Lisa Jakub is a Canadian-American writer, and a former child actress. She is best known for her roles in Mrs. Doubtfire as Lydia Hillard and Independence Day as Alicia Casse.
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My name is Lisa Jakub. I was an actor from the ages of 4 - 22, in more than 40 TV shows and movies like Mrs. Doubtfire, Independence Day, Matinee and a bunch of cheesy made-for-television movies that mostly just aired in Denmark.
I enjoyed acting for a while, but I eventually realized that it just wasn't my passion. So, I ran away from LA - to search for what I wanted to do with my life and discover who I was underneath the actor. As it turns out, I'm a writer. It's kind of usual to live your dream by leaving Hollywood, rather than running towards it, but I'm now living a life that feels more authentic to me.
My first book is out this week, it's called You Look Like That Girl. http://youlooklikethatgirl.com/ It's a memoir about growing up in - and leaving - the film industry. I also write at http://www.lisajakub.net/ and various freelance outlets.
It's just me and the dog sitting here doing this AMA, so please prepare yourself for typos and profanity. My dog has quite a mouth on her. Let's go. AMA!
*UPDATE - I have to go now - but thank you SO much for a super fun AMA! You guys were awesome! Please keep in touch with me through Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LisaJakub108 Twitter https://twitter.com/Lisa_Jakub and my blog http://www.lisajakub.net/ *
Any cool stories with Robin Williams?
I adored Robin. When we were filming Mrs. Doubtfire he used to sing Lydia The Tattooed Lady to me whenever I walked on set. But now I'm getting choked up so that's the end of that answer.
There's no doubt that everyone has a real love for Robin. Ms Doubtfire holds a special place in many of our hearts, but it wasn't just because of Robin. There was a certain magic that came across especially from yourself and Mara.
Can you share with us an anecdote or two about something we may not know about that happened off-camera, or maybe something that happened on-camera that we wouldn't know the back-story on?
PS - Your FB feed is refreshing to read as it's anything but the pointless drivel you see on so many other celebrity type pages. Thanks for that!
Thanks so much!
Obligatory Doubtfire story: one of the first days of rehearsal, Chris Columbus (director) introduced Matt, Mara and I to his mother. She was nice, kind of eccentric. We sat with her and chatted and tried to seem professional. We only found out when we came back to set that we had been talking with Mrs. Doubtfire. We had no idea it was Robin.
Often times my household sponges accumulate an awful amount of buildup. What can I do to prevent this?
I put mine in the dishwasher.
Did you have any desire to be on screen or was it something your parents pushed you towards?
I was in a farmer's market with my parents in Toronto when I was 4, and a man came up to us because he worked for a company that was casting a commercial and he wanted me to be in it. They asked if I wanted to go, I said yes, the casting people sent me to a talent agent, who sent me on more commercials and suddenly I had a career. It just sort of snowballed from a random encounter.
Do you ever regret giving up acting and living a "normal" life?
Not ever. I love having a normal life. I had a pretty unusual childhood, so it's easy for me to find great beauty and joy in the small, simple, regular things.
What is your favorite memory from The Beautician and the Beast? Did you like working with Fran Drescher? (It's one of my favorites- guilty pleasure- and loving that its on Netflix now).
Aw, thanks! I met my husband because of that movie. I got to be friends with the guy who played my boyfriend and my husband was his roommate) so that movie holds a special place in my heart. We also filmed in Prague, which is one of my favorite places ever. Travel was the best part of acting for me.
Are you going to be in Independence Day 2?
No one has asked me to be in it.
Hi Lisa! I am a filmmaking teacher at a magnet school in Virginia. We occasionally bring in prominent stage and screen actors and technicians to talk about their experiences, the pitfalls, etc. We also have many aspiring writers. So... perfect, right? Would you like to be our guest and talk to the students when school starts in the fall? If so, I can private message you or vice versa for details/arrangements.
I'd be honored! You can reach me though the contact info on http://lisajakub.net/ I love talking with students!
Aside from wine, what becomes better with age?
Everything. Everything gets better with age. I know I certainly do. You couldn't pay me to be 20 again. I'm 36 and I'm just starting to get stuff figured out - and I have this awesome grey streak in my hair.
Do you still talk to Mara Wilson a lot? She's gotten quite involved with writing and even being a semi-recurring actress on the ChannelAwesome website.
