Jennifer Veal made a name for herself in the UK in the Disney show as The Bell Rings but now she has made the movie to the States to star in TV series Jessie.
I caught up with the young actress to talk about the show and her character nanny Agatha as well as what she has coming up.
- You are about to star in Disney Channel's Jessie so can you tell me a little bit about the show?
The show follows a small town girl called Jessie who comes to New York and she ends up, cutting along story short, with a family of very… a Brad & Angelina type thing they are a very high profile couple with four children and she ends up nannying them.
I am kind of the nanny nemesis I guess comes in and meets here in the park and ever since then we have had this love to hate relationship going on.
It has seemed to have gone down quite well in the States that on going rivalry I guess. Then it is just about the trials and tribulations of their everyday lives.
- You take on the roles of Nanny Agatha in the show so what was it about this character and the script that initially drew you to the project?
Obviously I have been working with Disney for a long time from when I was a working on a show here in the UK called As The Bell Rings and I went in for a meeting and I don’t think that it initially was supposed to be a British character and I went in and they were ‘oh yeah the British accent, nanny, evil, Nanny McPhee, mole and snaggle tooth.’
And so I ended up with the role and the snaggle tooth and the monobrow (laughs). I think I have always been a character based actress and I like observing people and their characteristics.
So when this script came along I read it, I know Debby (Ryan) we are very good friends, and I just it was just a great role.
To look at it you would never think that I would play it because I am very girly and friendly (laughs) and Agatha is really not as she is harsh and not the most attractive person to look at so it was just a challenge a guess and I love a challenge.
- Well you have touched on my next question I have seen some pictures of you as Agatha and you are almost unrecognisable so how did you find the transformation?
When I go into makeup I sit next to Debby, we have makeup chairs next to each other, and she is getting all glamorised with some nice lip gloss and I am there getting extra hair on my face and couple of moles (laughs) it’s interesting.
Monday to Wednesday we do rehearsals and table reads of the script that we get on the Sunday and then on the first episode I had a make-up test on the Wednesday and I came down and all the producers and stuff wanted to see what I was going to look like because they were like ‘this is going to be really difficult’, which I was slightly flattered by.
And they were like ‘she is not ugly enough’ and I was like ‘what do you mean?’ and the kids were like ‘oh my lord is that really you?’ and I was like ‘yes it is really me’.
I think in America in especially because of my British accent kids when I am out places kind of look at me thinking ‘we kind of know that girl’ and then when I open my mouth they are like ‘oh it’s her it’s Nanny Agatha’.
I went to baby-sit the other day for some children and their older brother watches the show and he said them ‘nanny Agatha is coming to baby-sit’ and they were like ‘no, mummy please’ (laughs). So it’s a great transformation and it is a great character for an actor to play.
- The show sees you star alongside the likes of Debby Ryan, Peyton List and Cameron Boyce so how much fun have you had on set?
I don’t have family here in the States as they are here in the UK and I really did slot in to the Jessie family a treat. The minute I got on set I really did just feel at home, I didn’t start at the very beginning of the series, and they just said to me ‘you fit in so well’.
Myself and Debby are a very similar age and it is nice for her to have someone else on set who is not a lot younger. But the kids are just the best as they play tricks on me and we prank each other.
I went into my dressing room one day and it was really warm and I was thinking ‘oh my lord it’s so hot in here what is going on?’ And I had walked out and taken my scarf off, nanny Agatha always wears a scarf and a blazer, and I could hear this chuckling outside the door and I was like ‘what are they doing?’
Then my co-star Chris Galya, who plays Tony I the show, came in and he was like ‘Jen it’s boiling’ and we could hear them laughing and they had snuck into our rooms and blasted the heating (laughs). So it’s very fun-loving and a pleasure to be on set.
- You are best known for As The Bell Rings, which was a Disney Channel UK show, so how did you find making the move to the States to shoot Jessie?
It was massive and it was scary and exciting but I am truly blessed to be working for such a great company for such a long time.
It’s a bigger scale and larger scale, that was a seven minute show and this half an hour, and it’s Disney’s #1 series which is kind of cool I guess.
It was so welcoming as soon as I got there and I just thought ‘what was I worried about?’ I have always been one for the excitement of something a big nerve-wracking I guess.
- As I said As The Bell Rings was your first major TV project so what did you learn on that show that you have been able to take forward on to Jessie?
I have worked professionally as an actor since I was so young as I use to do a lot in the West End and then I moved into television.
I think that the best way to learn is from working and it’s just being around other professional actors and the actors and the sound as well as script-learning and it just really set the ball rolling.
I have a lot more to do now and there is a lot more going on around me know than there was back now but I think a lot of it is just confidence as I had done TV before but this was just on a larger scale I suppose.
- You went to the Sylvia Young Theatre School so how did you time there really prepared you for the work that you are doing now?
It was honestly the best experience and I just can’t fault the school. Sylvia is just a wonderful woman and I don’t know one child that has been to that school that can say anything negative about it because it is such a pleasant place to be.
I really enjoyed going to school and I don’t think that some kids can say that they are like ‘oh no school’ and I am like ‘yay school’ (Laughs).
It is full of children who want to work, which is a bit bizarre really, but it really prepares you… I am twenty years of age living on my own in American working as an actress and I was totally prepared for that and that is the reason why.
I like to think that I am quite humble with what I do as my parents do keep me grounded but so did Sylvia as she would say ’I don’t want any of you turning into stage school brats’ so we weren’t allowed to be that or we would have been taken off the agency and that was the last thing that we wanted. So yes it was a wonderful school.
- You are at the very beginning of your acting career but you are already working with Disney so what are you hoping to achieve over the next few years? What about movies?
I would love to do movies yeah. I would love to be able to do rom-coms as comedy is definitely a forte of mine I would say, but I am up for anything.
I would love to do movies and Jennifer Aniston’s career is something that I really aspire to be like as I just love everything that she does.
I am writing some sketches at the moment with some friends of mine and writing is something that I am hoping will be a massive part of my career as well as being on screen.
- Finally what's coming up for you?
Oooohhh lot’s of things. Season two of Jessie starts in July so defiantly some more Jessie. I am doing a lot of voice work and animation so you are not done with me yet for sure.
Jennifer Veal guest stars in Disney Channel’s Jessie from 15th June