Broomfield Actress Appears on Netflix’s ‘Grace and Frankie’ with Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin
“So I’m throwing a pineapple at Lily Tomlin,” said 15-year-old Broomfield actress Sarah Kay Jolly.
Her mom, Stacey Jolly, chimed in, setting the scene of two star-struck production assistants chatting on the “Grace and Frankie” set in Los Angeles.
″‘Just look at Sarah standing there with Lily and Jane (Fonda, the show’s other star) like it’s no big deal,‘” Stacey Jolly said, recounting the assistants’ conversation. “Then one of them said, ‘You know, she probably has no idea who they are.’”
Of course Sarah knows who they were, Stacey Jolly thought.
“For them to see Sarah walk in with such confidence and do a scene side-by-side with those two powerful women,” said Stacey Jolly, “it’s no wonder they thought it was unbelievable. That was a proud moment for me.”
At Amante Coffee on Baseline Road in Boulder for an interview, Sarah Kay Jolly’s confidence was evident. With her head held high and wrapped in a permanent smile, Jolly talked about appearing in two episodes of the Netflix show, playing the role of Young Teddie. Teddie (Talia Shire) is Frankie’s (Tomlin) estranged sister. Jolly acted in the flashback episodes, organically extending her character with her real-life dry humor and sardonic wit. “That’s how I talk to my siblings,” Jolly said, laughing.
At Amante, Stacey Jolly beamed with pride. She gazed at her daughter with love, trust and admiration. On the set, though, Sarah Kay Jolly said her mom was dazzled by the big-name actors.
“I did my scene with Jane and Lily and when I was walking back to my trailer my mom said, ‘Sarah, do you know who that is? That’s Martin Sheen. You should get a picture with him,’” Sarah Kay Jolly said. “And I was like, ‘Mom, that’s weird.’ I didn’t want to be invasive of his privacy while he’s on set. My mom was freaking out, it was funny.”
Jolly was cementing her lifelong goal of becoming an actress in the big leagues, having just wrapped filming with a handful of A-list actors. But, of course, Sarah Kay Jolly played it cool as usual, said her mom.
“That’s just Sarah, that’s who she is, she’s confident walking into a room,” said Stacey Jolly.
‘Famous Netflix actress’
Sarah Kay Jolly has appeared in print ads, commercials, independent films and television productions. Other than “that one time I cried when I saw Shawn Mendes in concert,” she doesn’t fawn over celebrities. “It’s probably annoying to get all star-struck, so I treat them like normal people,” she said.
Once at a charity bowling event she met a “high” Wiz Khalifa and “his squad” and asked for a picture with him — nonchalant, of course. “I just treat them like normal people, I think it’s more comfortable for them,” said Sarah Kay Jolly.
From star-studded parties to professional sets, it’s back to school on Monday mornings at Legacy High School in Broomfield, where Jolly is a freshman. She’s typically modest about her career — until a grade-school pal outed her métier in English class.
“I don’t usually tell people that I’m an actress, because I don’t want it to seem like I’m bragging,” said Jolly. During an about-me presentation when she told the class that she used to live in Los Angeles, her friend blurted out, “And why did you live in L.A., Sarah?”
“That’s kind of when everybody found out,” said Jolly, laughing. Now they jokingly call her the “famous Netflix actress.”
Many actors have been raised in showbiz — with some subsequently stumbling upon inappropriate decisions — and Jolly is very aware of being on her best behavior, especially under social media’s spotlight.
“It’s actually a lot of pressure,” said Jolly. “Teenagers make a lot of mistakes and bad choices. I’m not saying everyone is watching me, but when you have more eyes on you than average, that makes for a little more pressure to not disappoint the people that support and follow you, because they’ll see everything.”
Blame it on ‘Hannah Montana’
Sarah Kay Jolly “wanted to be Hannah Montana” when she was young. She’d always put on “really good shower concerts,” while Stacey Jolly would have to text from the next room telling her to quiet it down.
“She’d be wearing the full-on Hannah Montana clothing line, carrying around a karaoke microphone with her, singing everywhere in the house,” said Stacey Jolly. “That’s when I knew acting was in her blood.”
Jolly started in theater when she was 9, but she didn’t connect with it.
“I somehow convinced my mom to let me go into television and film acting,” Jolly said. By the time she was 10 years old, she was in acting bootcamp in Los Angeles and secured an agent.