Mara and I lost touch for a while, but we got back in touch several years ago and I could not be more thrilled. She really feels like a little sister to me. I actually wrote about that here, if you are interested. http://lisajakub.net/2013/05/28/the-doubtfire-girls/
While my post was actually a joke, and I figured it would go ignored, I appreciate your response. Congrats on not being another fuck up like so many of them were.
22 no longer a child, so what stereotypes transitioned with you as an adult actor?
I think for a while I confused what I did for a living with who I was as a person. I was an actor and it defined me a little too strongly. We are all more than just our jobs. But I think I got too invested in being "successful" without even considering whose definition of success I was striving for. It wasn't actually what I wanted for my life.
As someone who's had an idea for a story since 2008, this comment has helped me realize not to strive for perfection on my first draft, thanks!
OH GOD NO! Perfectionism is the enemy of creativity. Just get it on the page. You can clean it up later. Good luck with your story!
When you were acting, what were some of the less glamorous aspects of the business?
The rejection is brutal. And not sugar coated. I heard things like "you are a good actor, Lisa, but you are just not pretty enough." When you are working, the hours are incredibly demanding. The loss of privacy for even a ever-so-slightly-famous person is quite difficult. There is really very little that is "glamourous" in the way that it is portrayed in our society. I guess there are the fancy parties, but those just gave me panic attacks.
what writing software do you use? do you have input on layout, cover design?
I just write in Word - nothing fancy. But I am trying out Scrivener to organize research for my next book. I'm of no help with layout or cover design, since my publisher did that stuff.
Any advice on writing and writers block ?
I choose to not believe in writer's block. I have a Post-It on my computer that says "write anyway." No excuses. Just write. It doesn't have to be good - first drafts are pretty much always shit. You can edit later. But writing is a muscle and it gets stronger the more you use it. Thanks for the question!
Are you able to watch your own movies if they are ever on TV or do you have to hurry and change the channel?
It's so fucking weird to see myself on TV. I change the channel really quickly. I don't like watching myself at all. Actually, people keep saying things to me about Doubtfire, quoting lines and things, and I have no idea what they are talking about.
Loved it so much last time you're at it again are you?!
I fully admit I had WAY more fun than expected last year for my AMA. I'm back for more. Thanks for having me.
I'm just guessing here but I think she means things like:
22 is no longer a child but I think it is around the time most child actors start fulfilling all the stereotypes
Yeah, I think unfortunately those are the stereotypes - but I managed to avoid them. I think there are many of us who quietly walk away into nice, happy lives. But that doesn't make for a catchy headline.
Feel free to ignore this, but do you make a decent amount of money from those movies you acting is as a child today? Do you still collect a royalty check each month, I'm really curious how that works.
I actually wrote about that on my blog - http://lisajakub.net/2013/04/18/money/ and http://lisajakub.net/2014/01/06/money-part-2/
You are not the only one who is curious! I don't think it would qualify as a "decent amount" - my income from residuals now falls below the poverty line. (I'm not complaining - who else gets paid for work they did when they were 14?) But let's just say it's a good thing my husband and I have other sources of income.
How old were you when you first entered rehab? What were your favorite drugs?
See - this is another reason I was a failure at the whole child actor thing. No rehab. No drugs. Seriously. I haven't even smoked pot.
Hey, you look like that woman from a book cover I have seen!
My daughter has a fascination with acting. She has performed in nearly a dozen plays with various groups in the area. She loves it. Outside of the stage though, she is very shy and timid, and has very little confidence in herself.
I read your free 16-page release and the entire time I was shaking my head thinking of a potential future for my daughter. She is dead set on acting, so I do not wish to discourage her if she finds enjoyment in it. Having lived the struggle, is there any advice you could give to a father of a pre-teen that wants to walk down the path of acting? Any suggestions of gentle nudges one way or another?
Thank you for reading the preview! I would never tell someone to not be an actor, if that was what they loved. I'm all about people living authentically. But I think it's important to have a balanced view of what that life is like. The media can paint a ridiculous picture of the LA life. I think if she understands the realities, that it's a job like everything else, and she can change her mind at any point, she'll be ok. Just make sure she gets her education, too!
Do you keep in touch with a lot of people back from your acting days?
A few, like Mara Wilson. But honestly, it's hard to keep touch. I loved them all, but it's kind of like trying to keep in touch with everyone you ever went to summer camp with. You have this intense experience with people, but then everyone kind of moves on to the next thing.
What was it like being a child actor?
Are the stereotypes of overly strict parents pushing you true?
