Actress Jade Harlow is best known to soap opera fans from her run as Jessica Bennett on the NBC series PASSIONS. She's also appeared on 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN as well as films such as Old Man Music and Prey 4 Me. She has now been cast in the upcoming indie soap REALITY BYTES from Tristan Rogers and Kate Lang. Harlow recently spoke with We Love Soaps about her life, career and her entry into the world of web series.
We Love Soaps: Can you tell us a little about your background? Where did you grow up?
Jade Harlow: I was born in Vegas and I did half my growing up there. Right in the middle of adolescence my mom and I moved out to Orange County, in Laguna actually, and lived there a couple of years before L.A.
We Love Soaps: As a kid did you want to be an actress?
Jade Harlow: I never, ever wanted to be anything else. I never considered anything else. Never.
We Love Soaps: Did you start doing school plays early on?
Jade Harlow: This is embarrassing, but my mom tried to get me into pageants as a kid. I liked the whole performing aspect of it. I had a regular childhood, then about seven or eight years old I started getting heavily involved in the plays going on at the recreational facility in my community. That progressed into junior high plays and then I actually auditioned for a magnet school, kind of like FAME. It was a performing arts high school, and I got in as a theater major.
We Love Soaps: When you did PASSIONS, were you still in high school?
Jade Harlow: I was high school age. The performing arts high school I went to didn't allow their students to take a day off to go to a proper audition for anything. Because of that, my mom and I decided to try home schooling. She said, "Do you think you can take it seriously?" And I said yes. I was a straight-A student. That's when we moved to Orange County. Not long after I got PASSIONS. I was 16.
We Love Soaps: What was that like being on a soap at that age? You also got 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN around the same time?
Jade Harlow: 3RD ROCK was the first thing I'd ever booked. About three weeks after shooting it, I got the audition for PASSIONS. The breakdown said, "Has not yet discovered boys and make-up." So 16-year-old me went to the audition and thought, "Oh, she must be a bit of a tomboy, a late bloomer." I went in a pony tail and a baseball shirt. Everybody in the lobby had pantyhose and dresses on. I went in an auditioned and they called me back. They said, "Next time when you come in, try to look a little more feminine." So I did and screen-tested, got the call [I had landed the job] and I was absolutely shocked.
We Love Soaps: What was your favorite part of working on PASSIONS?
Jade Harlow: With that show, there was so much variety in the storylines. My character really didn't do a whole lot of the normal stuff. She was more involved in houses getting sunk into hell, and we did a takeoff of pretty much every horror movie from Amityville to The Exorcist to Poltergeist. I'm a huge horror fan and a huge fan of DARK SHADOWS so being able to do all the gory, scary, slimey, green screen kind of stuff was neat. You don't walk onto a soap opera and think, "Today I'm going to be covered in slime and work with a green screen."
We Love Soaps: Johnny Depp and Tim Burton are working on a Dark Shadows movie.
Jade Harlow: I know! I heard they bought the rights. Let's see [Depp] be Barnabas Collins.
We Love Soaps: That's the movie for you. You should try out for that one.
Jade Harlow: I would love to. My mom made me watch the series when I was six or seven. She said if you like vampire stuff, check this out. They've tried to resurrect that series several times. It won't ever die. I think in the hands of Tim Burton it's very safe. I love that fans like Johnny Depp and Tim Burton have come into possession of Dark Shadows. You have to be a fan and appreciate it if you're going to live up to what it is. I look at things like TRUE BLOOD and VAMPIRE DIARIES and think if you brought back the series in a different way and put an edge on it, maybe in a BUFFY scary kind of way, everybody would eat that up. There's nothing cooler right now that being a vampire.
We Love Soaps: You acted in a movie called Old Man Music and were listed as the producer as well. Do you have an interest in doing more behind the scenes work?
