Jay Jerrier, the man behind Cane Rosso, is now one of those intolerable stage parents who takes his 12-year-old daughter out of school and forces her to take voice lessons and go to auditions and get collagen injections in her lips. I’m kidding! Jay is a sweetheart and his daughter Ella sounds like a great kid. She stars in a new Lifetime movie called Terror in the Woods that will air October 14. It is inspired by the strange Wisconsin case where two 12-year-olds, Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, tricked a classmate into venturing into some woods, where she was stabbed 19 times to appease the Slender Man, an internet meme. Ella plays the character based on Weier.
Yesterday I got Jay and Ella on the phone as they’d just left an acting class in LA and were driving to Santa Barbara. Ella and I talked about her budding career in movies. But first I had to get past Jay.
Tim: Is this Ella? Or is it Jay?
Jay: Hold for Ella. Go for Ella. Hey, Tim.
Tim: How are you, man?
Jay: We’re in the car. We just finished up in Burbank and are making our way to Santa Barbara for the day.
Tim: How insulting is it that when you answered the phone, I thought it was your 12-year-old daughter?
Jay: I know, right? I didn’t wanna turn her loose directly on you. You’re not ready for that. She’s here. Go for Ella.
Tim: Okay. Hi, Ella. How are you?
Ella: Hi, I’m good!
Tim: What are you coming from? What did you just do?
Ella: I just finished an acting private here in Burbank with Cody Linley. I work on my scripts and auditions that I have and sometimes writing that we’re working on.
Tim: So this Lifetime movie isn’t just a one-time deal.
Ella: Oh, no. I spent the month up here auditioning, training, working, building my West Coast team.
Tim: How did this all start?
Ella: I’ve always been a performer, dancing, and I just didn’t see myself doing anything else but this, so I’ve always just wanted to be onstage.
Tim: Were you at Greenhill? How are you handling being away from Dallas and all your school responsibilities?
Ella: Well, I was at Greenhill until third grade, and I went to Parish for one and a half years, and then I booked the movie, and so I decided to homeschool. And now I’m at an amazing school in Farmers Branch called Studio 7. It’s an art school, and it has been one of the best experiences for me. I’m able to do my homeschooling while I’m here in LA, so it’s very easy to balance. I came out to LA for these five weeks, for the episodic season, and hopefully I’ll get to come back out for pilot season. But nowadays you’re allowed to self-tape for most auditions. So there are only some seasons where you actually need to be here in LA.
Tim: You’re 12 now, but when did you film Terror in the Woods?
Ella: I booked the movie when I was 11, then I ended up — my birthday was on one of the shoot days, and so I was on the set for my birthday. And so was the other star of the movie, Sophie Grace. We both had our birthdays in the same week. So they actually threw us a surprise birthday party on set.
Tim: All I really know about the Slender Man is that horror movie that came out earlier this summer. I know it’s kind of based roughly on real life events, but I just look at all this stuff and go, your dad must be horrible to let you even act in a movie like this. You’re too young to be fiddling around with this.
Ella: It’s very interesting, though. For this movie, they’re doing it from a different point of view that hasn’t been seen before. It’s focusing on mental health and the dangers of the Internet in today’s world.
Tim: Does Terror in the Woods follow the actual case of what happened in Wisconsin pretty closely?
Ella: Originally, it was based very closely on what happened. As the movie went on, it tended to go away from the real-life events.
Tim: How much did you read about and study the actual case and what happened?
Ella: I did hours and hours and hours of research. There was an HBO documentary, online, and reading news stories. I actually hate scary things. But it was actually very interesting to me, seeing all this. As an actor, when you have any script or audition, you have to do a lot of research because if you don’t understand your character, then you can’t play it.
Tim: The movie’s going to air on the 14th. Is that right?
Ella: Yes. It’s going to air on October 14 on Lifetime at 7 PM. We’re doing a big premiere at Studio Movie Grill in Dallas. My family and friends are all coming to watch it, so this is the first time that we’re going to get to see it, too.
Tim: How weird is that going to be for you? This will be the first time that you’ll have seen yourself on a big screen like that, I imagine, right?
Ella: Yeah, and it’s kind of crazy that we have no idea what it looks like. Because even though we’re in the scenes, the way the camera takes things, it’s so different than it could actually feel like. So it’s a first for us watching in the audience. Who knows what made the cut and what didn’t? So we’re sitting on the edge of our seats, too.
Tim: Your older sister Emma and you both got pizzas named after you at Cane Rosso. Is there any kind of rivalry there about whose pizza is better?
Ella: My dad already said that he likes mine better. But everyone in our family actually has a pizza. Me, my sister, my mom is actually Special K. Even my nanny has her own pizza.
Tim: Well, listen, Ella, maybe if I can strong-arm your dad into giving me a seat, I’ll come watch the movie with you.
Ella: Yes, of course.
Tim: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me.
Ella: Of course. Thank you so much
Tim: OK. Bye, Ella.