#29: Ariel and Stef had the honor of interviewing the terrifying and regal Jessica who played Lady Tremaine at Walt Disney World. In this episode, we learn the joys, the frustrations, and the horrors of being a face character at the happiest place on earth.
Read the blog post for this episode for additional references and resources.
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Ariel Landrum 0:11
Hello, everyone, welcome to the Happiest Pod on Earth. I’m Ariel, I’m a licensed therapist who uses clients passions and fandoms to help them grow and heal from trauma and mental unwellness.
Stefanie Bautista 0:21
And I’m Stef, and I’m an educator who uses passions and fandoms to help my students grow and learn about themselves and the world around them.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 0:28
And I’m Jessica, also known as TramaineTok, I am a TikToker, Instagrammer and former Disney performer for several years.
Ariel Landrum 0:39
And at Happiest Pod, it’s a place where we dissect Disney mediums with a critical lens.
Stefanie Bautista 0:44
Why do we do that? Because just like we’re more than just fans, we expect more from the mediums we consume.
Ariel Landrum 0:50
So everybody, what are we discussing today?
Stefanie Bautista 0:53
Well, we have a special guest!
Ariel Landrum 0:56
She’s so special.
Stefanie Bautista 0:57
Thank you, Jessica, for joining us today. What an honor it is to have you and thank you for taking the time. And we are so excited to hopefully pick your brain a little bit about your experiences and you know, just another side of Disney that we personally do not have any idea about so.
Ariel Landrum 1:18
Yes, yes. Okay, so for our audience members, as Jessica mentioned, she is a TokToker. She is also a former face character at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. She’s also an actress and dancer for Universal Orlando Resort, and was a character performer even at SeaWorld in Orlando. So she’s going to share with us what it’s like to be a character at the parks and some of the do’s and don’ts in regards to character interaction.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 1:49
Ariel Landrum 1:50
So starting off the character you played with Lady Tremaine, who, for some of our audience members, in our villains episode, we talked about Lady Tremaine’s a very scary villain because she’s a realistic villain. Like I could see me walking up and actually interacting with somebody who has a very similar tendencies. Did you mean to be a Disney villain and specifically her? How does that sort of process go?
Jessica Lady Tremaine 2:14
No, essentially, the audition process is very generic. It’s what us in the entertainment industry would call a cattle call. So you go, there’s hundreds and if not 1000s of people at one audition, and they’re looking for kind of everything, or they’re not specific about what they’re looking for. And Disney is very good about being very ambiguous with what they’re asking for. So So I went to a general audition. So I was not setting out to be a villain. I didn’t even know that like, I kind of fit that type.
Stefanie Bautista 2:49
I guess that’s something you don’t really think about, like, which one? Do my features represent? I would. Now it got me thinking.
Ariel Landrum 2:58
Well, and even like that word, like type, like, how did they present to you like, “Hey, we think this is who you fit the best, or what you should be doing.”
Jessica Lady Tremaine 3:06
Well, I found out over the course of not only my audition process, but my callback process with which is what they call a face fitting. Essentially, I am you haven’t seen me in person, but I’m five foot 10. So I’m, I’m pretty tall. Um, they had me measured a little bit shorter. So I could do more fur characters, which we can talk about later. But so I’m very tall. I have a very long face with a lot of angles. So I have very strong jawline, very narrow cheeks. And I also have just like very long features. They were very particular about my eyes, my eyes are very large in relation to the rest of my features. And they really noticed me in the audition based on my facial expressions, I very extreme facial expressions, just naturally talking not even when I’m really turning it on. So that was kind of what I found out later was what they were looking at.
Stefanie Bautista 4:09
Ariel Landrum 4:10
I I’m like I’m hearing you describe your facial features and how detailed it is. And I’m I don’t even think I could describe myself in such detail, does it? I mean, I guess that’s part of being an actress. Like you have to kind of be able to really describe yourself and be able to understand what you might fit.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 4:31
Yeah, absolutely. And I will say that a lot of it comes from I mean, you’re therapist, it comes from a place of being criticized. So one of the most criticized industries is the entertainment industry. You know, I wasn’t just an actress, I was also a dancer. So I spent my entire life being told you’re too tall or you’re not thin enough or your proportions aren’t right. You know, all those said in polite ways are not really great to hear, but it resonates with you when you’ve heard it for so many years, so it’s easy for you to point it out.
