Lilah Fitzgerald is killing it! At just 14 years old, she’s already worked with such legends as Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, James Franco, and Raquel Welch. She’s appeared in numerous television series including When Calls the Heart, The 100, and Supernatural. And, she’s already won a coveted Leo Award for “Best Lead Performance for a Female (Television Movie).” Her latest role is Elisa Cooper in UP TV’s Date My Dad (Fridays at 9 p.m.). The series also stars Barry Watson as Ricky Cooper, Zenia Marshall as Mirabel Cooper, Audrey Smallman as Gigi Cooper, Raquel Welch as Rosa, and Cindy Busby as Stephanie.
“I think Elisa and I are actually very similar. Only I’m not a really big cleaner. I don’t think anybody is… except maybe Elisa,” she laughed.
When Ricky lost his wife, Rosa lost a daughter, and the girls lost their mother. Elisa is only 12 years old, yet she’s the one who stepped into the role of “mom.” She is the one who holds the Coopers together.
“Elisa cares about her family and everyone who is close to them,” Lilah told Entertaining Options. “I hope that I can care that much about other people. I do care that much about my family and I can feel that Elisa and I have similar souls. She really feels things deeply and she is there for everyone. It doesn’t matter if they are happy or they are sad, whether it’s to comfort them or to be super excited with them, she’s always there for them.”
This week’s episode of Date My Dad is called “Think Before You Type.” It is the most powerful episode of the season to date as both Elisa and Mirabel find themselves victims of different types of bullying.
“It’s an emotional episode, something I’ve kind of gone through myself,” Lilah acknowledged. “When I was watching one of the scenes while doing a voiceover, I actually started crying. It was also one of my favorite episodes to film and I’m so excited for the audience to see it because it does deal with meaningful problems. We need more shows that deal with that.”
Two weeks ago, in an episode called “The Outfit,” there was another potent moment. This one dealt with growing up. Mirabel and her dad get into an argument over an outfit that Mirabel wants to wear to school. The harsh words they exchange feel so real and hurtful that it’s distressing to see this loving father and his devoted daughter experience such a severe falling-out.
“Watching them filming that scene was better than taking an acting class!” Lilah recalled. “We were watching Zenia and we were just awestruck. It was amazing, not that she hasn’t been amazing in other scenes, but she really brought her best game for that.”
What makes Date My Dad so impactful is the actors all share a special bond that extends outside of work. When there’s conflict between family members, it’s heartbreaking because you know they really do care for each other.
“I just love Audrey and Zenia!” Lilah expressed. They are my best friends because when you spend that much time together — basically I was spending all day every day with them — they become like your sisters. And Barry Watson was so amazing. I can’t even begin to describe what he is like. He was so helpful with the advice he gave and he really supported us. It really feels like I have a second family now.”
This wasn’t Lilah’s first experience being part of an UP family. The “clean till you’re 18” actress actively searches out positive, age-appropriate roles that she can be proud of.
In 2015, Lilah played Penelope “Polka-dot” Draught in UP’s A Girl’s Best Friend. [Also known as My New Best Friend.] The magical movie revolves around an unlikely trio of individuals — Cooper Brawn (James Denton), Samantha (Laura Mennell), and Polka-dot — who were brought together by circumstance… and a remarkable dog named Luey.
“It was one of my dream roles because I got to work with a dog,” Lilah informed. “The dog was Luey and Luey was actually a girl dog. She wasn’t a trained movie dog because they couldn’t get that breed of dog as a trained movie dog in the Vancouver area. She was so sweet and nice. That was my first time working with UP and I fell in love with them. Everyone was so nice and supportive and it really felt like they were there for me. I could just sense that it was a family event on set. You don’t always get that family feeling on set, but on both of the sets I have been on at UP, it’s just felt like one big family.”
Also back in 2015, Lilah played Mina opposite James Franco in Every Thing Will Be Fine.
