At age 18, having just completed her first semester of college, Las Vegas-raised Jillian Bell took a gamble. She left her hometown to study in Los Angeles, promising her parents she would return after the semester was finished.
She never came home.
“I auditioned for a Kelly Osbourne musicvideo and was like, ‘I’m not going back. This is fantastic!’?” says Bell, who tried out with the Groundlings and was asked to be a part of the group’s Sunday Company.
Soon after, “Saturday Night Live’s” Lorne Michaels and Seth Meyers stopped in looking for new talent. They invited the young Groundling to audition for “SNL” (her first trip to New York City). Though Bell didn’t make the cut, she was soon called back in by Meyers, who wanted to discuss the possibility of her writing for the show.
“I had the interview on a Monday, and Tuesday I was working there,” she says.
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After writing for a season, Bell returned west and picked up where she left off with the Groundlings. She also landed a part on Comedy Central’s “Workaholics,” playing Jillian Belk, an office manager who gets little respect from her co-workers. The role — characteristically off-kilter, much like her appearances in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Bridesmaids” — caught the attention of an unlikely fan.
“Paul (Thomas Anderson) watches ‘Workaholics,’ which was mind-blowing to me,” says Bell, who was surprised to land a role in Anderson’s upcoming “The Master.”
“I have a small part in it, which is fine, but I’m … I don’t know how much I can say,” she says coyly. “I get so nervous!”
P.O.V.:“I started doing improv when I was 8 years old, so it’s always been in my life. I would feel naked without it.”
Influences: Her father, Ron Bell; Amy Poehler; Tim Curry in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” “I feel like it’s okay for both guys and girls to be very attracted to Tim Curry in that movie. He’s just sex on a stick,” she says.
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