Ariel Landrum 5:08
Okay. Okay. I think that’s really interesting to note that you have to sort of pivot your mind around what criticism is going to be because you’re stepping into a profession where it is part of the profession. There’s no real like, gentle way to say things. And I can see that being a level of self awareness, but also so like, do you feel like you have to have like a tough skin to be able to enter entertainment?
Jessica Lady Tremaine 5:35
Yeah. And actually, it it actually is helped with now being on social media. But when you especially are a villain, you are heckled from the moment you walk out onto set until the moment you walk back/
Stefanie Bautista 5:48
Jessica Lady Tremaine 5:49
And it would happen to my face. Like I’ve told this story on my Tik Tok, where a dad told me, I was a size four at the time. And I’m 5’10”. So it’s pretty tiny. So I am, I was a size four, and a dad told me that I was fat and ugly, to my face in front of his wife and children, and a hashtag came out of it on a video that trended for a while, called “Cinderella is Savage,” Because my friend was Cinderella, my friend was Cinderella for at the time, and I told her, and she went over and said something to him. And I don’t know what she said to him. But he came over and apologized to me. So I don’t know what she said.
Stefanie Bautista 6:33
She said something.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 6:34
Yeah. So so. So so in order to cope, you have to either disassociate or something like almost have like an out of body experience? Because if you don’t, you’ll you’ll go crazy.
Stefanie Bautista 6:49
I mean, it seems like you use that as a strength for you. I mean, and that carries in your social media, because I mean, a lot of your followers do say, you know, you’re really brave for speaking up and speaking out on behalf of cast members. And I think that’s the most I mean, you can say that for any profession, but especially in a profession where you’re being scrutinized from every single angle, to be honest like that. I mean, I really appreciate it. I know all your followers do. And I mean, did that did those stories inspire you to share your experiences as a cast member just to kind of get it out in the open? Or what really was the spark to say, “Hey, I’m going to just give a little bit of truth to this.”
Ariel Landrum 7:30
Yeah, make it really public, because a lot of the things that you’ve shared on your Tiktok, they were like, shocking to me. But then it made sense. Like, okay, you’re a public, you’re in the public. I should have, I shouldn’t be shocked to yet I am shocked.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 7:45
Yeah, so I actually started to share my story on accident. So I created my Tiktok. Honestly, I had a friend of mine who wanted to send me videos, and she was like, “Oh, I can just send them through the app easier.” So I wasn’t really making content. And so I did end up making my first real video, back in April, like April 29 of last year. So it’s fairly recent, where I told the story about my first time going viral as a character. So I was the character that went viral on YouTube, to the tune of like 18 or 19 million views. And that was several years ago. So a long time ago, but um, I essentially talked about that interaction. And from there, it sparked like that went viral in a matter of two or three days. And I all of a sudden had all these questions that I didn’t know anybody ever wanted answers to. And so I just started answering them. I know it’s silly, but I just started answering them. And then as I kind of went through, I was able to process things that had happened to me that were really, really damaging in a way that my therapist hadn’t really been able to walk me through them, because he just didn’t really it’s not that he wasn’t able to understand because he was doing his best, but he had never been in that position. So the coping strategies are not. They don’t fit in with a lot of other issues that people would have like unless you have experience treating people who are in the entertainment industry, it’s very hard to understand.
Ariel Landrum 9:39
No, I think that’s important that you point that out. I work with a lot of actors because I am here in Los Angeles and a lot of the boundary setting techniques we have to go over aren’t ones they can use. There’s a certain level of expectation in regards to professionalism and performance that is very different than just traditional customer service. Because your, your your name and your ability to present, whatever the brand is that you’re presenting, is your resume is your docket, and particularly for, for women or female presenting individuals, there’s even more scrutiny, because if you’re considered hard to work with, that becomes your label.
