Who Is Liz Jenkins? – A Q&A

Q&A By Tyrone Davis

What can you tell us about the TV series, “Better Things”? 
It’s a fantastic show and everyone should be watching it. From the audition process to the premiere and wrap party I recently attended, the entire project was a dream. I credit Pamela Adlon for much of that. She is just a spectacular person and captain of a ship full of kind talented people. 

Let’s talk about your role as Principal Biggs in ABC’s “Black-ish”. Originally, you came in as the substitute teacher and you made a statement with your opening lines. Break that down for us and what it meant to you.
Yes. It was originally a co-star for one episode. My first line ever was “Yes, my last name is also my body type…some of you will find this hilarious and feel the need to point it out. Go ahead” I just love the way the episodes writer Lindsey Shockley set the character up. That one line gave me so much information to build the characters attitude and demeanor. She is a strong confident woman so you better not try her. Now 6 (aired) Episodes later she is the principal of the school. I just have such a ball playing her and I hope the writers and producers see that. I’m very grateful for the opportunities they all have given me.

I thought the moment you hit the class with the “Pop Quiz” (WHAT!?! Lol) was hilarious but it also made me think about substitute teachers I had growing up. In what ways was the role of a substitute relatable to you? 
While I was training for my masters at UCSD we all taught Public Speaking and Acting classes to the undergraduate students. I really enjoyed it but it is not an easy job. Teachers deserve all the respect. If I can be a part of that by portraying a teacher then I’m all in. I also get a kick out of how teachers react on Twitter. So many substitutes seemed to love how Biggs handled the situation in that first episode. They could relate.

Tell us about your essay about Body Positivity issues. 
It is in Backstage.com and it is called How Plus Size Actors Can Feel Empowered in Auditions and Fitting. I was working on an essay about this for some time. How it is already difficult to be an African American women in the business but add being plus size to the mix and it can be down right degrading. I just wanted to share some of the things I have learned in the past 10 years. Recently the hashtag #ActingWhileBlack was trending and Yvette Nicole Brown also included #ActingWhileBlackandChubby it was PERFECT timing because I just submitted that article. It made me so excited that these actors who I admire like Yvette were shinning a light on the issue.

As a native of Houston, what are your thoughts on Hurricane Harvey?
It was devastating but Houston is such a resilient city. My heart will always be with Houston. I’m so proud of how the city is rebuilding itself.

I grew up a big fan of Houston’s music scene.  Who are your “Top 5” artists (any genre) from Houston?
Destiny’s Child/Beyonce, DJ Screw, Lizzo and Tobe Niwgwe – he is fresh and new and I’m super excited about him you should check him out. Wait are you from Houston??

No, I’m from Indianapolis. I grew up a military kid though so my friends and influences came from all over. How did you get into acting, initially?
Well, my immediate family is very funny which means lots of laughs at family gatherings. I think I was already outgoing and animated but my first grade teacher, Miss. Durke, was the first person outside of myself who saw that. After a presentation she said, “You are a performer.” It really was the seed she planted that set me on this path, but my mom nurtured the seed. After graduating from High School, I trained at the University of Evansville and got my MFA at the University of California San Diego before heading to Los Angeles. Here I landed some gigs on shows like Southland, How to Get Away with Murder, Criminal Minds, and NCIS: Los Angeles.

Casting director, John Frank Levey has cast you in the bulk of his projects. Explain that process and how do you approach the roles as they come?
John Frank Levey is legendary. At one of my early auditions he said something to me like, “I like the name ‘Liz Jenkins’” and while a small thing, I recall it tore down the formality of auditioning. I was able to be myself and smile for a minute and offer my genuine response, which was “Thank you, I think I will keep it.” A CD wants to see who you are. Not just this prepared actress but…who is Liz Jenkins? What is she like? It opened my eyes because I didn’t know how important that was until that moment.

What has been your hardest role to date? 
They have all been challenging in beautiful ways. I honestly have learned something from each character I have played. I’d say American Horror Story pushed me a lot. The director Jen Lynch was so fantastic. She really true collaborator. I’d LOVE to work with her again.

As someone who has been in the entertainment business 10 years or more, what is something you can never get used to? 
I can’t say “never” but considering I have been here for 10 years I will say I’m very slow to get use to some of the pomp and circumstance around certain things like events and premier. They are so much fun and so many people put a lot of hard work into them. I really enjoy them.

What is the biggest misconception fans have about celebs? 
I think this is obvious but some folks forget celebrities are people. They say the wrong thing and have insecurities just like everyone else.  
My mom and I really hope she knows this. She has worked hard for so long to support her children and always puts us first. She also fiercely supports my career and has since the beginning.  

What type of projects are you currently writing? Film, television, literary etc.? Can you elaborate at all?
A couple of Comedy TV pilots and a comedy action screenplay that I’m excited. I have a dark comedy kind of in the tone of Nurse Jackie I’m trying to finish up.

What do you like to do when you aren’t entertaining?
I love to write and spend time with my family, boy friend and friends. With my boyfriend we like to ride our bikes, cook and wander around Costco snatching up samples.

What do you love most about Maeby Surely Jenkins?
She is full of personality and very adaptable. Plus, If I’m really in a bind to run lines for an audition she is a fantastic scene partner. I just look into her eyes and she looks right back at me never breaking eye contact. She needs an agent.  

Lastly, tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know. 
I secretly wish I was a singer because I love to sing and love music. I use to sing in choirs in school then it just sort of petered out and now I have zero confidence in it. This is on my resume but few notice, when I was in high school I won the state championship for solo mime.

Follow Liz Jenkins on Twitter @ej11lizzie and on Instagram @lizjenkins_Maebybaby.

Photo By Alexis Dickey

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