An established stage, TV and film actress; writer, producer, director, voice-over artist and frequent frontwoman for television commercials, Miami Beach native Jill Melody is admittedly “driven” in her chosen pursuits.
“I have a Type Triple-A personality” says the lengthy-tressed, strawberry blonde who bears more than a passing resemblance to actress Laura Linney and/or singer Celine Dion, depending on who you ask.
A performer since age 10, Jill Melody (yes, that’s her real name) has succeeded in virtually every corner of the entertainment world. She notched a role in the iconic ‘90s TV series, “Friends,” and became both a friend and admirer of actor Martin Sheen during filming of the made-for-TV biopic, “Kennedy,” which starred Sheen as the nation’s 35th president.
In fact, Jill’s early training at the North Carolina School of The Arts and The New York Film Academy in Los Angeles helped her nab awards for stage portrayals and prepared her for appearances in “Friends” as well as TV films such as “First Affair,” starring Loretta Swit and “Spraggue,” with Michael Nouri, along with “Kennedy,” which was filmed in Boston while Jill was living there.
During her Hub habitation, she happened to catch comedian Jay Leno at a Bostonian comedy club before he took the reins of “The Tonight Show.” She fell in love with the comedy genre – a style that is found a permanent site in her repertoire.
Jill also called Memphis home for a time and won accolades for work in that community’s theatrical venues.
The Memphis Arts Council presented her with “Best Ensemble Actress Award” for her characterization of Yvonne in Charlotte Delbo’s play Who Will Carry the Word? She took on the challenging role of a French Resistance fighter who was captured by Nazis and perished in Auschwitz, the notorious concentration camp.
A sampling of Jill’s other starring stage roles includes Antigone in the Jean Anouilh adaptation of the eponymous classic and as Jill Tanner in the quirky comedy, Butterflies Are Free. The latter role solidified her affection for humor.
Fast forward past a variety of other Melody-driven projects and you will come to her latest effort, a TV series she created while enduring two weeks of COVID quarantine in Israel while waiting to work on an indie film.
Called “Just My Type,” the episodic comedy is “best described as ‘30 Rock’ meets ‘The Office,’” she said. Her company, Punch Line Productions, created the program and is talking with top network execs about scheduling a broadcast time.
“Just my Type,” she said, “portrays the hilarious antics that happen behind the scenes at a fictitious Miami television station” where a variety show is being produced. It was filmed entirely in Fort Lauderdale using a bevy of local actors and tech folks.
Jill hatched the idea of “Just My Type” during the pandemic. “While visiting family in Israel, I was awaiting both the birth of my fifth grandchild and preparing to work in an Israeli short film, I was required to quarantine for two weeks.” She made good use of potential downtime by “writing every day.”
“When the Israeli film project began, I met a group of private film investors on set, pitched the idea and secured funding for the series.”
Jill is delighted that “the show employs so many talented local Florida performers as well as a stellar crew. Many have experienced long- or short-term unemployment because of COVID.”
“Shooting the show during the pandemic has been quite a challenge. However, our COVID compliance officer, David Hyman, keeps everyone safe on set by ensuring PCR tests are taken on time, and masks are worn up until we call ‘action.’”
“But make no mistake, shooting a comedy is always fun. We do not let anything stand in the way of the creative process. We need more interesting film projects to be shot in Florida, especially comedies, and I am proud to bolster that process.”
Jill is creator, writer, showrunner – and more — for “Just My Type,” which is co-written by award-winning Miami comedian Anastasia Pavlinskaya and directed by Mitchel Worley, an up-and-coming creative visionary.
With an ensemble of idiosyncratic characters, the show features Jill as Pat, the senior writer, “a quirky, motorcycle-riding, Emmy winner, who has seen and done it all.” Other lead actors are Brittany Carel, Chase Garland, Cristina Figarola, Jaiden Kaine, Carlos Antonio Leon, Diana Garle, Janice Hamilton, Laurie Pallotta and John McKerrow.
In supporting roles are Zach Franklin, Maria Blanco, Gaby Tortoledo, Daniel Llaca, Laura Ault, Gary Goodman, Mike Vezza, Eli Zen, Adam Crain, Sharon Pfeiffer, Zachary Vazquez, John McKarthy, Nicholas Simmons, Jamie Saunders, Paul Drutz-Hannahs, Tanieka Clarke, Molly Jade, Sandra Justice, Joan Alpert and Robin Feins, among others. Pavlinskaya even appears as a guest on the show.
What is it like working with Jill on “Just my Type?” Gaby Tortoledo comments: “Jill is not only a joy to work with, but an absolute inspiration – a strong, smart, beautiful woman with an exemplary career who does it all from acting, to writing, to producing.”
“She’s also very generous with her time,” added Gaby, a Miami-based singer/actor with experience on stage and in television. “After shooting last month, she’s been there to give me advice as well as help me connect with key figures in the industry. She’s incredibly supportive.”
Performing comes naturally to Jill Melody, whose father found his calling in the entertainment arena. While other kids her age were swimming and playing, 10-year-old Jill spent summer vacations singing and dancing her way through the south with the prestigious “Show Biz Kids” troupe. While in high school, she was approached by a production company to appear in three educational films. “It was a completely different experience from the stage,” she said, but Jill rose to that challenge.
As she grew in the performance field, both chronologically and experientially, “I began to frequent comedy clubs. Not to appear on stage. I never wanted to be a standup comic. But I appreciate smart comedy. That’s become my style – smart comedy with a message.”
As if she were not busy enough, Jill founded and is executive director of the Florida Comedy Film Festival, which “provides innovative perspective to connect modern independent films and filmmakers with a unique audience.”
The five-year-old event last held in 2020 (COVID cancelled the 2021 edition) at the Willow Theatre in Boca Raton included an appearance by Fran Drescher, known for acting on Broadway and in several TV shows, including “The Nanny.” She received the Comedy Legend Award.
In addition to appearing on stage and in film, Jill has been featured in numerous television commercials. She portrayed the popular singing waitress in a nationally broadcast TV ad for the Ground Round restaurant. She also pitched Park Eight, Georgia Bank & Trust, Continuum Games and Zayre through on-air ads.
Jill is also a popular voice actor and has been the female spokesperson for dozens of Genesis Diamonds commercials in the mid-South. She was featured in several Timberland Boots holiday ads and commercials for Electronic Express.
While she has worked in many entertainment fields, Jill affirms that comedy is her favorite – and is happy to work in that neighborhood. “Life is better when you’re laughing,” she proclaims, adding: “Laughter is the best medicine.”