“James Franco is a legend. I was really nervous to work with him,” Lilah confessed. “But he was really nice and amazing to work with. I felt like he was really interested me — and everyone who was in the movie — and I felt like he was really making sure that I had a good time.”
Fun Fact: Whenever James was rehearsing a scene with Lilah, for fun, he would do it as one of the many characters he had played in other movies.
“Raquel Welch was another legend that I was terrified to work with,” Lilah revealed. “I’m not on her level, so I started worrying, ‘What if she’s horrible? What if she doesn’t talk to me?!’ But she was just so amazing and all my fears went away the moment she walked into the room and introduced herself. She is the definition of ‘the camera loves her!’ She’s just so alive and makes the magic happen.”
Lilah’s “pinch me” moment came when Raquel invited her into her dressing room so they could run lines together.
Earlier this year, Ruth Hill, owner of My Devotional Thoughts, sat down with Lilah (and her mother) to talk about her life and career leading up to Date My Dad. [“Interview With Actress Lilah Fitzgerald” — click title to read]. Ruth’s support of the industry and rising stars is unparalleled. Her unique approach of having each interview bookended with informative, insightful, and beautifully written first-person prose allows the reader to really get to know the people she writes about.
“She has a daughter who is the same age as me and she is really interested in supporting young actors who are coming up. She’s really amazing. I was first introduced to her after When Calls the Heart because she’s with the Hearties. She’s very nice and I feel like she is there for me, which is amazing in this industry.”
Ruth offered Entertaining Options her impression of Lilah: “Lilah Fitzgerald is a passionate, young actress who enthusiastically thrusts herself into every role she is given. With such supportive parents that go far beyond the call of duty in helping her to maintain a balance between her career and her life apart from acting, there is no doubt that Lilah will only continue to grow and mature in her craft while keeping her positive, grounded outlook on her place within the acting community as well as life in general.”
Speaking of her life apart from acting, another one of Lilah’s passions is ballet. “That’s what I’m doing when I’m not acting. It can be kind of a juggling act trying to do both, but they are both so close to my heart that I couldn’t even imagine giving up on one of them. It’s worth it to me to give up other things so I am able to do both, but I don’t really have to give up much. Do I want to be laying on the couch or doing what I love?”
“One of my biggest inspirations for ballet is Misty Copeland [The first African-American female principal dancer in American Ballet Theatre’s 75-year history.]. I really look up to her. She started late, which I did too, and she didn’t care about that. She didn’t care about the race stereotype either. She just worked hard to achieve her dreams, so she’s my inspiration for ballet.”
“For acting, my inspiration would be Audrey Hepburn,” Lilah continued. “I might never get to the Audrey Hepburn level, but my goal is to one day be close. She was also a ballerina when she was younger, but they told her she didn’t have a ‘ballet body,’ so she went into acting instead… And thank goodness she did!”
In closing, Entertaining Options asked Lilah to talk a little bit about her experience at the 2015 Leo Awards when she won “Best Lead Performance for a Female (Television Movie)” for her portrayal of Polka-dot in UP TV’s A Girl’s Best Friend. The Leo Awards are a project of the Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Foundation of British Columbia that has been celebrating excellence in British Columbia film and television since 1999.
“I was not expecting to get a Leo, I was prepared to graciously be there and clap for whoever won because I was up against adults — it wasn’t a child category. Then I heard my name called and it was such a surreal moment. Getting that award was really a game changer for me and my career. It felt magical and I had a flashback to when I first asked my mom if I could be an actor and she said, ‘Okay, let’s give it a try.’ When I got on stage and those lights were shining on me, I realized, I’m actually doing this, my dream is coming true!”
Date My Dad airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on UP TV.
Related: “Barry Watson is ready to play the field again in UP’s heartwarming new hit series ‘Date My Dad’“
Related: “Audrey Smallman: The heart behind the brains of UP TV’s Gigi“
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