Jolly and her mom split their time between Los Angeles and Broomfield, with Jolly completing online classses on the West Coast and sending self-tape auditions to casting directors when in Colorado.
Now that she’s in high school, this year at Legacy is her first full year of school since fourth grade, she said.
“I kind of forgot what real school is like,” said Jolly.
But she likes it, she said. She likes the structure and reuniting with childhood friends. She misses Los Angeles, though, a life full of auditions and sleeping in. But when she first arrived to California, it took some adapting.
“I didn’t know anyone besides my mom and grandma,” Jolly said. “It was isolating because I didn’t know how to make friends other than — this is so embarrassing — going up to other people in acting class and being like, ‘Hey, wanna be my friend?’ Having to make new friends when you’re that young is stressful.”
From the gas station wall
The Jollys were two hours into a drive to San Diego from Los Angeles when Sarah Kay Jolly’s agent told her about an opportunity on “Grace and Frankie.”
The audition was in an hour. They pulled over and recorded an audition on her phone “against the wall of a gas station,” Sarah Kay Jolly said, laughing.
“They booked it,” she said, beaming.
The show was renewed in February for a fifth season, but Jolly said she’s not sure if Young Teddie will return.
“I hope so, that would be really cool if they did more flashback scenes,” said Jolly. “At this point, I’m not expecting anything, but if I get a call with a script, I’ll be really happy.”
Jolly does her research before her auditions. She watched episodes of “Grace and Frankie” “to get the vibe,” and she likes to extend the characters she portrays as an extension of herself.
“I like playing roles that are super dry and have dark humor, because that’s my personality,” said Jolly. “I’ve been blessed with so many good roles where I can just be myself with a couple added quirks.”
Jolly’s roles have included some dark ones, including “a total creeper” in the 2014 independent film “Unredeemable.” She had no idea what the film was about, or the role she was playing until she saw it at the screening more than a year later.
“I was shocked,” said Jolly. “I was like, ‘I’m really creepy.’”
Stacey Jolly said she was comfortable with the process because the filmmakers directed the children how to act while protecting them the content. Plus, Stacey Jolly said, the team that looks out for Sarah, including her manager, is a mom with kids who grew up in the film industry.
“There were a couple roles in particular we passed on when she was younger because we weren’t comfortable with the material,” said Stacey Jolly, who reviews everything for appropriate content before they commit to an audition. “If we need to pass on a role, then we’ll pass on a role. We’ll only do what we’re comfortable with.”
Sarah Kay Jolly fully commits to her trade. She dove into a dark role portraying a foster care child in 2017′s “Emma Rae,” which was just accepted in the Short Film Corner of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, said Stacey Jolly, who is a child protection attorney.
“The material was really along the lines of what Sarah likes to do. It was very, very dark,” said Stacey Jolly. “It was interesting watching her get into character. It was filmed over the course of three days and when she got into character, she stayed in that dark place for days.”
Stacey Jolly, an executive producer on the film, said there were some hard-to-watch scenes — yet the professional transformation she saw in her daughter moving into the title role character was astounding.
“I was in the production room where I could watch her on screen,” said Stacey Jolly. “She was doing her scene and it was such dark material — it’s about abuse and sexual abuse. She was being held down on the bed, screaming while a guy is holding her arms back. Just watching how powerful and vested she was in the character, I welled up with tears watching it. It was so real.”
And even though it was “hard to snap back into happy,” said Sarah Kay Jolly, she wants to connect to her characters. If it takes three days of being in a dark mindset, so be it.
Sarah Kay Jolly is also involved in youth empowerment and charity work. She was inspired after hearing “awful” stories from her mother’s work. She’s also moved by actor Shailene Woodley’s activist work .
“She stands up for what she believes in,” said Sarah Kay Jolly. “That’s what I want people to see about me. I want to do something important to positively impact the world and help use my voice for change.”
Jolly said that one day she’d like to move to Los Angeles, a place that she says gets a bad rap.
“L.A. is a lot different than people make it out to be,” said Jolly. “They say Hollywood is so fake, but it’s really not like that. There’s no judgement and everyone moves there from all around the world, so everyone is different. They’re not carbon copies of each other, like in high school.”
At least California has mountains, too.
“Well, they’re more like hills,” she said.
A Colorado girl at heart.
Christy Fantz: 303-473-1107, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/fantzypants