By Sam Campbell
Jillian Shea Spaeder never dreamed of going to Hollywood. She never imagined she would be starring on a television show before her fourteenth birthday. But that is exactly what she is doing. Spaeder stars in the new Disney XD hidden-camera comedy “Walk the Prank,” airing on both the XD and original Disney Channel.
“Every kid watching the Disney Channel pictures themselves on a show,” Spaeder said. “I loved to sing and liked acting, but I never thought it could actually happen.”
Originally from Pennsylvania, Spaeder said her parents noticed her good sense of pitch at an early age. Singing was her first love, and the acting bug came a bit later.
“Towards the end of fifth grade…I did a regional equity theatre production,” Spaeder said. “I was the only child in a cast of 12, so it was a great first experience.”
And then Spaeder was introduced to the World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA).
“Our family friends…told us about (WCOPA),” Spaeder said. “They were planning to go and enter…into some of the singing categories. (They) encouraged us to come so we could share a room and experience the event together.”
Spaeder said she was excited about going to Hollywood and having the chance to meet other contestants from more than 50 countries, but she was also nervous about performing for the judges. Although Spaeder entered WCOPA as a singer, her acting potential caught the attention of talent manager Susie Mains during a Bootcamp seminar.
“(Susie’s) seminar was ‘Kids in Show Biz: What Every Parent Needs to Know’,” Spaeder said. “She addressed me several times during the session and afterwards told my mom she wanted to meet with me. I went to her office a few days later and did a cold read. She offered to represent me and encouraged me to come out to California for pilot season that year.”
According to Spaeder, the decision to move to California was not an easy one. Her brother was in college, her sister a high school senior, and Spaeder had just started middle school.
“The timing wasn’t great, but this was an opportunity that might never come along again,” Spaeder said. “(My family) finally decided that spending two months in Hollywood would be an experience we would never forget…”
Spaeder said she went on many auditions during those two months and worked with multiple acting coaches. She memorized scripts and attended callbacks. It was a lot of hard work. One of those auditions was for the role of Bailey on Disney XD’s “Walk the Prank.” Disney called and offered her the part, and it seemed all that hard work had finally paid off.
“I was out to dinner with my family and some friends when the producers called,” Spaeder said. “Everyone was so excited. For weeks afterward, we all kept saying, ‘Is this really happening?’ (Because) a year before, none of this was even on the radar.”
Disney has kept Spaeder busy since that phone call. She works five days a week, nine and a half hours each day. This usually includes three hours of school each day with a set teacher.
“We shoot a few weeks of pranks on location and then several weeks of script on set,” Spaeder said.
Spaeder is now attending movie premieres and acting for one of the most well-known companies in the entertainment industry. Many children dream of working for Disney, but Spaeder does not have to dream. This is her reality. And it may have never happened without the World Championships of Performing Arts.
“WCOPA offering the day of seminars with industry professionals definitely changed my life,” Spaeder said. “If I hadn’t been at Susie’s seminar, none of this would have happened."
For more information on how to become part of this great experience: http://wcopa.com/contestants/how-to-be-a-contestant