Stefanie Bautista 10:26
Yeah, you’re X out. Yeah. And I mean, I’ve worked in schools that are a little more affluent here in LA. So I work with a lot of parents who are in the industry, whether it’s, you know, script writers, or actors, actresses themselves, and this whole kind of the switch being turned on all the time, kind of carries into their real life and to their kids. So it’s very interesting to see, you know, just the world that, you know, they build around themselves, and, you know, having dealing with that in real life, and kind of like, learning how to draw those boundaries to you know, protect their mental health. So….
Ariel Landrum 11:02
And you mentioned, like sometimes needing to dissociate, it’s like, really like, “When is my mask get to take off? Like, when do I actually get to take it off?” And I would say that, it seems like at least for your responses to the questions and the videos that you’ve made, you’ve been able to be very authentic and genuine probably in a way that is, is different than trying to remember and process like going backwards and then actually having answers now very different.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 11:31
Well, that but also, when you’re in it, when you’re doing it, like there were weeks where I’d work like a 60 or 70 hour week was the same character. So as Lady Tremaine so think. Now granted, we have offset time, we have breaks. But you know, you’re still in the wig and makeup, you’re still, you know, largely on because it’s all improvised. I tried to explain it to people. It’s like you are method acting for 70 hours a week for years at a time. And I say that, because when you are doing a script for a movie, because I’ve done I’ve done, you know, some indie film stuff, I’ve done commercials like local, I’ve done small things. But you’re and I’ve done a lot of musical theater, when you’re performing a script and you step into that character, there is a time where you are no longer that character for the night, because you are following a script. But when you’re improvising as a character, and you’re not sure what people are going to ask you, what they’re going to want to talk to you about, you have to cross that method boundary to becoming that character. And if you are in I found that I was having a hard time after I finally left the company like fully letting her go, if that makes sense. And and I came to find out through the process of doing my Tiktok that I I had let her go. But I hadn’t like really processed what I put myself through in order to cope if that had made any sense.
Ariel Landrum 13:07
Stefanie Bautista 13:08
Ariel Landrum 13:10
I think that it really makes me think of like, nerdy, but like d&d bleed. Where are you, where you have some of your character become you are some of you become your character and finding where the the distinction in the end is, is very difficult, because it’s so now integrated in part of your daily experience. And even with that, like you said, there’s at least you know, there’s going to be an end to the game for you, like, you have this part of your job is how you have to make money. And the scrutiny that that you’ve mentioned in your videos of if someone thinks you did it wrong, even though you’re the one playing the character.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 13:49
Yeah. And it happens. There’s, you’re regularly observed by performance specialists. And you are never told ahead of time when that’s going to happen. So you’ll just be out on set one day, and they’re there. With their little notebook.
Stefanie Bautista 14:07
Ariel Landrum 14:08
Can you clock em?
Stefanie Bautista 14:09
Yeah, can you tell like who they are?
Jessica Lady Tremaine 14:12
Oh, yeah, they’re the same people over and over again. But at the same time, you see them out of the corner of your eye, and you’re supposed to ignore them. But it’s impossible.
Stefanie Bautista 14:20
That reminds you of a lot of teacher observations where like your administration would just pop into your classroom at like, the absolute worst time. And you’re just trying to like, keep it together and make sure no one’s like stabbing each other hurting each other. But also, I was thinking about what you mentioned, all of the questions that you may or may not get, you have no idea where this is coming from, or you have no idea like what’s in like a guest mind. And I can really relate because it’s like when kids ask me questions about something I’m trying to teach. I don’t know what they’re gonna say what’s going to come out of their mouth. So have you gotten a very interesting question or a very just left field question that sticks out in your mind that you We’re just like, “Hmm, interesting. Okay.”