How did the directors handle directing you? Were they sympathetic, or harsh?
Also, what was it like growing up with people at schools who saw you in movies?
It always makes me happy when people ask questions like this - because it's pretty much what my book is about! I hope that will be helpful in explaining. But in short, my parents were not pushy, but many other parents were. There was the occasional harsh director, who called me a hack and wouldn't let me sit with the other actors, and the kids at school pretty much thought I was weird. (Whether that was because of movies or not, I can't say for sure.)
How has your perspective changed of showbiz, seeing it from a child's eyes and now as an adult? also PB&J or Ham?
As a kid, I was kind of shielded from the unsavory parts of the industry. So, yeah, it definitely changes your perspective. It was also very hard for me to put down roots, maintain relationships and have some stability when I was working so much, and that became more important to me as an adult.
And I'm vegetarian, so PB&J all the way.
I had such a crush on you as a kid! The movie Matinee scared the crap out of me. I was terrified of nuclear war after that movie. I can remember lying in bed at night and hearing an airplane fly over and closing my eyes and thinking "this is it" and brace myself for the mushroom cloud. Were you afraid of nuclear war? Any interesting John Goodman stories?
Aw, that's sweet. Thanks! Apologies for the childhood nightmares from my movie. I'm a total worrier, but for some reason nuclear war never concerned me. I was much more focused on my fear of hippos and spontaneous combustion.
Hi Lisa, I've been following your blog since your last IAMA, and have become a big fan! I enjoy reading about the animals you work with at the shelter. Is there a recent story you can share with us?
Thank you so much! Yes, I volunteer at a no-kill animal shelter and I love it. It's currently "kitten season" so we are overrun with furry adorableness. It's almost too much to handle. Luckily, my dog Grace has made it clear she will be the only four-legged in the house - so there is less temptation to bring kittens home.
Because you started acting at age four, was it something your parents pushed on you? I mean at four I can't say I really wanted to do anything besides eat candy all day.
My parents were not pushy - even more than candy, I just wanted to get out of school.
Now that you're writing, have you considered writing screenplays or stage plays? Or is that too close to what you gave up?
I actually wrote a screenplay many years ago - I think it's pretty terrible and will never come out of that box in my basement. I think screenwriting is a really interesting format, but I think for now, I'm happy being out of that world.
How did you come up with the title of your book ?
Many years ago, I was with a friend who was laughing about how many times people said to me "you look like that girl..." They are usually not quite sure, and think maybe we went to high school together. She said if I ever wrote a book, I'd have a title. About 8 years later, I did write a book. Lauren gets full credit.
I see that you've appeared in Huffpost. Did you feel dirty afterward?
A little. Nothing that a hot shower and a glass of scotch couldn't fix.
Do you think you gave up acting because of your anxiety?
No, I gave up acting because it didn't feel like the contribution I wanted to be making to the world. I think the anxiety was a side effect of living a life that looked impressive on the outside, but made me feel like a fraud.
What do you hope people get from reading your book?
As I was writing it, I realized what I thought was just my strange life actually had all of these universal themes --everyone is trying to live authentically and figure out who we want to be when we grow up. Everyone feels like they are a little weird. People might want to take a path that is not what is expected of them. I just wanted people to know that they are not alone in that.
What are the simple but deeply true pleasures of your personal life that you might not have had/enjoyed without your early experiences in show business?
This is AMA is a pretty cool one.
I really like talking at schools about how to embrace your weird and be who you really are, regardless of what people think. I like talking about anxiety and panic attacks - because all of us who suffer from them tend to be scared to talk about it. So, since people see that I had something that might have seemed "perfect" and I took another path, they seem to believe me when I say it's more important to live truthfully than impressively.
I also met my husband because of a movie - he's a damn good left-over perk of that life.
What kind of books do you read, who's work do follow? Who inspires you?
I love David Sedaris, JD Salinger, Zadie Smith, Donna Tart, John Irving, Elizabeth Gilbert...
I've been obsessed with books since I was three, so I still think of writer as superheroes and characters as close friends.
If you could go back, or had the choice to begin with, would you have become a "child actor"?
I wouldn't change a thing. I had some really cool experiences and all of it brought me to this moment. I get to do an AMA and talk with you all - so it's seems pretty good to me.
They called you a hack when you were still young...? How old were you?
I'll be sure to check out your book, and thank you for answering my questions!
I was about 16 or 17. Thanks for asking questions and I hope you enjoy the book!
