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.
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.