Jessica Lady Tremaine 15:04
So, um, the weirdest one actually was asked of me, but it was not about me. So I was leading Tremaine and I got asked a question because somebody got the kid got me mixed up with the Queen from Snow White. And we in Disney, we call her The Snow Queen. That is not her name as just what we call her. But her name is just The Queen. So somebody’s, like, their wires were crossed. And so they looked at me, and they’re just like, “I thought you died at the end.” And I’m like, and then and then I said, I said something to that. “Oh, you must be mistaken. It certainly wasn’t me.” And then they were like, “No, you were that old lady who fell off the cliff and died at the end I saw.” And like yelled at me, but they are nasty. Right. So like, like, taking me to task that I was dead. But, and I do know from people who have played that character, that is a very common thing for people to say, I have played the hag version of that character, which is a fur character costume, but nobody ever asked because she doesn’t talk. So like, nobody ever asked me that.
Stefanie Bautista 16:27
She kind of just hobbles along.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 16:31
They were this child was very aggressively asking, like or not asking, yelling at me. “You died at the end, didn’t you?” Like I was on cross examination. I was being interrogated by the FBI. |You died at the end!” Exactly. So that’s like the weirdest one I’ve ever been asked because like, what do you say to that?
Stefanie Bautista 16:59
“Yes, child. You are right. I am deceased. I am here talking to you now.”
Jessica Lady Tremaine 17:02
“I’m dead. But I didn’t actually die.”
Stefanie Bautista 17:04
Yeah. In the multiverse of Lady Tremaine.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 17:09
People think that Lady Tremaine actually dies at the end. But she obviously doesn’t. But it’s just because they get the movies mixed up. That’s very common.
Ariel Landrum 17:16
Jessica Lady Tremaine 17:19
They get Lady Tremaine and Maleficent mixed up all the time.
Ariel Landrum 17:21
Just for some audience members who don’t know what is the difference between like a face character, a cast member, and then a fur character.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 17:29
So cast member is like the general term for anybody who works at the Disney parks, or works really, for the Walt Disney Company, I think it technically encompasses all of them. But fur character performer, or just a character performer is somebody who performs in for character costumes. So you’re thinking of like Mickey, Minnie Pluto, and the like. And a face character is within the character, performer, family. So everybody who’s a face character is also a fur character, but not every fur character is a face character if that makes sense. Like all rectangles or squares are rectangles kind of thing. So it’s a very specific example.
Stefanie Bautista 18:12
No, I got it right away. I was like, yes.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 18:16
You’re an educator, you get it so. So face characters is like a specialized trained role within the character department.
Ariel Landrum 18:26
Okay, and what sort of like training do you go through.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 18:30
So you go through your standard character training, this is a four character training, it’s a five day training. You know, how to animate quote, unquote, the costume, so how to move in it, how to sign your autographs, things like that, essentially, how to move your characters eye focus, make sure your character’s eyes are looking at the camera, things like that. And then the face character training is an additional week. So an additional five days where the first day or two you are watching the movie, you are working indoors with your trainer, again, learning the signature learning the makeup learning, all the things that go along with that, and then days three through five are in park meet and greets. So you are put out into the park and you are doing meet and greets with guests and your trainer is there watching taking notes and you are getting feedback after every set.
Stefanie Bautista 19:26
Yeah, I mean, that’s all stuff. I’m like just trying to processess on like okay in my brain like drawing this chart of like the family and you know, the different types of cast members. I was really intrigued by your Disney College Program videos. I applied and did not get in because I want law. I think it was because when they asked like have you ever lied or something like that? I honestly said yes, of course. I’ve lied before. And they were like, “I’m sorry, you don’t fit the mold of what we are looking for at Disney”, and I’m like, “All right. So Oh, there’s that.” And I was just so curious to hear you talk about how it’s kind of like, it’s kind of like an apprenticeship that people are severely underpaid for, and that they are basically thrown to the wolves. And it’s like having your first job, but on this grand scale at the Disney resorts in Orlando, so there’s like millions of different jobs you can have. And it’s basically and it makes sense a way to capitalize on that labor, but keeping costs down. So thinking about all of that, and thinking about the way that I guess labor is moving now. Because, you know, there’s lots of, of course, unionizing and all that stuff, but also, for young kids and youth who are starting in the workforce, they’re pushing for a lot more opportunities and fair opportunities for them. So in your opinion, do you think that might change in the next couple of years? Because they are trying to get people back into the park and keeping up appearances and things like that? Or do you think it’s just going to kind of stay the same?