Did you always know writing was your passion or did you stumble upon it one day? What motivated you to leave your job, where I assume you were well off and comfortable, to pursue a dream that may or may not work out?
I always knew that I loved writing but I never thought it was something I could actually do. I was terrified of criticism and sharing my work. But I realized that I wouldn't be happy knowing I didn't at least give it a try. As for leaving LA, it was layered and complicated - thus, I wrote a book about it. But it got to the point where I was miserable being an actor, and it was time to change my life and try something new.
What was the greatest cliffhanger you've ever seen?
Hmmm. Tough question. But I recently got obsessed with Bloodline and at the end of every single episode I was dying to watch the next one.
1) How grueling can acting be? (I have a desk job that can get pretty boring and I think it would be fun to be an actor and travel around to different places, not be at a desk, be outside etc.)
2) Do you still keep in contact with any of your former cast members?
The travel is absolutely the best part of the job. I loved that. But it can be grueling. 18 hour days, 6 days a week. And yes, sometimes you are outside - when it's freezing and you have to pretend it's not and you get mild frostbite. Not saying it's better or worse than working in an office - but a job is a job.
And I keep in touch with some cast members, but not many. Our lives are pretty different now.
If you had to sum up the most important thing in life in one word what would you say and why?
Compassion for others, compassion for yourself. It just makes this whole complicated, messy life so much more manageable.
As a writer have you heard of Nanowrimo?
Yes! I have great respect for it and I have never ever attempted it.
Most embarrassing moment on a film set? (I love the stories you've been sharing today)
Thank you! Well, that kiss in Matinee was my first kiss - ever. I was 13, he was 16 and we didn't get along very well. That was fairly horrifying.
Read your AMA last year and have been following your blog ever since. You are a great writer with many interesting stories. Looking forward to pick up your book.
If you were going to make a mix tape of what music you have been listening to for the past year, what would your opening three songs be?
That's so nice - thank you! Great question.
Dr. Dog - Heart It Races
Nirvana - Come As You Are
The Stationary Set - WKNDS
Looking back on it now, is there anything that you regret including in your book or something you regret not including? Can't wait to read it.
Thank you. Great question.
God. I hope not.
I think I'm pretty okay with it as it is. But....now you've got me thinking.......
There seems to be a special kind of mind fuck that seems to happen to child stars. Any insights on this ?
I wish I had something pithy and insightful to say on this. I don't really. It's kind of a roller coaster of success and failure and that can take a toll. But I do think that child stars get a disproportionate amount of attention for their misbehavior. If the lady who works at the bank goes on a bender one weekend and crashes into a tree, it doesn't end up on the cover of anything.
What is your favorite ice cream?
So how is Grace doing?
She is right here under the desk and she is wonderful. Thank you for asking.
When is the last time you were recognized in public with the You Look Like That Girl line...and how did you respond....how often does it happen?
It happened probably a week or two ago. I wrote about the recognizing thing on my blog recently
It gets awkward if people aren't sure, because they keep starring and I don't want to be all "YOU MIGHT KNOW ME FROM SUCH FILMS AS...." because then I just seem like a jerk. I sometimes try to get away with the line "yeah, I get that a lot" and just tip toe away. The frequency depends on tv scheduling. We're coming up on July 4th, so ID4 will be on a lot. I'll be staying home a lot.
Upvote for VA. I'm an elem. teacher, will you come talk to my class?
I love talking at schools. Contact info is at http://youlooklikethatgirl.com/appearances-events/ - send me an email.
Will you be adding more book signing dates soon? I'd love you to come closer to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, but I'm tempted to drive up the 4 hrs for the Charlotte signing. Would love to meet you!
Thank you! I'm going to try to get more dates on the calendar. I'll keep http://youlooklikethatgirl.com/ up to date with the latest.
We were in the same math class for a short period of time back in high school. I was a new student and you showed up at or school a few months into the year. You were like a unicorn and I never had the courage to say hello. Then, soon after, you were gone. I've always felt bad, that I never reached out to a fellow human being who was in a similar situation.
So, "hello" 20 years too late.
I'm glad to see you're doing well and wish you continued success.
A question then, If you had a time machine, where and when would you go?
Wow! Hello. I always felt like a unicorn - how funny that others saw me that way, too. Thanks for reaching out now.
And if I had a time machine - I might go back to that math class and say hi so that we both felt a little less awkward and alone...
Wishing you all the best, too!
Pretty good. How about you?