an impression or it’s written in, just focus on what’s happening in front of you.

Jade Zaroff: My approach is being present. It’s a balance between being ready and prepped with lines/backstory, while also fully letting go and just responding to the world created around me, utilizing my five senses to do so.

What is your approach to comedy?

Sarah Franco:I think adults are afraid of being silly, but miss it so much. That’s what we’re here for.

Jade Zaroff: The minute I TRY to be funny, I’m in my head. I think comedy is SUCH an art. I have such respect for stand-up comedians who spend hours of time and energy writing the perfect bit. I honestly owe it to Sarah and Kendall for their brilliance. Plus, I do fully embrace laughing at myself… not in a self-deprecating way. Just in a, I think there’s a lot to laugh at because it’s just funny, period. I mean who wouldn’t laugh at someone who consciously and willingly bought and wears an Earth costume (I own two). Sarah would often joke that a lot of the show’s inspiration came from just sitting down and having a conversation with me. Her perspective and upbringing was objectively different from mine, so the contrast really gave our characters life organically. The comedy felt so natural… too natural…

What is your favorite episode and why?

Sarah Franco: Oh I can’t pick my favorite pet! I’m particularly proud of “Scobylicious”… it was a nightmare to film but turned out so good. I also loved making “The Date”, and the reason is genuinely because that’s the only episode that has a whole scene I’m not in! It was so great to just direct for once, and Mark brought some really nice range of both deadpan and silliness to the role.

Jade Zaroff: Ooooo, tough. I would say Scoby, but just to be ~different~, I think Episode 6 at The Assemblage. That one was special because we filmed in my family’s office and got permission from the location right before they closed down for good. It was one of my favorite spaces to be in, so the fact that we got to share Jade & Jaded in a very real sustainable/spiritual atmosphere was cool because it added a level of authenticity that expanded beyond Jade’s apartment — sharing that other’s lived and believed in this lifestyle too. Additionally, it was the last episode aka very sentimental, was super fun to shoot since there were so many environmental elements to the space that added to the aesthetic/experience, and provided an opportunity for Sarah & Jade to share a dynamic of their relationship that they hadn’t done before. It was the first time Jade as a character really felt heartbroken by people’s unwillingness to truly care, and it was special for me to show another side of her beyond her fun-loving nature.

What’s next for Jade and Sarah? 

Jade Zaroff: Jade & Jaded is my special and personal way of doing what I’ve dedicated my career and life to — inspiring others to use their talents for positive change through my nonprofit organization called Entertainment for Change (@entertainmentforchange).

Sarah Franco: Follow along and find out! @JadeandJaded on Instagram and Tiktok.

Watch the “Pilot” episode below or on YouTube!

Guest interview by Adam Davenport

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