Chris Lilley On The Bitchy Comeback Of "Ja’mie: Private School Girl"

The Australian actor and writer stopped by BuzzFeed to talk bras, blazers, shooting with real high schoolers, and the other characters he wants to revisit.

Justine Zwiebel / BuzzFeed

Chris Lilley has played 14 characters across his four cult series We Can Be Heroes, Summer Heights High, and Angry Boys. Now, one fan favorite, high school queen bee Ja’mie King, is the focus of his new HBO series Ja’mie: Private School Girl (premiering Sunday, Nov. 24 at 10:30 p.m.). Chris stopped by BuzzFeed to screen the new series and to talk about what to can expect from the return of everyone’s favorite bitch, his plans for her future, and the big question: Where is her blazer now?

How have you seen the character of Ja’mie evolve from We Can Be Heroes and Summer Heights High to Ja’mie: Private School Girl?

Chris Lilley: She got bigger boobs in this series! I don’t know. She was in year 10 in We Can Be Heroes, and Summer Heights High [she was in] year 11 at a public school. This one, she’s back in her private school where she’s school captain and boss of the whole place. She’s tougher and bitchier than ever before. She’s out of control this season … It plots her demise and downfall from queen bee. Bad stuff happens.

Where did the inspiration for this beautifully complex character come from?

CL: I guess I’ve just met Ja’mies and seen them around. They’re everywhere! They’re in every workplace and every school. I went to a private boys school and we had girls in the last two years. A lot of the girls were similar to that.

Ja’mie has now been a part of three of your four series. Are there other characters you’d potentially like to revisit?

CL: Yeah, all of them! I love them all. That’s the thing: I decided to do this one character show and I’m setting myself up to now have to revisit them all and give them all a series. It’s a lot of work. I really like certain characters a lot like Daniel and Nathan from Angry Boys and I really love Jonah from Summer Heights High. There are certainly some I would revisit sooner than others.

courtesy of HBO

Would you say Ja’mie is your favorite?

CL: At the moment — yeah. I’ve been in her world for a long time. I’m ready to get involved in something else. I’m also a step ahead, thinking about the next one. I’m all about Ja’mie.

How had your work been received in the States vs. Australia?

CL: It’s hard for me to tell. I saw the stuff you guys posted, but I don’t read too much online. But being here and walking around and having people come up has given me an idea. I was in Nashville at a college screening and I had this girl come up and scream in my face. And she like dropped to the ground — like full slut drop to the ground. She was like the biggest fan with this thick Southern accent. I don’t know; I’m shocked that anyone knows it outside Australia. It’s very weird.

Is Ja’mie shot at a real school?

CL: Yes, it’s a real school. It’s actually a co-ed school so we had to get rid of all the boys. If you look really carefully, you can occasionally see a boy will walk past. We had to pretend it was a girls school and adapted the uniform slightly and called it Hillford. It was all real though — crashing real classes and assemblies. All the girls are watching me do this crazy dance.

Since it’s all real, how did you keep the kids from laughing in a scene like Mr. G’s classroom on Summer Heights High?

CL: We moved into a real school and we had limited time with these kids. We had a drama class come in and I quickly had to do a bunch of games and shoot it. The kids didn’t know what expect so they were laughing. So we had to do another take and shoot all the kids who were laughing so there backs we to the camera. If you look carefully, they’re laughing, but we usually tell the kids that if they’re laughing they won’t be on TV.

John Tsiavis / © Princess Pictures / HBO / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Would you ever make a project that you just wrote or directed or do you feel it’s important to perform in the things you write and direct?

CL: I really love performing, so I’m much more excited by that. Maybe one day. It’s a lot to think about and do, but at the moment, no. The shoot for the show is the most fun part of the whole process. It’s really fun. I like being in the limelight.

How much of the show is improv-based and how much is scripted?

CL: It’s a combination. The script is very structured so when you read it, it’s like a documentary with all the voiceovers and cutaways of other things. But when we shoot it, we sort of unravel and grab the bits, a still sound-bite we need. Then, we expand upon the scene. Extra things happen, but mostly what ends up in the cut is in the script. But it seems very natural because we cast really interesting kids and the girls are all actual private school girls. They’re really good at delivering lines and making them seem really natural. It is more scripted than you think.

What character did you come up with first?

The first character was Mr. G. He was a character I did in stand-up comedy. I’d get up and talk to the audience about this drama teacher and then come in and start talking like him and lead the audience through a dance routine. One time a friend of mine said, “We should just go to a school and film you being this character.” We kind of broke into this primary school and walked around with a camera doing ridiculous routines while [I was] wearing my mom’s purple tracksuit. That became my audition tape that I sent into TV networks.

courtesy of HBO

Where is Ja’mie’s blazer now?

CL: You know what? I’ve brought Ja’ime’s stuff with me. It’s in my suitcase. I thought something might happen.

How do the real-life Ja’mies react to you as Ja’mie walking around their school?

CL: Girls love coming up to be and telling me that they are Ja’mie. I don’t know why you’d want to be Ja’mie, but they’re very proud of being the real-life Ja’mie.

What do you stuff Ja’mie’s bra with?

CL: Well, in the other two shows we just had those chickfoot things, those padding things, but she’s developed a little more this season. There’s like the whole professional things — there are details.

Is this the last we’re going to see of Ja’mie?

CL: Probably not. [The series has] got a pretty shocking conclusion and she goes in a direction you don’t expect. So it would certainly be an interesting first episode of the next series, if there is one. I love the character so much so I’d love to think that she’d be back.

Macey J. Foronda / BuzzFeed

Ja’mie: Private School Girl premieres Sunday, Nov. 24 at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.

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