Canadian native Jessica Tyler is best-known for portraying Jenna Middleton on Teen Nick’s hit drama Degrassi. Talk Nerdy With Us had the pleasure of chatting with Jessica about what’s next, now that Degrassi has ended.
Read our interview below. We discuss music, college and The Hills.
How old were you when you decided that you wanted to pursue an acting or singing career?
“I signed with my agent when I was 11 years old, but I feel like I was probably a little younger than that when I decided I wanted to get into the industry. I was always one of those kids that was making plays in the basement, and directing my friends in them. I started playing music pretty young too. But yeah, around 11 I would say.”
What was one of the plays that you directed as a child?
“I was obsessed with Cats. (laughs). It’s still one of my favorite plays, and my sister put together a bunch of uniforms for us and did our makeup. My dad’s a musician as well, so he helped me with some of the sound. He put a bunch of speakers and production into it. It was pretty cute.”
Let’s talk about Degrassi. What was your audition process like for Jenna?
“My audition process was a little bit different I think than the average process because I originally had reached out to some people that work with Degrassi in regards to my music. I was looking for some advice on that home front, and some connections to hopefully be made. What came of all of that is that they were auditioning for some new characters for the show, and they knew that I had an acting background so they thought, “Why not?” It could only help the process.
When I went in to audition, it was a little different because it was more expected as opposed to just this random phone call that I got. I don’t know if that made it easier or it made it worse, but my nerves were out of control all day. (laughs).
The whole thing was very exciting and nerve wracking. There’s anticipation, you don’t know what’s going to happen, but I do remember when I found out that I got the role, I was in New York, so it was lots of fun. That was a good night.”
What did you do when you found out that you got the role?
“We were out for dinner, so we had a big celebration for it. It was pretty cool. It’s not everyday that you get to hear that you got a role on a TV show that’s very successful like Degrassi is. It was definitely just a big celebration, and I was in public so I guess I had to try to keep myself together.”
Did you watch Degrassi growing up?
“I watched, I think it was season seven, where Darcy’s character had a couple big story lines. I’m not sure. I loved Darcy’s character. I don’t know how often I would watch it, but my best friend was a big fan. I knew about it because of her, and then obviously once we found out I was on the show, I started watching it a little more to see what it’s all about.”
What shows did you watch religiously growing up?
“Oh boy. Let me think. I was that typical little girl that would watch any kind of Disney thing, like Hannah Montana. Camp Rock was one of my fave movies. I don’t know. I guess I just kind of watched what all my friends watched. I did watch, Boy Meets World, those sort of ones.”
Do you watch Girl Meets World now?
“No, I can’t get into it. I think it’s a little more targeted for a younger audience. That’s what I hear. Boy Meets World was my thing, but I also totally was obsessed with The Hills now that I think about it. Loved The Hills, but I was really young.”
Would you ever be on a reality show?
“Totally. (laughs). I totally would. I think because I know what I would be getting into. I wouldn’t play down with the whole situation. I think I know, as much as we call them reality shows, I know that there’s a little more behind it than the audience thinks. But yeah sure, why not? I think it would be kind of fun.”
Who is your biggest celebrity crush?
“My biggest celebrity crush is Brody Jenner. I’ve always had such a thing for him because I always loved watching The Hills.”
What was the first scene that you filmed for Degrassi?
“The very first scene that I filmed for Degrassi, I was actually playing guitar in the scene. I was thrown into a whole situation that I wasn’t really used to. I had done some acting work prior to Degrassi, but nothing like Degrassi. It was just small Disney commercials and that kind of stuff. I was playing guitar in the cafeteria, and I guess Alli and Clare were kind of grilling me as the new girl. That was my first scene, and I was so nervous. (laughs).
I think I was just, maybe nervous was the wrong word. I think I was just so excited and I guess it worked for my character because she was supposed to be over excited. Jenna was one of those kind of girls. But I just remember at the time, I just couldn’t wait for them to yell action. I just couldn’t wait to get started.”
Did you write every song Jenna sang? Were they all your personal songs?
