iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Jimmy McNamara

GET UPDATES FROM Jimmy McNamara
 

From Curb to Partners: Jillian Bell

Posted: 09/06/2012 12:54 pm

Jillian Bell is perhaps best known for her role as the well-meaning but socially-awkward Jillian Belk in Workaholics on Comedy Central. She will also play Renata, the disheveled cousin of Sophia Bush's character in Partners, a new sitcom on CBS conceived by the creators of Will and Grace.

It's a tale of success that is not surprising, given that Jillian started studying improv at just eight years old in Las Vegas.

The study of improv at this early age has launched Jillian into new and unexpected territories: writing for Saturday Night Live, acting in the current Groundlings Main Stage Company, and of course, landing her unforgettable role as Maureen, the tank-top wearing assistant in "The Bare Midriff" episode ofCurb Your Enthusiasm. Jillian recalls the nervous energy in the audition room for Curb Your Enthusiasm. Just minutes before her audition, she found out that Larry David was inside. Not one to let nerves interfere with any comedic performance, Jillian walked up to Mr. David, said "Hi Larry," and started the improv-based exercises. In this episode that guest-stars Jerry Seinfeld, it is Jillian that is the true comedic powerhouse.

Jillian possesses that rare gift of humanizing the quirkiest of characters. Much like Kristen Wiig, a Groundlings alum, Jillian steals the show by creating larger-than-life characters that are all somehow relatable at their core. Jillian's most memorable roles at Groundlings include playing an overzealous fan intent on getting onstage at a John Mayer concert, an A.A. member with a tendency to overshare, and the owner of a "Boots Store" who makes it difficult for prospective customers to actually buy the boots.

She cites Amy Poehler as a creative influence, but her true comedic role models were a little bit closer to home: her father and Nonna. Known for her outspoken personality and signature leather pants, Nonna's Romanian presence commanded attention when she entered a room. Jillian took notice, eventually developing a character based on her Nonna for the Groundlings Writing Lab -- a character she credits as paving the way towards becoming accepted into the Groundlings Sunday Company.

It seems like Jillian models her own career trajectory after Nonna's fearless energy. At 18 years old, Bell moved to Los Angeles after completing one semester in college. At the time, she didn't know about the Groundlings. After seeing her first Groundlings show, however, she knew she had found the perfect non-traditional college experience. She enrolled in classes and never looked back.

In September of 2009, Seth Meyers offered her a job on the writing staff of Saturday Night Live. She accepted, and began work at 30 Rock the next day. She flew to Los Angeles the following weekend to officially pack for the East Coast. It took her almost two months to find a new apartment -- not an easy transition considering this was Jillian's first time on the East Coast.

Jillian recently watched the home videos of herself as an eight-year-old improv performer. She describes her performance as "awful" -- a characteristically humble statement from someone who has since mastered the art.

 

Follow Jimmy McNamara on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JimmyMcNamara

FOLLOW LOS ANGELES