It all started with dance, actually. I started dancing when I was 5 years old and instantly fell in love with it. By the time I was 10, I knew that I wanted to pursue a professional track, so I started taking private dance lessons, as well as classes in general, with professionals in the industry. At age 13, I decided to try musical theatre and landed my first leading role at age 14 in Into The Woods. I completely fell in love with the whole aspect of being a triple threat, as I adored dancing while acting and singing. I loved the story it told and being able to bring that story to life all while making people smile, that was what I craved. At age 15, I got into my first Broadway season show that had sold out crowds every single night. I performed in front of 400+ people with standing ovations. That was a feeling I cannot ever forget. When I was 16, I decided to take film acting classes just to give it a try.
Little did I know that film acting would become my whole life. It was a release, a passion, a craft, and a whole new world all in one. I was very torn for a while whether or not I wanted to pursue being in a dance company or going into film acting. However at age 17, that decision started to become very clear to me when I auditioned and got the lead in my very first film. I got on the film set and loved it more than words could ever describe. After that, I just kept auditioning and kept booking more work. Although now I know that film acting is my calling, I continue to practice dance every single day. I also continues to take singing lessons and sometimes will sing live at restaurants. I also model and have been published in 4 magazines up to date. I am extremely passionate about performing and can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. I currently work in the following five capacities: film acting, stage acting, dancing, singing, and modeling. I won’t stop until I am able to look back and say “I made it”.
Q: Did you study acting?
Jaimi McPeek: I did study acting. I began taking a film acting class at my theatre where I performed, The Players Centre for Performing Arts. Once I became more serious with acting, I started taking private lessons. I find that private lessons are the most beneficial as it is one-on-one tutoring with anything and everything that one needs to know, where one needs to improve, etc.. My acting coach has been in the industry since she was four years old and her family was also involved in the industry. I still go to my acting coach with any advice or questions. She has helped me so much over the years. Acting is not something you can just pick up and expect to land a leading role just like that. It takes a lot of practice and a lot of hard work, dedication, and perseverance. Acting is not just about a “big break” as many people believe it is, but rather, it is a combination of smaller breaks. Every person you connect with and meet in the industry, every set you get on, every new role you take, is just getting you further to greatness.
Q: What acting technique do you use?
Jaimi McPeek: I am a method actress, which means that once I get a role, I become that role. I find that when I am truly in the mind of the character I am portraying, that is when all the raw emotion comes out. That is when everything happens organically. With every new script/character I get, I have a very tedious yet rewarding process. When I read my script, I go over it four times. The first time is to get the overall tone and idea of my script/character. I understand the exact message and what I want to leave behind with my performance during the first read. The second time is for memorization ONLY. The third is for marking up the script through my character’s point of view (why is she saying that line here? Why is she looking scared? What is prompting her to move here?). I mark up every piece of dialogue to every look to every move, and my character’s motives behind it all. The fourth time is for a mini rehearsal with all of her thoughts in mind. I also have a little book where I write down all of my character’s traits. I write down her way of being, her quirks, things that make her tick, her outlook on life, and her overall being.
I then write a diary entry from her point of view. I write about her past, the people she has met, her accomplishments, her downfalls, everything that has made her into the person that she is today. When I write from her point of view, it really gets me in her mindset and it makes me completely understand her. As a little bonus, when I am on set, and if I find myself falling out of character a little, all I have to do is read her diary and see everything from her eyes again and I’ll fall right back into character. I also like to create songs for my character; songs that she would listen to as well as songs to get me in the right mindset for her. One final thing I like to do for my character is have images for her. Not just images of people, but it can be of anything that fits her mood/personality. For example, if my character likes to be left alone, I may have a picture of smoke in a lone valley or a single person walking along a trail. This helps me feel her personality and fit her mood. There are so many amazing ways to get into the right headspace and really feel what your character is feeling. It takes a lot of work and a lot of exploring, but I find that is where the most true and real emotions come from.
Q: Do you take courses to improve your craft?