Jessica Lady Tremaine 21:03
I think it’s going to stay the same as long as the college program is as competitive to get into as it is. Now, when I applied for the college program, it was not as competitive to get in, as a general college program to get into entertainment. Yes, it’s just as competitive. But back then, like 2009, was when I applied and I got in January 2010, much less competitive. So that that was that. As far as conditions improving within the college program, I really don’t see that happening. Because there is still going to be a steady stream of kids, young people who want to do a college program, regardless of all of that.
Stefanie Bautista 21:52
I mean, I always, like when I talked to some of my middle schoolers, and these are like, the oldest kids that I deal with. And I love giving them options, because you know, you don’t always have to go the traditional, like, be a teacher, be a doctor, all these routes, I’m like, there’s so many different jobs out there. It’s just what are you willing to put up with? Having worked so many jobs, and I and of course, like working for Disney, like, that’s such a like big dream, and you know, they can’t even like imagine working for like, you know, such a big company like that. So I always try to keep it real with them and say, “Hey, you know, you’re gonna go through the same BS, essentially, wherever you go. It just depends on you know, your willingness to put up with that in order to achieve whatever you want to achieve.” So I think, yeah, I mean, your experiences, would you say, majority was it like worth it?
Jessica Lady Tremaine 22:43
I actually just did a video about this, I, I really do believe that it was worth everything that I went through. I just was recently speaking with someone about it. Honestly, it set me up for so many opportunities that I otherwise would never have had. And it really gave me a lot to teach my students because I’m still a dance teacher, I still work with students. So honestly, it really set me up with a lot of real world advice that I could give to them. And really, a lot of stories like, I can’t tell you how many times I get DMs, from people who are saying like, “I’ve always wanted to be a Disney performer. And they’re like, you’re making me have second thoughts.” And I always encourage them, they really want to do it to still do it. The purpose of what I do and my content is to share the realities, because I think what was the most harmful for me and a lot of other face characters who are on TikTok is that we were sold a fantasy, which is what Disney does, yeah, we were sold a fantasy as a job. Instead of these are the problems that you will face, this is what you’re actually getting into. So that is that is what I see my space in the world as.
Ariel Landrum 24:11
With the training that you received, because it just seems like like five to 10 days just doesn’t seem like enough is do they talk about you know how to address interactions with the community that aren’t favorable or what your have a like what rights you have as a cast member?
Jessica Lady Tremaine 24:35
Can I ask a clarifying question or so do you mean within like, interacting with guests or interacting with other cast members?
Ariel Landrum 24:46
Jessica Lady Tremaine 24:47
Okay. Yes, they do go over things like that. And that is a part of your training that you’re doing behind the scenes with with those, those trainers. A lot of times they will say things like, “Okay, what would you do if a guest came up and tried to touch you.” And they’ll give you an example. So I’ve had it happen a lot to me, where a lot of male guests have have assaulted me and in different ways. The problem is, is that it happens so fast, that a lot of times you cannot control. It’s not You’re not meet, doing a meet and greet in a bubble, right? There are factors, there are children running around, there are people taking pictures, there are autographs being done. And they do teach you how to get out of it. But getting out of it assumes that all other factors are not involved, right. So if a man comes up and tries to grab you, you would then offer your arm, you would move you what your attendant would say something, but they don’t tell you or really, there’s really no way to teach you how to do that, while you have two children’s teeth talking to you, and you’re signing an autograph book while this person is doing this to you. So it’s there’s a lot of extra factors that they don’t, they can’t prepare you for even as much as they would want to. It’s just really not possible.
Ariel Landrum 26:17
As, as a clinician, I have to do this thing called informed consent, where I have to know let my clients know what they’re going to expect out of therapy, even so much so that I will tell them that you may not feel good right away. In fact, we’re unpacking so much stuff, you might feel worse, you might change and the people around you may not like it, the it may not always be good. Do you feel like you got full informed consent on what what the interactions would be? Or what it would be like?
