Although she’s new to the small screen, Carly Jibson is not a novice when it comes to acting; she is most known for having played Tracy Turnblad in the first National Tour of Hairspray, and a few months later re-opening the Broadway version in New York City. She’s currently starring as “Tickles”/Vivian in season two of TBS’ hit comedy anthology show, The Guest Book.
I got the chance to talk with Carly about how she got into acting, the difference between doing Broadway and doing television, how Vivian is trying to be a “good girl” this season, why she was starstruck over Martha Plimpton and so much more! Keep reading to see what she had to say.
Tell me a little bit about how you got into acting.
I always had an interest in music. Both of my parents were rock and roll aficionados, so my brother and I spent a large part of our childhood seeing concerts and going to shows. Naturally, it was my 6-year-old life goal to be the lead singer of a rock and roll band. Unfortunately, there weren’t any openings for a 3-foot tall frontwoman, so I kind of organically fell into musical theater. It was the perfect way to meld my love of music and acting together and I was hooked. It wasn’t until my teenage years that I really started taking it seriously, or I should say that I really saw a potential to turn this hobby into a career. From that moment on, I got involved with anything and everything they’d let me chew the scenery in.
Was there a specific person or experience that you would credit with helping you decide that acting is what you wanted to do for a living?
I was very influenced by icons like Lucille Ball, and performances like Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolias or Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny. I was obsessed with SNL and the Chris Farleys and Molly Shannons of the world. I was enamored with comedic actors and studied and emulated every move they made. But it was moments like watching The Color Purple for the first time at 8-years-old and sobbing my eyes out, even though at the time I am sure that most of it went over my head, that changed me forever. I was obsessed with the evocation of it all. It wasn’t just about the escapism aspect, it was the realization of the impact that a performance could have; maybe it could change you, change the way you look at the world and hopefully, change the way you operate in the world as a result. I thought that was the most powerful and beautiful concept I’d ever seen and I wanted IN!
With that being said, I would have to say my biggest influence, supporter, and catalyst for it all, was my mother, Renee. She was the largest champion of not only my dreams but my individuality. She let me be exactly who I was without restriction or judgment and that was everything.
You started your career on Broadway and The Guest Book is your first television role. What has the transition been like from theater to television? Any unexpected challenges that have come up going between the two mediums?
I would have to say that theater gave me an incredible amount of discipline. It gave me a work ethic and overall respect for the art, which is truly an education you can’t put a price on. I found the transition quite seamless and I truly owe that to the extensive training I was given and I will always be grateful for my theater beginnings for that.
The thing that I love so much about the format of television is the fast-paced, ever-changing aspect of it all. You take a scene or a piece and you bust your ass and put everything you have into it and then it’s done, you leave it there and you move on. You are continuously given new material so you are constantly being challenged and I love that, it speaks to my sensibilities in every way.
Tell me about your audition process.
When I first read the script for the pilot, I was blown away. Being a huge fan of Greg’s already, I was very excited at the prospect of working with him. I thought the fact that it was a comedic anthology was so unique and fun. I also LOVED the idea of being a part of something that was breaking new ground on an up and coming network like TBS, that was foraying into original content, all lead by a twisted genius like Greg Garcia.
When I went in, I was wary. I was pretty new to the LA scene, and though I had several network tests under my belt, I had ZERO television credits on my actual resume. I was also going up against some incredibly formidable actresses that I not only adored, but respected, so it was intense. My goal was just to go in and do “my thing.” Sometimes you just have to be like a racehorse and shut it all out, put your blinders on and “run your own race.” I try to approach everything with that energy and this was no different. Greg creates such a relaxed environment in an audition room, so I felt pretty comfortable almost immediately (though I was secretly doing my best to keep my heart from jumping out of my ass the entire time.) I went back the next day for a callback, to which I was just grateful to be humored as an option, and then I got the call later that day that I would be testing for the role. The screen test is really a blur because it’s my own personal theory that I lapsed into an anxiety-driven “blackout” during the whole thing, but SOMEHOW I ended up getting a call the very next day, from Greg Garcia himself, that “she’s yours,” and my life hasn’t been the same since.
The show is so unique in that it’s an anthology comedy series. With that being said, where do we find ourselves in season 2?
After all of the shenanigans Season 1 leaves us with, Season 2 picks up with “Eddie” (Eddie Steeples) and my character, “Tickles”, or as she is now going by, “Vivian”, leaving the mountains for a “fresh, new start.” That is how we find ourselves at the beach this season where we meet a few new faces (Nikki, Tommy, and Bhodi.) Nikki and Tommy run a local diner and also rent out Tommy’s mother’s beach house which is how we find ourselves back in the familiar rental format of Season 1. This is what brings in all of our crazy and amazing guest stars and one of a kind hilarious stories that can truly only live in the mind of Greg.
In the vein of a “new start,” Tickles/Vivian is going to try to be a good girl this year. She is going to try a new approach and see how far that gets her. The real question is: how long is that going to last?