Jaimi McPeek: I have an acting coach that I always go to with questions or if I need advice. Funny enough, she started out as my teacher way back when I took my first acting class, then I started taking private lessons with her, and now she is my coach. I am always looking to improve my craft whenever I can, so if a good workshop comes along, I will most definitely take it. Acting is like using any other muscle; if you don’t use it, you lose it, so even when you are not on set, always be practicing.
Q: What acting books do you read?
Jaimi McPeek: I haven’t read a lot of books in all honesty. I studied acting a lot by doing it and seeing what works best for me. Some books I have read and do have, though, are: “Act Now” by Peter
Winiarski, “The Actor’s Life A Survival Guide” by Jenna Fischer, and “Best Contemporary Monologues” by Lawrence Harbison.
Q: How do you keep fit as an actor: mentally and physically?
Jaimi McPeek: Let’s talk physically first. I am a dancer as well as an actress, so I am constantly keeping up with my dancing. I am always stretching and always going to classes to keep my technique up. I have my own dance studio in my house, so I am always working on my technique and stretches in my own studio. In addition to dancing, I also just love fitness. I workout everyday. I work on my abs and arms. I absolutely adore the feeling of working out; it gives me such a feeling of satisfaction as well as helping my body mentally and physically. I am a huge yogi and I try to do yoga as much as possible. This helps me very much mentally with being present in the moment and really grounding myself. One of the biggest things I am working on mentally is not letting the fear of the future or the moments of the past bother me; I am constantly working on my breathing and directing my energy in a healthy, beneficial light. I want to truly be present in each moment. This is why yoga and meditation have been so helpful to me in every aspect. Another way I help myself mentally is I am constantly reminding myself of why I do what I do and I let that fire burn brighter and brighter. I have big dreams that I plan to turn into realities and I won’t rest until that becomes true. I am a very motivated person and I make sure that everything I do, I give it 110%. I am determined to never give up and as long as I am still breathing, I will keep working to better myself and my craft.
Q: How do you create a character from script into a person?
Jaimi McPeek: Once I read the script, I see exactly how my character is and how she thinks, how she interacts, how she reacts to situations, etc.. I use all of that information and I create an entire backstory for her. I first ask my director about anything I should know about her beforehand. If my director gives me exact traits, I obviously incorporate that and then I build a whole story behind her. I am ALL about character development. When you see a scene on screen, you are only seeing a very brief portion of this character’s life. The truth is, this character had a whole life before we met them on screen. It is up to me to create that ‘life’ and show it in my performance. It is like meeting a person for the first time. They didn’t just pop out of thin air, the person you are meeting has lived a whole life that has brought them to the very moment that you are sharing with them. Every character I portray has a story to tell that has brought them to the very moment that we see on camera.
If I don’t have a solid backstory, I won’t have a solid understanding of who my character truly is. My acting coach always told me to “marry my character”. I still use that technique today. I am always exploring her way of thinking and her emotions. If she is afraid of heights, why is she? If she has a bad memory with an ex-boyfriend, what happened? If she doesn’t trust people, why doesn’t she? I constantly ask myself about my character and if I can’t answer the questions I am asking, then I am not ready to portray a believable performance of her. I spend days, sometimes weeks, truly perfecting the character. I am always exploring her mindset. Keep in mind that you must keep an open mindset, though. If you are on set and the director wants you to portray her in a different manner for this scene, be prepared to. While I am character building, I am making sure that I am flexible too.
Q: How do you stay fresh on a production set?
Jaimi McPeek: I like to stay in character on set, however, if I am on set for 10-12 hours or so, breaks are obviously needed so that every time I perform a scene, it is as pure as the very first take. I allow myself some breathing room where I come back and find myself. Right before we are about to go for a take, I will listen to her playlist or read her diary entries to get back into the right mindset. Once a scene is going and we are just getting different takes from different angles, I don’t ever break character because I feel like that breaks the flow. I keep all that energy built up in between takes and let it pour out when the camera is actually rolling. I always allow myself the proper time and space to properly get into the mindset that I desire to really bring my character out of her shell. It is all a balance.
Q: Explain one creative choice you took on set?