Jessica Lady Tremaine 26:48
No, they they did not. And I will say that back when I started, that was not a thing that people really discussed. I have since learned in my many years in therapy, that a lot of a lot of things were really done that that that could have caused more issues than even just the job itself. So for example, not only the informed consent, but ongoing support from management just was not there. Some you would experience sexual assault, and then largely either be blamed for it blamed for not controlling the interaction. Or umm told you still had to get back out there and complete your set or you would be receiving a discussion or reprimand. So there theoretically, even if there was not informed consent, there should have been systems in place to fix that. And they’re largely weren’t.
Ariel Landrum 27:59
Do you see that changing now? Well, like do you know, people who are active characters now that have more preparation or more support from management? And I also do want to highlight that also, it’s kind of a society thing, right? Like here, I’m telling you that I need support because I’ve been assaulted, and I’m not getting it.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 28:19
Well, I think that people take sexual assault more seriously now than they did. Um, so I will say that, but I I think that the rise of character vlogging and character interactions on social media has actually made the problem worse because it has caused a lot of internet personalities who don’t know the characters really don’t understand what their life is like to go and get sensationalized viral content from the character which can cause a lot of mental distress and can cause potentially job loss. And management largely has not caught up with supporting the cast members in that way. And I get DMs from performers on a weekly basis saying that they are still getting discussions and reprimands for viral videos of them.
Ariel Landrum 29:14
Which is not within your control. And so do you think that former cast members like yourself, advocating on behalf of the community does that create some sort of change or pretty much upper management and higher ups are not looking at that stuff and probably don’t care?
Jessica Lady Tremaine 29:36
I don’t think they’re looking at it but what it has done and I’m sure you’ve seen I get a lot of flack for this. It has made it much less socially acceptable. So a lot of these vloggers will post a character video and people are now starting to if not, not watching the video, they’re flooding the comments saying, “This is inappropriate. You should not be sharing this.” But I was seeing some vloggers recently their character content is content is just not doing well, like it’s comparatively since you know, in the last few months they have really kind of taken a nosedive in views and engagement. And I hope that me speaking out is making it and others speaking out, not just me is making it less socially acceptable.
Ariel Landrum 30:24
I’m, I’m curious because there’s an intentionality to get views, right? Are there interactions that you just see with characters that people post or that isn’t a objective and happens to be a good interaction, or as a general rule that if it’s a video, it’s probably going to be scrutinized either way, so kind of avoid that.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 30:46
So it’s a gray area, and my philosophy Ariel is that if it’s a gray area, don’t post it. That is just my, because Tiktok has made it so easy to go viral, even if you’re not intending to go viral. And it is causing issues, but it’s not people necessarily doing it on purpose. Because, as you know, you know, as a as a therapist and clinician intention does not, it doesn’t really matter, because the implications are what matter. And so the intention of the poster is not the thing that I am concerned with, it’s the implications of this being posted. So the implications.
Ariel Landrum 31:32
Not intent but impact.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 31:34
Right, so the impact is, more people are going to performers trying to get viral content, they are posting characters more and more, they’re bombarding them with cameras on a regular basis, which is stressful, which is stressful for the performers. As cute as it is, um, it can be very stressful to have a camera on you all day, in addition to the job being as difficult as it is.
Stefanie Bautista 32:01
I mean, I can only imagine it’s just like a different set of eyes. And you never know where and I feel like it almost infringes on your privacy almost. And even knowing that you are a performer, you are entertainer, you are putting yourself out there. But you would think that there would be still a layer of protection. I mean, I’m wondering, because during the pandemic, we saw a lot of the characters very far away. They were like, you know, in that, like Winnie the Pooh was like in the forest, or like in a clearing or things like that. Do you know of anybody who has played those characters very far away that? Do they like that a little bit better? Or do they kind of wish it like stayed that way? Or do they miss that face to face interaction?
