Check out our interview with talented actress Lily Brooks O’Briant who can be seen fronting the new Apple TV+ series “Life By Ella” in the titular role of Ella McCaffrey. The series follows Ella as she returns to school after beating cancer with a brand-new perspective, excitement for what the future holds, and a major “seize the day” mentality, ready to tackle everything she was too afraid of before and determined not to let the minutia of fake friends and social media status distract her.
Activism and philanthropy also hold a huge place in Lily Brooks’ heart, as she continuously utilizes her growing platform to advocate for important social causes and to give back, particularly with her ongoing work on behalf of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Follow Lily @lilybrooksobriant
Hi Lily Brooks, please tell us a little about you?
Ijust a regular 16 year old girl who happens to REALLY love acting and dreams of being an actor, director, producer someday. I am originally from Memphis, Tennessee, lived in NYC for 3 years and have now lived in LA for over 3 years. I started acting in community theater productions when I was 5 years old. I immediately fell in love with acting and performing and begged my mom to let me do tv/film for 8 months before she finally agreed to let me try. My first film role was one of the lead roles in “Shark Lake” where I played Dolph Lundgren’s daughter. I played ‘Matilda’ on the national Broadway tour of “Matilda the Musical” when I was 9 years old. My mom, siblings & I moved to LA when I booked a series regular on a Netflix sitcom called “The Big Show Show” where I played The Big Show’s daughter! I am so so grateful to now be playing the title role of Ella in the new apple tv + show “Life By Ella” which is about a girl named Ella who is going back to school after going through treatment for cancer. ‘Life By Ella’ is about her journey through life not letting fear get in the way of living life to the fullest.
Describe yourself in 3 words?
If I only had 3 words to describe myself, I would say Determined, Kind, and Adventurous. I am definitely a very determined person. If I set my mind to something, I will continue working until I achieve that goal. I also would describe myself as Adventurous because I love doing and trying new things. One of my favorite things to do is take Trapeze lessons on Santa Monica Pier. It is so exhilarating to just fly through the air and it is one of my all time favorite feelings. I don’t like meanness at all and try my best to always lead with kindness. Life is too short for mean.
What is the best and worst part of being an actress?
The Best part of being an Actress is learning from each character I play. Something I have learned from playing Ella in “Life By Ella” is that you can’t live life afraid of being yourself. Ella has a major “Seize the Day” mentality because cancer has shown her that you never know what might happen. Ella has been given a second chance at life and she isn’t going to waste it being afraid to be who she is and enjoy every moment. .
How do you prepare for a role?
Preparing for roles can look very differently depending on what kind of character I am playing. With Ella, the biggest things that I did to prepare for the role was talk to one of our writers on the show, Hernan, who is a teen cancer survivor. He talked to me about his experience and also shared his documentary about teen cancer with me which I learned a lot from. I also cut my hair off for the role which was a huge change, but something I am so grateful that I did because it really connected me to my character.
Tell us about your work in the new Apple TV+ series “Life By Ella?”
Life By Ella is about a girl named Ella who is in remission for Cancer. Ella returns to school after beating cancer and takes on a brand-new perspective, excitement for what the future holds, and a major seize the day mentality. With her best friend by her side, she is ready to tackle everything she was too afraid of before and determined not to let the minutiae of fake friends and social media status distract her.
And about your titular role as Ella McCaffrey?
Ella is fun, brave, and determined to embrace each moment of life. Before cancer, Ella was focused more on pleasing others and was afraid to be herself. We meet Ella when she is returning to school after beating cancer with a brand-new perspective, excitement for what the future holds, and a major seize the day mentality. Post cancer, Ella is not afraid to be herself, and she is also incredibly adventurous. I really admire Ella’s strength, determination, and excitement towards life.
What other projects have you been part of?
I played Matilda on the national Broadway tour of “Matilda the Musical”. I also played series regular, Mandy Wight, on Netflix’s “The Big Show Show”.
What kind of roles do you like or would like to play and why?
I love playing all types of characters! That is one of my favorite things about acting, you get to put yourself in so many different kinds of peoples shoes. By playing so many different types of characters, you also learn so much about yourself and about life.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part about my work is seeing how people react to watching the projects I work on. One of my favorite moments from filming “Life by Ella” was when Kevin Rham, who plays my dad on the show, and I were filming an emotional scene and when we were done, I walked over to the video village and everyone was crying or tearing up. Tim, our script supervisor, came up to me and just gave me a big hug. It was such an emotional and rewarding moment for me because I saw just how important telling this story was.
