Mother-Daughter Time: The Sixth Wall Talks to Miss Behave Series Creator Susan Bernhardt and Star Jillian Clare
By Ariel Nishli
Susan Bernhardt and Jillian Clare walk into Café Motif, a sleepy Beverly Hills café where aspiring starlets meet with ambitious hucksters and the occasional tech startup sets up shop. At first glance, the pair may appear to be a timeworn Tinseltown story: momager convincing Hollywood that her little girl is actually the new “It Girl.”
We exchange pleasantries and begin to chat, quickly melting away any knee-jerk cynicism I’ve harbored. Susan is sharp, relaxed and well spoken; a realist with a long-term approach to show business (Jillian’s representation is left to an established firm). She checks her watch every now and again. The meter is running and they’re off to a Glee audition after our meeting. Jillian, while beautiful, is far more than a pretty face. She’s confident and kind, full of surprisingly insightful anecdotes from her 19 years of life. The young actress just wrapped two films alongside some of TV and movies’ brightest young stars. Oh, and she graduated high school at fifteen.
The mother-daughter team’s story doesn’t lack any measure of length or depth, but today we’re focusing on the future: the upcoming three-part finale of Miss Behave, their Internet TV series that has effectively carved out an audience for an entirely new genre of entertainment – the web soap.
The finale of the award-winning series (12 accolades in total), directed by a five-time Emmy winner, just recently enjoyed a red carpet premiere at the first annual ITV Fest Pop Con on July 8th at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Fans of Miss Behave can now look forward to Reign, a spin-off series picking up right where Miss Behave left off.
Watch Goodbye, For Now – Part 1 of Miss Behave’s Season Finale
THE SIXTH WALL (T6W): Let’s start at the beginning. How was Miss Behave first conceived?
SUSAN BERNHARDT: The show originally started as another pilot idea. I had done an outline for what I wanted to be a one-hour drama network pilot called Reign, which was the story of a high profile celebrity publicist and her husband, a world-renowned author. Both were so busy all the time with their entertainment lifestyles that their two teenage children were left at home to fend for themselves. Jillian was fifteen at the time and when you’re fifteen in Hollywood it’s hard to get work. She looks the same right now as she did then. They’re hiring 18-20 year olds to play fifteen. She plays fifteen right now and she’s almost twenty. It’s messed up.
T6W: Depending on where an actor is physically, fifteen can be an awkward adolescent phase.
SUSAN: It can be an awkward phase physically. In her case it was more about producers not legally needing to have the adults on set by going with actors 18 and up. She had worked so much when she was younger that when you hit that roadblock, it can be tough. I follow trends and knew what was happening in new media – this was early 2007 – so I said to Jillian one day, why don’t we do an Internet TV series? I’ll take these two characters that I’ve already started to develop for Reign and we’ll create a show about them – the teenagers, that is.
T6W: Where do you find the other actors for Miss Behave? They’re all pretty, well… hot.
SUSAN: We’ve been fortunate because I’m a publicist and I represent soap stars as well. I use them in my show, strategically, but they’re all our friends as well so it helps. Or they’re my clients, so I tell them they have to be in my show or we’re done!
T6W: When I saw the character Marcus Dunne, I knew the actor must be from the soap world.
SUSAN & JILLIAN: Eric Martsolf.
SUSAN: Eric is a soap star on Days of our Lives. He plays Marcus Dunne the movie star on Miss Behave and he’ll cross over to Reign, the new show.
Michael Bolton as Noah, Eric Martsolf as Marcus, Jillian Clare as Tori
T6W: So you’re reviving the original idea? How is Reign going to differ from Miss Behave?
SUSAN: Yes. Jillian is going to take a back seat. She’ll be the B-Storyline. We can call it season three of Miss Behave consisting of three episodes; we can call it the series’ three-part finale, or we can call it a backdoor pilot. It’s all that.
T6W: And the latest trailer introduces these three episodes?
SUSAN: Yes. They introduce Tori’s mom “The Queen,” played by Terri Garber, an iconic 80’s soap star from the miniseries North and South. She was on As the World Turns and Dynasty. We have surprises at the end of each episode. A few big things fans should look forward to are the introduction of The Queen, Eric Martsolf from Days of our Lives in a stepped up role, and we get to see the family’s brand new estate under construction.