“Yes. With the exception of I want to say … two or three. For the most part every song that Jenna sang was one that I wrote myself. Which was awesome. I was super happy with that.”
Tell us a bit about your writing process.
“I guess when it came to writing for Jenna, the writers would approach me and see if I had a song that would fit the scene, or if I could take one of the songs that I had and kind of mold it to the scene. I would work with them on that, but for the most part I already had some of the songs written just from the past, or I would be in the process of writing a new song.
For me, I start with a melody. I’ll start on the guitar, and I’ll be playing, and then lyrics will come to me after. I like to work for awhile on the lyrics because for me, when I listen to songs, what I listen to most is what they’re saying. I want to make sure that it all makes sense, that it’s reaching out, and that all can understand it or relate to it.”
Is Jenna’s style of music your style?
“Yeah. Jenna was boy crazy and liked to write about love, and then she would be sad, and she’s happy. I write about love, I write about how boys break my heart or make it feel amazing. We definitely have some similarities, that’s for sure.”
Do you have plans to release your own EP or LP?
“I would love to one day, hopefully. I’ll leave it at that.”
How long have you been playing guitar?
“Probably since I was maybe 12 or so, maybe older, 14? I tried to learn it when I was younger. I took classes, but I hated it. I couldn’t stand the class. I don’t why. I wasn’t getting it, and then a couple years after that, I just had my dad sit me down and teach me some chords. Then I kind of just fooled around and taught myself a little bit. Which was a lot more fun for me.”
Do you teach any of your friends, or is it strictly your own thing?
“I think I’d be a terrible teacher. My friends would ask and I’d be like, “Yeah, for sure. I’ll show you some chords.” But that’s pretty much for me how I learned. I just kind of got showed a couple chords, and then I picked it up. So they’ll either pick it up or they won’t.”
If Degrassi had done yearbook quotes, what would Jenna’s had been?
“A yearbook quote from Jenna … oh boy. So much happened, poor babies. Probably something about everything happens for a reason and Degrassi taught me to keep your head up when things get really bad. Probably something cheesy because Jenna’s super cheesy.”
In what ways are you completely different than Jenna?
“We have a lot of similarities. We’re both very bubbly, and sometimes one step behind the conversation, but I think at the end of the day for me, I would like to think that I would make my decisions a little differently. Maybe think about things a little more. Jenna sometimes dives in head first, which is great. I get like that sometimes, but it is the real world, and in the real world there’s a lot more on the line.”
Did you take anything home with you from the set?
“Yes. We all got a letter from the front steps. It says Degrassi School, or whatever up there, so we all got to take home one of those letters. I got all my friends on the show to sign it. It looks like I died. There’s a shrine in my basement of all the stuff from Degrassi. (laughs). I have a Degrassi scarf, I have a bunch of my wardrobe here that I wear sometimes on a daily, lots of stuff like that.”
Which letter did you take?
“I have an I. It was kind of just a take what you can get. Everyone probably wanted the D, but I got the I.”
How long ago did you actually end filming?
“Oh man. I guess maybe almost two years ago, maybe a year and a half ago?”
“Yeah. Maybe just a year ago. That’s the thing, even what just aired now, the graduation that aired, we filmed a year ago. It seems like so much longer sometimes. (laughs). We filmed that last June.”
What have you been up to since?
“I’m actually going back to school! I’m looking forward to it. Once Degrassi finished, me and Melinda and Luke and Lyle kind of ran away and grew up. We did some traveling to Europe for a bit, and then I went to Belize with my best friend, which was also amazing. But eventually I had to come home, so I’m going back to school. I’m taking public relations, and I’m starting to audition again, and hopefully I’ll get back into the industry because I do have such a passion for it.”
A lot of people want to know personally as Jessica, were you team K.C. or team Conner?
“Team K.C. Only because there was so much more history there. I think people like team Conner because he was so good to Jenna, and they were very happy, and they made each other laugh. However, I think at the end of the day she had so much history with K.C., her heart will always be there.
Conner and Jenna were the only couple that never actually broke up. They just stayed together.