Jaimi McPeek: Besides going completely method, I play my character in different ways while still keeping her personality and core the same. What I mean is, on the set of my TV Sitcom (airing in September) called The Dream Factory, I had a little monologue. Every time I would finish my monologue, the director would say, “Okay, great job! Now do it this way.” and he would tell me a different way to portray the monologue. The first time was just the way I had been rehearsing it, the second time was with a bratty tone, the third time was with an anxious tone, the fourth time was with an annoyed tone, etc.. He just kept throwing different scenarios at me. This really helped me explore all the ways that I could say just one thing. Slight little changes in tone and inflection in your voice can completely change how the entire phrase is coming out. With each new take of this one scene, I would change what I was thinking about to make it believable behind my eyes. I had less than 15 seconds in between takes, so I had to think fast and efficiently. This taught me how to do a scene in a multitude of ways while keeping my character’s head on my shoulders. You have to be flexible as an actor, and that really helped show me what being flexible is. Now, I love it when a director wants to see a scene in a different way.
Q: Describe a memorable character you have played?
Jaimi McPeek: I have two characters that are extremely memorable in similar yet completely opposite ways. They are similar in the way that they both let me go outside my comfort zone with emotions.
They are opposite in the way that one character was a depressed girl contemplating suicide while the other was a ditzy, quirky, hysterical girl on a sitcom. Let me start with Sarah from the movie, ALONE. This movie was shot in February of 2018 and premiered in May of 2018. Sarah taught me how to completely, 100% abandon myself.
I took all my energy and any external energy I was feeling and used it to enhance my performance. Everything Sarah felt, I felt. It was an amazing experience that really allowed me to grow as an actress. The other was a girl named HAHA on the TV sitcom, The Dream Factory. This was shot for the entire month of January in 2018, and will premiere in September of 2018. I had the time of my life on this set!
This team was a production company from NYC and they rented out an
entire studio in West Palm Beach to make this sitcom happen. My character,
HAHA, is the cutest and funniest character I have ever played. I am not used to
doing comedy. I can definitely do
it, but I had more experience in drama prior to The Dream Factory. On set, I learned how to stretch
my comfort zone into the comedic world. I learned all about timing, which is so
much of what makes comedy funny. I
learned how to not overthink so much and just let my character come through
naturally. With comedy, there is no
time for overthinking. HAHA is definitely a character I hope to play in the
future because she is a lot like me. Both Sarah and HAHA have left
extraordinary impacts on me and ones that I will never forget.
Q: What do you want most from a director?
Jaimi McPeek: What I want most from a director is passion. Passionate people create great work because they are the ones that won’t stop until it is right. I don’t just want to do a scene and move on once it is okay, I want to move on when it is done and looking flawless. Making a movie takes so many moving parts, and if even one of those parts are slacking, you can tell in the final product. I like it when the director is a little bit of a perfectionist. I also like being able to discuss my character with the director so I can really understand exactly what he/she is looking for.
Sometimes a director has a very distinct vision, and I like to know
and comprehend what that vision is so my character can match it. I also love
being able to be flexible with directors. If one scene isn’t working out the
way we had hoped, or even if it did and we just want to try, I think it can be
good to shoot it with a different tone or a different intention. I understand
how difficult post-production can be, so I feel it may be good to have multiple
options to play around with. All in all, I want to work with a director who is
truly motivated and passionate about every scene.
Q: What actor do you long to work with?
Jaimi McPeek: I would love to work with Eddie Redmayne.
Jaimi McPeek: I had mentioned earlier in this interview that for a while, I was very torn between dancing and acting. Well, when I saw Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, I saw the whole entire world that one can create with a movie. Between the cinematography, to the acting, to the special effects, down to the music, I felt like I was in a whole separate place for those 2 hours; it was literally and metaphorically magical. It was after that movie that I decided to start auditioning full-time for film work. Shortly after, I got on my first film set and before I knew it, film acting was becoming my whole world. I thank Eddie for being that final push for me to take this career path. Not to mention, I think he is a phenomenal actor and I would just love to work alongside him.
Q: What advice do you give to actors around the world?
