Lilley's back and he's brought Ja'mie

MICHELLE ROBINSON
Last updated 05:00 02/02/2014
Ja'mie

WHERE'S LILLEY? As Ja'mie, Chris Lilley, pictured centre, has worked hard to perfect the affectations of teenage girls.

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Chris Lilley has gone too far.

His speech is peppered with the overly used teen affectation "like" and he's just dropped the phrase "dick pics" into the conversation.

On the eve of his latest creation washing up on our shores, the comedic actor, writer and Sydneyite clearly believes in his character.

The maker of We Can Be Heroes and Summer Heights High has successfully chiselled his work down to one character for new Comedy Central series Ja'mie Private School Girl.

"Ja'mie's one of my favourites," Lilley says. "I've just always found it a funny idea that this completely young, naive bitch girl thinks she knows everything."

In this series we catch up with Ja'mie (pronounced "Ji-may") who's traded in Summer Heights High for the manicured lawns of Hillford Girls Grammar.

"She's so awful - homophobic, racist and manipulative. She also has body image issues, there's all the crazy teenage stuff that happens with Ja'mie and she's so outspoken with everything, she's the perfect vehicle for these topics."

Anyone who's seen Lilley's other creations will know how well he moulds into his characters.

"Ja'mie kind of looks like my sister when she was in high school, she hates it."

Not only has 39-year-old Lilley nailed the look and air of a teenage girl, but also the speedy constant chatter and cool one-liners.

Watching him at work is exhausting.

"What are you having for dinner tonight? Lesbianese food?" Ja'mie quips.

"There's hot, and then there's quiche . . . I'm not even bragging, but me and my friends are all pretty much quiche."

How does Lilley hone the characteristics of young women?

"I chatted with my nieces and their friends and I went to a 16th birthday party," he says. "I do have a weird television viewing habit of watching programmes probably aimed at teenage girls. I love all the kind of E shows or MTV, ridiculous reality shows."

He's been enjoying a break from the character as of late, with work having begun on his next solo-character creation, the down-and-out schoolboy Jonah. The character picks up where he left off at Summer Heights High and follows him to his native Tonga.

So will Lilley keep going with the single character theme?

"I'm kind of swinging towards something with all the characters and bringing some new ones in. I dunno, I change my mind all the time."

One thing he's not doing is paying attention to media reaction to his work.

He's copped mixed reviews for Ja'mie Private School Girl, with Slate magazine hailing it as "the best parts of Summer Heights High distilled", while The A.V. Club labelled it "grotesque" and "transphobic".

Lilley said the latter doesn't make sense.

"A huge fan base of the show in Australia is private school girls. I've done shopping centre signings and so many private school girls come along in their uniform and pretend to be Ja'mie.

"Clearly they know they're being represented and they're not offended. They love it."

As for being grotesque, that's almost the point.

"I like the idea that people are cringing a little bit when they're watching and it's addressing things that are a little close to home."

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It's all fun and games in script, but filming is another story.

Playing Ja'mie can be pretty confronting; sitting with a group of young girls, dressed as a teenage girl, showing them "dick pics" on his phone, turning up to private schools and posing for pictures on the grounds, sitting on the lap of a 22-year-old man (who's playing a 16-year-old boy) and running hands through his hair, dancing provocatively at a school assembly, trading stinging insults with young girls . . .

Yet Lilley argues his actions are harmless.

"It's awkward to shoot but when people watch they get caught up in the illusion," he says. "It's all part of it, you're meant to go ‘wow, I can't believe this is on television'."

Ja'mie Private School Girl, Monday, 9.05pm, Comedy Central

- Sunday Star Times

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