JILLIAN CLARE: And you get to see a little romance between Tori and Noah, the Aussie actor whom Tori met at her birthday party last season. She finally finds her prince charming.
SUSAN: Tori comes to a lot of resolution. There’s an incredible scene with her mother –
JILLIAN: No, no, no! Shhhhhh.
SUSAN: All the built up frustration with her mother… We’ll finally see Tori lose it completely. We find out in Reign that Tori and her mom are very much alike. She’s just the milder version of her. There was a character on Knots Landing named Abbey Ewing, played by Donna Mills, who I molded the character of her mom after. She shows love to her kids in an odd way, essentially manipulating them. And there’s a major, major cliffhanger at the end as well. It will answer some season two questions, but open up a whole lot more.
T6W: So who is Frances Gilbert, credited as the writer on the show? Do you use a penname?
SUSAN: I do, and there’s a reason. Frances Gilbert is a tribute to my parents. My mother’s first name was Frances and my father’s first name was Gilbert. He passed away when I was ten. So I just said ‘let’s do this’ and picked up my pen. I would consult with Jillian and we just tried to keep the show very realistic – situations that could definitely happen. I was a big fan of the nighttime soap operas and pulled in many things from that genre.
T6W: While Miss Behave is a fresh show for a young audience, it does have an air of melodrama to it – soap opera drama.
SUSAN: It’s meant to be a web soap. We also watch 90210 and Gossip Girls together. I definitely pull on some of those shows as well.
T6W: I think a little of The O.C. is sprinkled in there too.
SUSAN: Oh, for sure. And being a publicist who’s represented a lot of teenagers, I know how they talk. I know what their dialogue is. I know where their minds are – not that I want to know.
T6W: Tori is a good girl gone bad, pulled into a dark web of relationships. Jillian, how did you feel about playing a character going off the tracks? Lying to all her friends, irresponsible at school, getting drunk, etc.
JILLIAN: I think it’s definitely something that every teenager has done, or at least has watched a friend do. When you fall for somebody and especially when you’re living that extravagant lifestyle it’s hard to say, ‘oh, well I’m not going to do that because I have my head on straight.’ That’s not going to happen. For me, it wasn’t so much about thinking ‘how do I play this character going down a bad road?’ It was more of ‘I’m in love with this guy and will do whatever he wants me to do.’
T6W: So you channeled your inner teenage girl. Not too far of a stretch.
JILLIAN: Exactly. Everyone’s fallen for that one bad person in their life, wondering afterwards ‘what am I doing? Am I really that stupid?’ But Tori came out of it too. Her heart went over her head for a while.
T6W: Making bad decisions are a rite of passage of sorts.
JILLIAN: Yes, that’s actually a quote. ‘Bad decisions make good stories.’
T6W: Did you ever worry about your image as a role model?
JILLIAN: I’ve never starred in anything that would cause much younger girls to look up at me in a compromising way. Never been on Disney or Nick. In Miss Behave it’s my peers watching, so I’ve never had to deal with any of the problems Miley Cyrus experiences, for example. I definitely took a different route. My career path – who I want to be like – is Natalie Portman.
T6W: Glad to hear you’re emulating her and not some of Hollywood’s other starlets. I understand there’s a movie in the works for you. Can you dish for our readers?
JILLIAN: Well, I shot two films back to back, last summer and fall. The one I did in the summer is called The Kitchen, starring Bryan Greenberg, most recently in HBO’s How To Make It In America, Laura Prepon from That 70’s Show and Dreama Walker, the star of Don’t Trust the B—- In Apartment 23. It’s such an amazing cast. I love all of them.
T6W: What’s the movie about?
JILLIAN: Dreama and Laura play sisters in The Kitchen. The whole movie is set in the kitchen of a Silverlake home, in real time, during Laura Prepon’s birthday. Technically, the movie is just one long French scene in which people come in and out of the kitchen. My character is Phoebe from Friends meets Juliette Lewis… She’s nuts. Most of my lines are about how afraid I am of getting my ears pierced, but at the same time I enjoy S&M.
T6W: And is this character in high school as well?
JILLIAN: No, she’s supposed to be 19. Ironically, the first day I started that film – our first rehearsal date – was my 19th birthday. Our director, Ishai Setton, got me birthday cake. He’s so sweet. Our writer, Jim Beggarly, had just done another film with Jesse Eisenberg called Free Samples. It was an incredible set with incredible people. The movie is in post right now.
