When the 14-year-old actress picked up the phone and heard a voice saying she got the part, it was surreal — she couldn’t believe she had achieved her dream of performing as a permanent cast member in a TV series.
Vernon-born Lilah Fitzgerald recently finished filming in Maple Ridge for a new series, Date My Dad, which premiered June 2.
“It’s been amazing. It’s always been my dream,” Fitzgerald says. “When I found out I got the part, it was just incredible. It didn’t feel real.”
Fitzgerald plays 12-year-old Elisa Cooper in the series — one of Ricky Cooper’s (Barry Watson) three daughters.
The 10 episode drama-comedy series from UP TV (Heartland, Gilmore Girls) follows former baseball star and single dad Ricky Cooper’s struggle to raise his family while they attempt to push him back into the dating game.
Now that filming is over, Fitzgerald and her TV sisters Audrey Smallman and Zenia Marshall get together in their Lower Mainland homes to watch the episodes and live tweet, all while being hopeful for a second season.
“They already feel like sisters,” Fitzgerald says. “Being together all day every day brought us close together.”
And it’s an experience Fitzgerald loved.
“They can keep me up to 10 hours because I’m a minor, but honestly, I’d rather stay all night,” Fitzgerald says of filming days.
“We started at different times every day. They would pick me up and we’d drive to the set.”
After arriving on set, Fitzgerald would prepare her makeup and clothes for the shoot before going on set and blocking — where actors run through a scene without cameras. Afterwards, they would break to double check the script, but Fitzgerald was always prepared.
“I tried to be about a week ahead,” she says.
They would then film from one angle, and another, and another, until the scene was complete.
“It doesn’t feel like work,” Fitzgerald says. “To me, it feels like play.”
With the long days dedicated to Date My Dad, Fitzgerald had to take her vacation from school early.
“I’m actually homeschooled, so I can take my vacation whenever I want,” she says.
But it was worth it, she says, as acting has always been a part of her life.
Fitzgerald’s acting roots began at the age of seven in Charity Van Gameren’s Center Stage Performing Arts Academy.
“I’ve always loved to play games, and when I found out it was real people, (I knew),” Fitzgerald says.
And it’s an accomplishment that has made her mother proud.
“I think surreal is the word,” Angela Fitzgerald says. “My first surreal moment was at the LEO Awards. When she won that, it was a surreal moment, like, ‘Wow. She’s actually doing it.’ To have that group of professionals recognize her, I was so grateful.”
Lilah was nominated for her role as Polka Dot in UP TV’s A Girl’s Best Friend, winning a LEO Award for Best Lead Performance of a Female in an MOW over professional actresses.
“I think I’m grateful too,” Angela says. “There are lots of talented people not able to work at Lilah’s level. I know there are lots that want to.”
But Lilah doesn’t plan on stopping at one award.
“Someday, I plan on winning an Oscar,” Lilah says. “I would also love to be on Broadway.”
Lilah only has to work on her singing, she says, to follow in the footsteps of her triple-threat idols Audrey Hepburn and Meryl Streep.
And when she isn’t acting or reading, Lilah practises her ballet in hopes of becoming a professional dancer. She likes ballet just as much as she likes acting, but for now, acting is Lilah’s field.
“It’s been incredible and a dream come true.”