“I know. Because I feel like they were just friends, they just hung out, they just ended up liking each other. But they got off on such a good friendly basis that it worked out. I thought we were so random, but it was cute.”
Our website is “Talk Nerdy With Us,” so do you have anything that you’re into that makes you a little bit nerdy?
“Editing photos, or finding good sales. (laughs). I don’t know. When it comes to editing, my friends will always send me their pictures and say, “Can you edit this for me?” Because I have so many different apps for filters and that kind of stuff. I feel like I have all these sort of ways of getting the brightness up or whatever it may be that they just can’t figure out on their own. I don’t know why. Then I’ll always be like, “Oh yeah, I went shopping and I found this on sale”, and my friends are forever saying that I’m just so good at finding sales. That kind of stuff.”
Place to visit? “New York or Miami.”
Charity? “Free the children.”
Avril Lavigne song? “I don’t even know where to start. (laughs) Recently I just started listening to her second album again. Probably either He Wasn’t, or My Happy Ending. Both are so well done. They’re such good songs. I’m obsessed with Avril Lavigne. I had a small obsession with her when I was younger.
Concert you’ve been to? “Probably an Avril Lavigne concert just because I was such a huge fan. I did go to Madonna with my publicist Ian and my producer at the time, and that was amazing.”
Piece of clothing that you own? “These jeans that I have from Abercrombie that just fit me like a glove. They’re just a good pair of jeans. I love them. My friends always ask to borrow them, and I just say no. (laughs).”
Photo shoot that you’ve been a part of? “The most recent one that I did with my friend Lane Dorsey. He’s a good friend of all of ours on Degrassi, and he does amazing work. I just jumped in his pool, and he took a bunch of photos, and they turned out great. He made me look awesome!”
Degrassi moment? “In regards to a scene that I’ve done. Jenna went through a phase where she was in love with Sav and I got to work with Raymond a lot on set. That was so much fun because he’s so much fun, and we had this kiss that we did backstage. I forget what it was for. I guess it would have been for a play or something that was going on, and it was so much fun to film. It was so funny. He’s just hilarious, and Stefan was directing, and he’s definitely one of my favorites.”
Phone case? “My friend has one that has pineapples all over it. It’s adorable, and I keep wanting to get it. Or just a nice clear one because my iPhone has gold on it, and it makes me feel like I’m so cool. I just want to show that off.”
Holiday? “I guess the standard is Christmas. I love Christmas because it’s close to my birthday, but Easter’s always good because there’s so much chocolate involved. (laughs).”
Season? “As much as I love, love, love summer, fall is just so lovely. It’s nice you can pretty much wear leggings and a huge sweater all the time and look trendy. Everyone wants to wear that all the time. It’s so comfortable. I love fall. Fall’s great. It’s like jean jackets. It’s pumpkin stuff. I love it. It’s so pretty. Everyone looks great in fall. Summer, you’re sweating, wearing something that’s too small for you. It’s fine. I love it because I love tanning. I’m a sun worshiper, but definitely fall.”
Emoji? “The girl with the blonde hair that’s kind of raising her hand. I use it often as I can. (laughs).”
Disney princess? “Cinderella, or Tangled. I know that’s kind of recent, but I have a little sister so I’m all with it, I like to think, and Tangled is a great movie.”
Quote? “I really do want to try to believe that everything happens for a reason. I resort back to that when a lot of things go wrong, or when things go right. Fortunately nothing so traumatic has happened to me where I’ve had to question that. I know a lot of people go through different things, but for now I just really try to believe that you are where you are for a reason. You ended up here for a reason. Everything is a lesson, you learn from it all, so everything happens for a reason.”
App? “I have VSCO Cam. It’s so good. Someone showed it to me, and I just love it. They have such good filters on there. I love Instagram, but I also just downloaded this app for guitar where you can look up any song and it will show you all the chords, which is lovely!”
Store? “I love Aritzia because They have either stuff to chill or stuff to get dressed up and go out in for nights. Their clothes fit me really well, which is nice because I find, not that I’m getting older, but the older you get, every single store fits you so differently. It’s so weird. I love Aritzia. Most of my closet is Aritzia.”