Scene from the 3-part Series Finale of Miss Behave
T6W: And what’s the second film?
JILLIAN: I filmed in North Carolina for a couple of months. I can’t really say much beyond that… It’s so under the radar.
T6W: What about you Susan, as a PR executive, surely there’s something you can tell us without letting the cat out of the bag.
SUSAN: The only thing I can say is that the producers are very big names. It should do wonders for Jillian’s career.
JILLIAN: It’s interesting, but nothing’s really changed. Going to North Carolina was the first time I shot away from home. That was actually a transformative experience – being independent, buying the wrong groceries. I said ‘I’m just going over the person’s house playing my mom and eating there!’
SUSAN: She’s always been an independent person. We’re both Leos.
T6W: So am I.
SUSAN: Leos are independent, entrepreneurial. They like to explore. It’s funny because Jillian has the same characteristics I have as a Leo.
T6W: I’m surprised you can just hang back and let her shine without taking some of the spotlight.
SUSAN: Well I knew from the time she was two years old, singing Jewel in the backseat of our car, that she was a star. I didn’t know how that would happen or how we’d get there. At the time we lived in Washington State. We’re LA transplants. We’ve been here 12 years.
T6W: Did you come to Los Angeles for the sake of Jillian’s career?
SUSAN: Yes and no. She was around four or five and we were both ready to get out of the northwest. Get out of the rain, dry off a bit, and get rid of our webbed feet. She started singing and dancing when she was young, and at about six years old she was playing state county fairs with her own 30-minute musical in which she performed ten original songs. That was at the same time insane and amazing. Then she was discovered by an agent and did pretty much everything she could do in the market of Portland. We came down here during pilot season when she was seven to give it a shot. She didn’t book a pilot of course, but she did very well and got great feedback, so I said ‘let’s do this.’ My husband said, ‘OK let’s go. We’re moving.’
JILLIAN: I did a lot of theater when I was that age as well, around eight. It was almost 12 years ago.
T6W: So you’re in this for the long haul. Yours isn’t the story of your character Tori, a bored Malibu girl trying the acting thing for a spell.
JILLIAN: Oh no. This is my life. It’s funny. I actually have a part time job doing social networking at a small company. It’s so weird to me, doing regular work. I start to freak out. If I lived in Paris around the 1800’s, I’d be that Bohemian person screaming ‘La Vie Boheme!’ outside a coffee shop.
Patrika Darbo as Dr. Freed
T6W: What about school? Are you considering getting your degree?
JILLIAN: I graduated high school at 15 and went to college for a year and a half at 16. It got tougher work-wise trying to balance it all. I wanted to study before going to North Carolina and that movie got in the way. I still really want to study. I’ll put a James Franco on everybody.
SUSAN: And when she went to college she got straight A’s.
T6W: Do you feel like you’ve pushed her at all, Susan?
SUSAN: No, I never could have pushed her to do what she’s done. Back in the day when she was 10, 11, and 12 she was a regular on Day of our Lives and still in theater. She had booked To Kill a Mockingbird and on the third day of Days of our Lives, they killed off her father. So she was crying all day and later that night she opened To Kill a Mockingbird. So she was –
JILLIAN: I was nuts.
SUSAN: I mean so many musicals, too.
JILLIAN: Meet Me in St. Louis, Annie Get Your Gun, A Christmas Carol, Music Man…
SUSAN: She was the youngest performer ever hired at Universal Studios. She was eight and played Cindy Lou Who in their live performance of How The Grinch Stole Christmas.
T6W: With that depth of experience so early on, you must have a real appreciation for theater.
JILLIAN: Yes! Right now Smash is my favorite show.
SUSAN: I went to do a radio show shortly after Miss Behave and Carol Ann McCracken was there from KoldCast TV’s McCracken Live! I was totally infatuated. I had no idea who this person was. So I’m just staring at his wig (Carol Ann is the alter-ego of Tyler Hanson). It’s really tall. Off the cuff I say, ‘my daughter wore something so similar when she played Cindy Loo Who ten years ago.’ He just sort of looked at me because we were live on the air and 15 minutes goes by. He’s doing his thing in female character and when we break the deep voice comes out. ‘Susan, it’s Brian! I was one of the Grinches!’ We reconnected and since that time Brian and I have produced a web pilot together and one-minute travel consumer videos together.
