Getting to Know Actress Lily Brooks, Star of “Life with Ella”


October 6, 2022

The House Magazine

Lily Brooks, photographed by Kevin Scanlon.

Written by: Gabriella Wright 

Originally from Memphis and now LA-based, actress and singer Lily Brooks is making waves as a young, rising star in Hollywood. Her recent portrayal of a teen cancer survivor in the Apple TV+ series, “Life by Ella”, is a touching comedy about overcoming adversity and learning to live to the fullest. Her experience on the show has inspired and provided meaningful opportunities where Brooks is making a remarkable impact via her advocacy for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Brooks landed her first role at age 9, touring with “Matilda the Musical”. Since then, she has played roles in the independent film, “Shark Lake” and the Netflix series, “The Big Show”. AfterLife by Ella” premiered earlier this month, we had the pleasure of chatting with this award-winning actress to learn more about her and her latest role. 

How did you approach your role as Ella? What connections did you have with the character? Did you face any challenges?

While I was preparing for the role of Ella, I had the honor of talking to a few of my childhood friends who were treated at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I was able to learn from them and take pieces of their experiences to put into my character. I am a St. Jude youth ambassador as well and I know some of the amazing things that St. Jude does for children and teens battling cancer. Another thing I did to prepare for my role was cutting my hair. Cutting my hair was incredibly scary, but worth it because I felt more connected to my character on a deeper level. I also learned a lot from playing Ella. Ella is not afraid of anything because she has been given a second chance at life that not everyone gets, so she is not going to let anything stand in the way of her living life to the fullest. Ella’s mindset on life has taught me to always be myself no matter what. You only have one chance at life, so why waste it not being your authentic self? 

Is there anything you miss about the theater? Would you perform on Broadway again, or do you prefer film?

I love theater! One of my favorite things about theater and something I miss about it  is that you never know what might happen. I have trained in improv since I was 8 years old, and I love coming up with things on the spot and having to always be ready for anything. In theater, you always have to be ready for anything – a set piece could be broken, a prop could be missing, or an actor could miss their cue to be on stage. In theater, you have to be ready to take on anything coming your way. I would love to do a Broadway show again someday, but I also love TV & film. 

Lily Brooks, photographed by Kevin Scanlon.

What do you consider your greatest strength?

I would say that my greatest strength is how determined I am. If I set my mind to something and I want it, I will get it done no matter what. When I was auditioning for Matilda, I was rejected so many times and was told that I wasn’t right for the role because I was too young, but I didn’t let that stop me from continuing to come to every audition they held. Matilda was my dream role, and I wasn’t going to let anything get in my way of achieving that dream. I kept going and kept going until I finally booked the role. I think that determination is something that I have in common with my character, Ella, in “Life By Ella”. After battling cancer, Ella never backs down. If she sets her mind to something, she is going to get it done.

How is Memphis different from LA? What do you like most about each?

Memphis and LA have their similarities, and they most definitely have their differences. I think I was always meant to be a California girl. I LOVE living near the beach, I love the weather in LA, and most of all, I love that I can do what I love every day living in LA. There are things that I love about Memphis – I miss my amazing friends and family who live in Memphis. They have always been so supportive of me and my career, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. Memphis has an incredible theater community that taught me so much early on. I was able to do back-to-back shows from ages 6-8 because Memphis has so many theater opportunities for kids. 

How do you see your work in “Life by Ella” building off your previous roles? 

I am so lucky to have played so many different types of characters – from Matilda who was abused but determined, to Mandy Wight who was driven, quirky & goal-oriented, to a character I played named ‘Marina’ who was dying in an independent film. What I have enjoyed most is that each character has taught me something not only about life but also about myself. All of these experiences have made me a better actress, and I am so grateful that I was able to bring those experiences into playing “Ella”.

What are some of your favorite TV shows, and why?

Some of my absolute favorite TV shows of all time are “Gilmore Girls”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Emily in Paris”, and “How to Get Away with Murder”. My number one favorite will always be “Gilmore Girls” though. “Gilmore Girls” is always my go-to TV show. My mom and I started watching it together while I was on tour with Matilda and from that moment on, it has been my absolute favorite TV show. One of my favorite actors is Lauren Graham. She plays the main character in “Gilmore Girls”, and her comedic timing is something I learn from every time I watch the show. 

Lily Brooks, photographed by Kevin Scanlon.

Can you talk a little about your advocacy for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital? What does it mean to you, and how did it impact your portrayal of Ella?

I feel so lucky to serve as a youth ambassador for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, where St Jude’s is based, and since I was about 4 or 5 years old, I have been walking in the St Jude Walk/Run and raising money for St Jude. As soon as my platform on social media began to grow, I knew that I wanted to do something important and meaningful with my voice. I started Team Young Hollywood in Feb. 2020 & together we have raised over $50,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital so they can find cures and save lives.

How do you envision your future? What are the next steps in your career? 

My biggest goals for my career are to start a production company and tell the stories of amazing and strong female characters. I also really want to become a director. I have been incredibly lucky to have worked with so many amazing female directors (over 25 actually) throughout my acting career, and I have learned so much from each director I have worked with. 

What would be your best advice to other young people in the industry?

The biggest piece of advice that I could give to any aspiring young actor is to never give up. This industry can be very emotionally exhausting, especially because of the amount of rejection that you experience. The best thing to do is to learn to never give up and to just keep going if this is something you want to do and are passionate about. I was told no over 400 times before I was cast in my first series regular role. I am still told no, but I keep trying because I love acting. I also want to direct and produce someday and won’t stop trying even when I’m told ‘no’ on the acting side. 

To keep up with Lily Brooks, follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Watch Life by Ella on Apple TV+ today.