What’s your advice for the newer actors?
The best advice that I could give to new actors is something very simple: Never give up. As an actor, you are going to experience a lot of rejection. There have been so many times where I have thought I should just give up. But something that I wish someone would have told me is that one day, everything is going to fall into place and your hard work is going to pay off.
What would you say are the greatest lessons you learned so far in this business?
If you truly love acting – don’t give up. Enjoy the ride because it is a rollercoaster.
How would your best friend describe you?
I actually just texted one of my best friends Emma and asked her how she would describe me. This was her answer!
I would describe you as sweet, caring, optimistic, selfless, an amazing listener, driven, brave, loyal, always wanting to learn something new… There’s literally so much I could go on and on! you never make someone feel bad about their opinion, even if you disagree & that’s one of my favorite parts about you, you always see the GOOD in something ❤️
What advice would you give to your younger self and why?
I would tell my younger self that she is on the right path and to not get discouraged and give up because she is in the right place and is doing all the right things. There have been so many times, especially when I was younger where I thought I should just give up because things weren’t going my way. But what I wish I could have told my younger self is that everything works out in the end, you just have to keep pushing.
What’s next for Lily Brooks O’Briant in 2022?
I can’t share much right now so you should definitely follow me on social media to stay tuned!
What is your favorite healthy food?
My favorite healthy food is Broccoli. Broccoli is actually one of my all time favorite foods! My mom makes the best roasted broccoli ever and I could eat it every day.
And your favorite cheat food?
My favorite cheat foods are a cheeseburger from In n out and cotton candy. Cotton candy is my absolute favorite!
What is your own definition of happiness?
My Definition of happiness is being able to do what I love every day. I am happiest when I am on set working and learning from the incredibly talented people around me.
If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?
Someone that I would love to meet and talk to would be Reece Witherspoon. Her creativity is something that inspires me. I want to be a director and also have a production company one day and seeing the amazing things that Reese Witherspoon creates really inspires me and shows me that I can do it too!
Best advice ever given?
The best advice I have ever been given was given to me by the amazing actor who plays my dad in “Life By Ella” Kevin Rahm. We were filming a really emotional scene and I was having a hard time really connecting to the scene and getting myself to that emotional place. Kevin could see that and he pulled me aside and told me that I’m worrying too much about how I want the scene to look, instead I needed to just be in the moment and feel what my character was feeling. That advice has really stuck with me.
Do you support any charity?
I am a youth ambassador for St Jude Children’s research hospital! I grew up in Memphis Tennessee which is where St Jude Children’s research hospital is based and ever since I was really little I have been walking in the St Jude Walk/Run and raising money for St Jude. As soon as my platform on social media began to grow, I knew that I wanted to do something important and meaningful. So I started Team Young Hollywood and bRoadway and together we have raised over $50,000 for St. Jude Children’s research hospital.
Where do you see yourself and your career in 5 years from now?
The dream would be that 5 years from now, I’m working not only as an actress but also starting my own production company working on bringing stories to life that are important to be told. I also would love to be working as a director!
Favorite song? Why?
I have so many favorite songs but my top three right now are all of the songs from Sabrina Carpenter’s new album, “Break with me” by SHY martin, and “Sorry” By Joshua Bassett.
Where can we follow you?
Favorite Book: My absolute favorite book of all time is “Little Women”. I could read “Little Women” over and over again for the rest of my life and be so happy.
Favorite Quote: One of my favorite quotes right now is “Never let fear decide your fate”
Favorite Movie: My favorite movie definitely changes pretty much daily, but right now my top 3 movies would be “Top Gun: Maverick”, The entire “Twilight” series, and I also love “Purple Hearts” which is an amazing new movie on netflix!
Favorite TV Series: It would definitely be too hard to choose 1 because I watch way too much TV but my favorites are “Gilmore Girls”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, and “Stranger Things”.
Favorite Food: My favorite food is definitely ice cream!
Favorite Travel Destination: My favorite place to travel to is Tennessee to go visit my family! One of my favorite things about summer is that my entire family goes down to my uncle’s house on the lake for the fourth of July and we have the best week ever with Tubing, Wakeboarding, paintball, and lots of family puzzles!
Favorite Sports Team: Ole Miss because my Mom and Dad both went there for College!
Photo Credit: Kevin Scanlon