Let’s talk about your character, Vivian. What’s she like? Do you think she is similar or different, and in what ways, to the person that Carly is?
Tickles is just like everyone else and ultimately wants the same thing everyone in life does; she wants to be heard, she wants to be understood and she wants to be accepted. The problem lies within her approach to things. Her intentions are good, but her execution is shit, which oftentimes finds her in hot water. I think at her core, she is just a simple girl, looking for love, but she is too impulsive. She doesn’t tend to think things ALL the way through first and just reacts out of desire and instinct, which I can relate to a lot. I too have a tendency to be more of the school of “ask for forgiveness, not permission,” within reason, of course. [laughs]
The things I love about her the most is that she is tough, sassy and unapologetic. She doesn’t see boundaries or limitations on her dreams. She doesn’t allow the societal norms to dictate or quantify her worthiness. She doesn’t self-deprecate or internalize insecurity to the point that it keeps her from achieving her goals. She sees herself as an equal with everyone around her, in every way, and I just feel like we don’t see enough characters like this in television. I think that is the most personal aspect of me that I have tried to bring to this role.
Greg Garcia has done, and continues to do, such a phenomenal job with this show. Can you talk about what it’s like working with him?
I truly can’t speak highly enough about working with Greg. He is kind, patient, approachable, fun loving, easy going, brilliant, funny, warm and the best leader any show could wish for. I think a lot of his success is attributed to this unique demeanor. He has a very healthy outlook on all of it. “We’re not curing cancer here, we’re making a TV show.” It’s serious, yes, because people have put money behind it and we should all be doing our jobs and doing them well, sure, but it’s not that “deep.” There’s no need to freak out, or yell, or stress or treat someone badly. There are no egos on set. There is no tension. It’s just fun! And it should be, after all, we are, as Greg always says, “playing make-believe today, and people are paying us for it” so we should be able to find some joy in that!
You guys have had an incredible rotating cast of guest stars. Who were you the most “star-struck” by?
It’s funny, but I get “star struck” over the most RANDOM people. It isn’t necessarily equal to the level of their “status” as it is about what impact they have had in my life. I would have to say that person for me this year was Martha Plimpton. She is a part of that quintessential “young Hollywood,” in an era that I am probably the most fascinated by. The strip, rock and roll (see childhood), the incredible and iconic films that were being made at the time that she was a part of. She is like a time capsule of awesome and sometimes I would just stare at her on set and think, “Damn, the stories you must have, the things you must have seen.” I will never be able to see those people as “peers,” they will always be on a pedestal in my eyes.
And as it turned out, she was every bit as kick-ass as I hoped she’d be. She couldn’t have been kinder.
What can you tease about the rest of Season 2?
What I can tell you about Season 2 is JUST GET READY! It goes there, in every way! It has heart and soul and shock and awe and comedy and tragedy and silliness and surprises. I think people will be the most surprised with the heart and soul this year. People who watched Season 1 know how funny the show is, but this year really sneaks in those moments that can make even the most dead inside person feel their feels. It’s good!
Oh, and Tickles trying oh so hard to keep up that “good girl ruse,” inevitably weaves herself into a whole mess of trouble you do NOT WANT TO MISS!
I figured we could end with two more fun questions. Since The Guest Book is focused on these vacationers who come and visit these small touristy towns, what is the best vacation you’ve ever been on?
I went backpacking through Europe with my mother when I was 13 and it was the most cathartic and life-changing 3 weeks of my life. I think it was the most impactful because we really didn’t have much. I came from very humble beginnings but my mom really wanted to give this to me before I started high school. Before the crazy pangs of adolescence set in and I would become a proverbial nightmare. [laughs] Man, we saved and budgeted and used miles from people and sometimes stayed in the tiniest, sketchiest little places, but we were together, seeing the world, experiencing history and culture and doing this adventure all on our own. Two strong, independent females. It was magical and one of my favorite memories I have with her.
Last question — we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner-nerd so what is something you’re nerding out about?
This is going to sound so trite and I really don’t mean to sound this cheesy, but I’m truly nerding out about LIFE right now. Life can be so stressful as we obsess about money, success, “Am I good enough, am I doing it right, should I have said that, does this person respect me, am I going to be okay, should I spend that money, how much longer until my insurance runs out, what’s the president doing now, is the country falling apart, should I get an Apple watch,” shit like that. And I have just finally arrived at a place of gratitude and acceptance.
Now, I KNOW that sounds super “LA,” but hear me out! I just decided that instead of worrying about all of the things I can’t actually control like where my career is going to go, will someone hire me again, when I’m gonna die, etc. – I just take comfort in the knowledge that so far my life has been pretty amazing. Yes, there have been some dark parts, the loss of my mother being a big one. But truly, they’re all a part of what made me who I am – a strong, resilient, resourceful woman who never takes a single day for granted. I feel truly free and that might not be anything of “worth” to anyone else but to me it’s priceless.