With millions of followers on Instagram and TikTok, Amelie Zilber is used to sharing her life with the public. That changed last spring when she had to hold back a big secret for months. The activist and fashionista had landed her first acting job as a new character on Freeform’s “grown-ish,” airing Wednesdays.
Before “grown-ish,” 20-year-old Zilber’s life revolved around creating content. She’s built a following by posting about fashion, beauty and sharing her views on newsworthy topics including abortion, Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law and the war in Ukraine.
Once filming began in March, Zilber had to be on set every day at 4 a.m. and the show became her priority.
“There was really no room for me to make content, especially content that wasn’t related to ‘grown-ish’ when it wasn’t public information,” she said. “So that was really difficult to navigate. I feel a little guilty that I was a bit M.I.A.”
Zilber had no prior acting experience to “grown-ish.” In fact, one year ago, she was mulling over whether to give it a try when her mom had a phone session with a psychic. The psychic said her daughter was “going to be a big movie star and she’s going to book a role as recurring guest star on an already existing hit television show. And then she’s going to book a movie.”
When Zilber heard that, she said it was the push she needed. By December she had enrolled in acting classes five to six days a week, 12 hours a week.
“I was like, ‘I’m going big or I’m going home.’ I was concerned that on some level I wouldn’t be taken seriously coming from the content world. I tell anyone who asks my motto is, ‘Leave nothing to chance’ and if there’s an opportunity that I really want, I quite literally leave absolutely nothing to chance. My determination and hard work are character traits that I’ve come to love so deeply. It wasn’t taught, it’s just who I am.”
On “grown-ish,” Zilber plays Lauren, a devout Christian student at the fictional California University depicted in the series, with “black-ish” star Marcus Scribner now enrolled, after his older sister Zoey (Yara Shahidi) has graduated. Zilber describes Lauren as a “good and loyal friend,” and says viewers will think they have her figured out until she makes some surprising choices later in the season.
There are parallels between Shahidi and Zilber. Both are politically-minded. Michelle Obama wrote Shahidi a recommendation to Harvard, where she graduated in May. Last year, Zilber interviewed Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about the infrastructure bill. She also previously interviewed former Biden advisor Symone Sanders and former White House press secretary Jen Psaki. Zilber is taking a gap year from Georgetown University where she has been studying Middle Eastern foreign policy.
“Now I have the privilege of being a friend of hers, which is really cool,” said Zilber of Shahidi. “For the longest time she was the kind of person that I wanted to be, an actress and an activist and a spokesperson for so many different issues. And she was eloquent and well-read. Those are all things I want for myself. I genuinely feel like we have a lot of the same internal driving motivators.”
Zilber may be new to acting but she’s got the support of “grown-ish” executive producer and co-showrunner, Zakiyyah Alexander: “Amelie is a natural talent who adds a delightful new comic energy to ‘grown-ish.’ We’re happy to have her join our new crew.”
For someone who prides herself about her preparation, Zilber said she’s learning that when it comes to auditioning for acting jobs, the outcome is beyond her control.
“I am very type A, I like to have all my ducks in a row. I like to know what I’m doing and I like to have a lot of control over my life. So it’s teaching me a lot of life lessons,” she said.
“It’s pulling things out of me to put into another character, which is just so cool. Even if I don’t get the job, at least I have the opportunity to explore something new about myself and also challenge myself in this new way.”