Jaimi McPeek: Every single day, do something that will better your craft because your future self will thank you for it. Never give up until you are where YOU want to be. This is your life, your passion, your craft, so make the absolute most out of it. There are going to be a lot of people who don’t believe in you, a lot of people who tell you ‘no’, but as long as you have your eye on the prize and that fire burning in your belly, you will be unstoppable. Someone once asked me what keeps me so motivated on success and the answer I gave was, “The feeling of being successful!” I will not stop and I will not rest until I can look back and say “I made it”. It can be discouraging when you don’t get a part or if you feel like you aren’t mastering something, but you will get where you want to; just be patient, work hard, and don’t give up! Everything happens for a reason, so I truly believe that if you don’t get a part, that is only setting you up for something else bigger and better.
Be prepared for a lot of rejection and a lot of not having things your way, but always make sure you never let that stand in your way. For every dozen ‘no’s’, you will get a ‘yes’, and that one ‘yes’ can lead you to places you never imagined. Actors who keep trying over and over again and who constantly work to better themselves and their future are the ones who make it. Always remind yourself why you are doing this and let that passion drive you. Acting is just one piece of a very massive puzzle of what makes a movie so memorable; it is truly amazing to watch it all come from behind the scenes to life on the big screen. I don’t believe in the old saying, “good things come to those who wait”. I believe that good things come to those who get up every day and work to make things happen. That is when change occurs! Show the world what you have to offer and the world will do the same in return. Keep striving for success and do NOT settle for anything less.
Q: Briefly write about your career?
Jaimi McPeek: Like I had mentioned earlier in this interview, it all started with dance. I started dancing when I was 5 years old. By the time I was 10, I knew I was meant to perform. I started taking private dance lessons, as well as classes in general, with professionals in the industry. My passion only grew stronger and stronger the more I did it. When I was 13, I started to expand my horizons a
little and I gave musical theatre a try. I took a summer camp at my local theatre. I adored being a triple threat! Being able to dance while tell a story through acting while being able to sing was something that was mind-blowing to me. I got my first lead role in the second part of that summer in the musical, Into The Woods. After that summer camp, I started auditioning for plays and musicals and I got into my first broadway season musical, Catch Me If You Can, as one of the lead dancers. I performed in front of sold out crowds every single night with standing ovations. When I was on that stage, I felt invincible; I felt truly alive. My passion, once again, only grew stronger. I knew that this was the feeling I wanted to have for the rest of my life. The summer of 2015, my theatre was offering something called “on-camera acting”. I really just took that class just because it seemed fun.
I had no idea that film-acting would become a whole new world for me. I absolutely fell in love with bringing other characters to life on such an intimate level. By 2016, I was taking private lessons in acting. I was still performing on stage, dancing, and singing; that never went away. For a long while I was very conflicted whether or not I wanted to pursue film or pursue a dance career. I was performing on stage and on camera, I just couldn’t decide which one I wanted to pursue as my full-time career. By the summer of 2016, my acting coach told me that I was ready to audition. I didn’t even know where to start, but she suggested a college called Ringling College For Art And Design. I did my first audition and ended up booking the lead as Alexa in Brains: Episode 2. It was a post-apocalyptic film. After being on set, I became addicted to it! I wanted to go back. As I started booking more and more work and making my way into the Indie market, my choice became clearer and clearer.
As I got onto bigger sets, started exploring my characters more, and making all kinds of connections, I knew that I had to go into film acting. Also with film acting, there are so many opportunities where I can incorporate dance and be a triple threat. Being a triple threat has been an asset for me. It has helped me so much with stunt training as well. I do all of my own stunts! With film acting came modeling. I started modeling to build up my portfolio, but soon, I started working with amazing photographers that were sending my images to magazines.
I have been published in four magazines up to date: two editions of Adelaville, an edition of PUMP Fashion Magazine, and an edition of Salysé. It is amazing how everything just started falling into place. Today, I keep up with all five aspects. I still train very heavily with my dancing and singing. I am always down to do musicals and plays. I am constantly keeping up with acting in film, acting on stage, modeling, dancing, and singing. I am a performer. I knew that this is what I was destined to do since I was 10 years old, and that hasn’t changed. I am beyond grateful for all the opportunities I have been given and I am beyond ready to show this world what I have got! Feel free to follow my journey