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Lily Brooks O’Briant

Jan 9, 2023
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Lily Brooks O’Briant is an American actress and singer known for playing the lead role of Ella McCaffrey on the Apple TV+ series Life by Ella and the title character in the touring company of the musical Matilda.


Years active: 2013-present
Born age: July 10, 2006, 16 years old and 6 months, Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Sun Sign: Cancer
Hair Color: Blonde
Eye Color: Blue
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Family

The name of her mother is Hope O’Briant and her father’s identity is Allen O’Briant.

Lily Brooks O’Briant’s ancestry is Caucasian.

Early life

O’Briant was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and traveled the country as part of the Matilda tour throughout 2015 and much of 2016. When she was cast in The Big Show Show in 2019, she relocated to Los Angeles, where she currently resides.

Lily Brooks landed her first feature film role in early 2015 as a lead, ‘Carly’, in ‘Shark Lake’ starring Dolph Lundgren

She shifted to Los Angeles in 2019.

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Career

Lily Brooks landed her first feature film role in early 2015 as a lead, ‘Carly’, in ‘Shark Lake’ starring Dolph Lundgren

O’Briant began her on-screen career aged eight when she appeared in the film Shark Lake alongside Dolph Lundgren. Filming began in January 2015 and was directed by Jerry Dugan with a reported budget of $2 million. She portrayed Carly Gray, the daughter of Clint, a black market dealer played by Lundgren, responsible for releasing a dangerous shark into Lake Tahoe.

During the same year, she was announced as lead in the US tour of the musical Matilda. She held the role of Matilda until mid-2016, playing in various cities across the US.

Following the role of Matilda, O’Briant moved into short films and received credits for a number of productions from 2016 through 2018. This included Marina, in which she played the lead role. The story follows a young girl born with spinal muscular atrophy. In 2018, she won three awards for Marina: a Wasserman Award, a New York City Independent Film Festival Award, and the Five Continents Film Festival. All three awards were in the category for “Best Young Actress”, and she was also nominated for a similar award at the Utah Film Awards. She was also honored for the short film Presentation at the Independent Shorts Awards.

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In 2019, O’Briant secured her first major TV role in the Amazon TV series The Tick. During the same year, she became part of the lead cast in The Big Show Show, portraying Mandy Wight, the middle child of WWE superstar Big Show (Paul Wight). The first season debuted April 6, 2020. Later that year, O’Briant recorded remotely for the award-winning musical The Perfect Fit, appearing alongside Laura Benanti and others in Joshua Turchin’s production.

In 2021, she landed the lead role on the Apple TV+ original series Life By Ella, premiering on September 2, 2022. The story centers on teenager, Ella McCaffrey, returning to middle school after battling cancer and her new found determination to live a more fearless life.

On September 9, 2022, she released her first single, Slow, on Apple Music and Spotify.

Lily Brooks O’Briant was born in Memphis, Tennessee, but lives in Los Angeles, CA. Her most well-known role was playing ‘Mandy Wight’, daughter of WWE superstar, ‘The Big Show’ on the Netflix original, “The Big Show Show”. Lily Brooks started performing at age four in local theatre and at age 9, earned the role of ‘Matilda’ in the US National Tour of the Broadway show “Matilda the Musical”. Lily Brooks landed her first feature film role in early 2015 as a lead, ‘Carly’, in ‘Shark Lake’ starring Dolph Lundgren.

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Awards

Wasserman Award (Marina & Presentation).
New York City Independent Film Festival award (Best Actress – Short film).

Interview – Sep 1, 2022

ONE37pm: Who is Ella at her core?

Lily Brooks O’Briant: Before going through cancer, she was definitely more of a follower than she was a leader. She kind of wanted to please everyone, wanted people to like her, didn’t want to cause problems—she just followed other people’s leads and was like, ‘What’s cool right now? What are other people doing?’

After going through cancer and being in treatment for over a year, she really realized that you couldn’t live life not being yourself. Going through cancer, she really adapted this “seize the day” mentality that she takes through life with her and goes on this journey of doing things that she used to be afraid of.

ONE37pm: How did you go about preparing for the role?

O’Briant: I’m a youth ambassador for St. Judes Children’s Research Hospital, and I have a few childhood friends—because I’m originally from Memphis, Tennessee—who were treated there. I know how overwhelming it is to go through something like going through treatment for cancer, and I knew that I wanted to really accurately represent what these kids go through. Luckily, I was able to talk to a few of my friends who went through treatment for cancer and was able to take their experiences and put them into my character.

I chopped off my hair for the role; my hair used to be really, really long, but I ended up cutting it for the show, which I am so grateful that I did that—I felt that it really made my character more. I don’t know how to explain it, but it was really helpful to me, as an actress, to just jump into the character and fully commit to it.

ONE37pm: When you first got on set with everyone, did it change how you approached the character?

O’Briant: It definitely did. One of the biggest things as an actor is being able to react to people—the physicality of being with another person definitely changes when you’re actually doing it with a person than it is over Zoom.

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ONE37pm: Did you bring anything from Ella’s approach to life into your own life after filming?

O’Briant: You can’t be afraid of anything. You have to live life to the fullest, be who you want to be, and not be afraid of what others might think or what others might say of you because you only have one chance at living your life, and you never know what might happen.

ONE37pm: What was the hardest part about playing Ella?

O’Briant: The hardest part was really bringing myself down into those deeper moments. It was tough at times but also very rewarding seeing how they turned out. The girl who plays one of my best friends on the show, Ximena (Vanessa Carrasco), she and I had a scene together—it was a very emotional scene. I remember walking out when we were finally done filming the scene; Vanessa and I took a deep breath, like, “Okay, it’s done, we can have fun now,” and we walked out, and I just remember seeing that so many of the crew members were crying. Seeing how the scene and that story that we were telling affected so many people was really rewarding, even though filming the scene was so tough.

ONE37pm: You’ve been acting for almost 10 years now—what’s changed for you in how you approach acting at this age as opposed to when you first started?

O’Briant: I feel like I can watch something that I did three months ago and think that there are so many things that I would’ve done differently, but what I have to realize is that I did the absolute best that I could have three months ago because you grow so much in so little time as a person and as an actress.

Acting is just portraying human experiences. That’s all it is. But as a 16-year-old, there’s only so much that I’ve gone through. Every day I’m going through new experiences and learning new things about being a person. All of those experiences are things that I use as an actress every single day when I’m working.

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