T6W: And I believe Carol Ann McCracken had a cameo on Miss Behave as well, right?
SUSAN: Yes, the house we shot at was for sale in real life and I wanted to make sure I covered that in case we wouldn’t be able to film there anymore. I’m very strategic about these things. So I hired Carol Ann to play the real estate agent. The whole scene was improvised and it was hilarious.
JILLIAN: I tried so hard not to laugh. As soon as she said ‘Is this is a good school district? Because I hate kids,’ I was ready to burst.
T6W: Tell me about this international distribution deal you have in place for the show.
SUSAN: It’s with KoldCast Entertainment Media and Content Media. We’re waiting to close the first big purchase. David Samuels facilitated all that. KoldCast has a partnership with Content. They have specific shows they’re interested in licensing for foreign countries. Miss Behave is currently being shopped to foreign distributors. We’re waiting for that to happen and in the meantime I was fortunate to secure brand sponsorship.
T6W: Behave Hair Products?
SUSAN: Yes. Behave Hair Products contacted me a year ago knowing we had something in common in our name. They’re a family business based in Glendale, California. They’ve formulated Behave Styling Spray, this non-frizz styling spray that uses 100% hypoallergenic conditioning ingredients. It works really well!
T6W: Does Behave Styling Spray enjoy any product placement in Miss Behave?
SUSAN: The product is in the show, they’re on my website, and in my store. I’ve done a lot of press, different things with hair blogging sites; just as much as I could to attract them. I’m not only the strategy queen but also the queen of bartering. So they’re our official finale sponsors.
T6W: What else can fans look forward to in season three?
SUSAN: I was approached by Scott McKinsey’s agent about working together. Scott is an award-winning director on General Hospital. I said of course, but I can’t pay him! It turns out that didn’t make a difference. Scott just wanted to be part of this new media movement he’s been hearing about and branch out of the network and studio system. So now we have a five-time Emmy winning director and his Emmy winning director of photography for our finale episodes. They’ll be moving over to Reign with us as well. He said it’s been one of the most fun and rewarding experiences he’s had.
JILLIAN: It’s because we goof around on set. We have fun.
SUSAN: Yeah we goof, but we get the job done. We’re still shooting ten pages a day.
T6W: What band did you get to create the Miss Behave theme song? It’s pretty catchy.
SUSAN: That’s A DEUX. The front man is Teo Oliveras. He’s a good friend of Jillian’s and his mom is a really good friend of mine. She was my supervising producer on the first and second seasons as well. Basically we just asked Teo for a theme song and he wrote it up! Then he won awards for Best Original Theme Song and Outstanding Score at the LA Web Fest. He helped Jillian with first season music supervision too. Second season she did all of it herself. I think we had 150 song submissions for our second season. We ended up using the Jane Carrey Band – that’s Jim Carrey’s daughter. Charity Vance had a song in season two. She was also on American Idol this year. We had Satellite do our trailer. They’re a huge indie band on the east coast. I think we’ve won five awards for our music.
T6W: The recognition is a testament to you actually having sought out these local bands, not merely scoring the show with stock music from some website.
SUSAN: We have other things that increase production value. I have an overhead aerial shot that we put at the top of each episode. I bought that to add –
JILLIAN: What are you talking about? We went up in a helicopter and shot it.
SUSAN: (rolls her eyes) That came from wanting a visual to evoke the same emotion as in The Hills. I’m always thinking strategically. For example, one of the things in mind for Season 2 was to make it dramatic enough that Jillian wins an award. We did that, and she ended up winning Best Lead Actress for a Drama at the International Television Festival.
T6W: So it worked. Congratulations.
SUSAN & JILLIAN: Thank you.
Click to play Miss Behave from the very beginning!
Susan Bernhardt and Jillian Clare
Ariel Nishli is the Editor-in-Chief of The Sixth Wall. He’s got a big apple in his heart but moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. After graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2007, he worked in the motion picture literary department at ICM, then moved on to feature film development at Parkes MacDonald Productions. Ariel’s wardrobe has steadily devolved from designer suits to worn out slippers, as he now focuses on screenwriting and journalism when he’s not obsessing over this blog.