Jade Harlow: I went in an auditioned and got the part and we were all ready to shoot it and then part of the budget fell through. At the time, working on PASSIONS, I had a production company, so I said, "What do you need? I'll do it." It was the best learning experience I ever had. It does a lot for you as an actor to learn you play a part [in the production], but by no means the biggest part. Everybody but the actor is there months ahead of time and months after. They get there early before you in the day. It helps you gain perspective. A lot of actors tend to think they are the sun and everything orbits around them. If you've been on the producing end of anything, you learn very quickly to humble that narcissism and really gain perspective and respect for all the positions it takes to make a production.
We Love Soaps: Now you've been cast on REALITY BYTES as Victoria Radcliffe. Did you know Tristan Rogers before this?
Jade Harlow: I knew Robert Scorpio's character. My mom had a huge crush on that character when I was growing up. My manager called me and said he wanted me to meet Tristan Rogers. I got the script and it was different than a lot of the other pilots in general that I had been reading over this past season. I got real excited to go in. The meeting was unlike any meeting. It was a giant conference table, which was a bit intimidating, but [Tristan] was very personable, a very smart man.
We Love Soaps: Have you done a web series before?
Jade Harlow: No.
We Love Soaps: What do you know about Victoria?
Jade Harlow: I don't want to divulge too much. I want it to be a surprise. What I can tell you is that she's like [Tristan's character] Trevor's Girl Friday. I think Victoria sees him as, I wouldn't say father figure, but a male figure whose opinion she respects and whose validation means a lot to her. It's Soapdish meets ENTOURAGE. I really like it.
There were times on PASSIONS where I would look at some of my castmates and we were always hanging out together, and I thought, "My God, this is way more exciting than what's being written right now on our show." Everybody has felt that way while working on these serials. The dirty laundry will be aired for everyone to see, but under false characters. It doesn't make the stories any less true. Over the course of when soaps have been on television, any and every scenario of human interaction has gone on behind the scenes. The audience just doesn't get to see it.
We Love Soaps: People will probably be trying to guess if any of this is based on real people.
Jade Harlow: No names! We need them to keep giving us ammunition.
We Love Soaps: The show is going to shoot in Florida. Have you spent time there before?
Jade Harlow: Not much. But I'm thrilled to be going on location. In all the productions I've worked on in L.A., I've always gone home at the end of the day. But to be plucked from your comfort zone, I think that is only going to make it a richer production. I'm excited to make my REALITY BYTES family my family when we're shooting.
We Love Soaps: Where would like to see your career go? Do you want to work on big budget films? Television? Is there something in particular you want to focus on?
Jade Harlow: My agent might kill me, but I don't think in terms of doing big budget movies, low budget movies, or low budget shows or big budget shows. Whatever it is I'm doing, I just want it to be pertinent and compelling. If that's in the medium of big budget film, or indepent film or television, it doesn't matter as long as I've got meat, and I'm not hungry for a compelling story and have a character that's tangible and real and human. We all screw up. None of us are perfect and I love that about us and I celebrate that. Any and every opportunity to get in touch with every aspect of yourself as a human and touch other people in what they go through, and to have that sense of camaraderie amongst strangers - in the sense of a shared experience from an actor's perspective or someone that's gone through it - I want to be involved in that. I want to be involved in something compelling that touches other people and I don't care what medium it's in. To me, I will starve if you don't give me meat, I don't care what the budget is.
We Love Soaps: Would you have any interest in something like a Broadway show?
Jade Harlow: I'm in love with Chicago. I can't watch that movie and not want to put on a pair of high heels and stomp around and sing. I can sing, but I'm a bit shy doing it in front of a large group of people. I wouldn't be disinterested, but I'd have to be a lot more courageous than I am now to dive into that.
We Love Soaps: When you're not acting, what do you like to do?
Jade Harlow: I'm a ferocious reader. I read constantly. I used to buy books but my collection has gotten so big. I go through books so quickly I now check out four or five at a time at my library and that usually lasts me a week or two. I also watch a lot of movies. I just love human stories - truth, fiction, it doesn't really matter. The more tangible to me, the more I enjoy it.