Jessica Lady Tremaine 32:46
I do know a few people who have done that. And I would say it’s, it’s it. On one hand, they do like the freedom of wandering and for knowing that they’re not really going to be knocked over, they’re not going to experience some of the physical problems that come with interacting with guests. I will say, though, that a big part of the enjoyment for the actual performer is interacting with children, it’s fun for us at the end of the day, like all of the issues surrounding it, are what they are, but at the end of the day, it’s still fun for us. So I would say that they are enjoying that. They were enjoying that, like new type of interaction. But I think some of them are anxious to get back to some modified form of meet and greet.
Stefanie Bautista 33:38
I mean, I guess moving into sort of like the same topic. I know that you talked about weird Disney adults, I mean, like the super super fans, when, you know, if somebody asked like, do you and your fellow characters go to the break room and be like, “Girl, I got to tell you about this, you know, person, that person or whatever.” Because, you know, in every job I’ve worked, you know, we do that. I mean, as educators, we do do that as well. So, do you have a memorable interaction with somebody who really loved you as a villain who just like adored you, and like, kind of was just like, in awe of you like whether it was an adult or a child and like how did that make you feel knowing that you know, you are playing a villain? And like you said, Because you are a villain you’re automatically viewed as something but did you get like the opposite effect at any point?
Jessica Lady Tremaine 34:30
So first, I want to I want to that’s that’s got a couple levels. Let’s start at the beginning. So um, I would not say that the Disney adults even like the really fanatical ones get talked about because characters are so preoccupied with talking about like, the weird guests and I say that like, like you’ve worked in a in a place where you’ve interacted with someone who just made it weird. Those are the things that we would talk about, either are treating us strangely, or just like, those are the ones that we talk about, but not necessarily in a malicious way, just like, “Hey, did you see that?” Like, like that kind of thing? Um, the ones that get talked about in a malicious way are the ones who are either just mean or honestly, a lot of the vloggers that are not very kind, and they get talked about a lot. But on that, so second half of that, yes. So I will tell you a quick story. So when I would often be at Mickey’s not so scary Halloween party. The two remains were a big part of that. There was a family where the there was a mom and an Aunt, Aunt aunt. And they were dressed as the stepsisters. And they’re like nine or 10 year old, one of their daughters was dressed as Lady Tremaine. Now, she was not only dressed as Lady Tremaine, I mean, she was in her blue dress that she wears to the ball. So if you go back, watch the movie. It’s like that bluish gray dress that she wears to the ball…
Ariel Landrum 36:22
Jessica Lady Tremaine 36:22
She had her hair slicked back and rolled up like in those those victory rolls and a bun the back and had her hair sprayed gray. And she had a stuffed Lucifer with her. And she was fully made up like, looks like a little baby drag queen. It was super cute. And I still have a picture with them. Actually, I have it. It’s great. But so that interaction was fantastic. Because the mom and the aunt who were the stepsisters, they just like so leaned into the step sister vibe. And love and the little girl did not know what to say what to say to me. Like she was just like, “Okay, I’m going to take a picture now I’m gonna hold this cat.” She did not know what to say to me. But the mom and the aunt were having so much fun that it just like, it just took it to another level. I also loved for the Not So Scary when I would get a drag queen Lady Tremaine that would come see me that happened a couple of times, those were always the best, because they always wanted to talk forever. So I was absolutely happy living in that space, for sure.
Stefanie Bautista 37:40
I love it when parents dress up their kids, as you know, these complex characters, they really fully understand, like, who they’re playing. And so when they meet that character, they’re just like, they don’t know what to do. They don’t know what to say. And I see that a lot in cosplay conventions, and you know, comic book conventions, where, you know, you have a kid and like the coolest costume ever, but then it’s like, they’re just hobbling, walking around like a little kid like normal. So it’s very interesting to see the different avenues. And of course, when adults around them hype them up, it just creates that magic.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 38:17
It’s adorable. It’s it honestly, is one of my best memories is all of those, those fun ones.
Ariel Landrum 38:24
Stefanie Bautista 38:27
I know that for myself growing up, I wasn’t the one to go up to a character, it was very hard for me to you know, know what to ask. I wasn’t when I would take a picture with them. But I wouldn’t like know how to interact. Would you use different strategies to help a kid kind of interact with you a little bit more if they were reluctant? Or was it just more so like, I’m not going to force this on a kid if they if they just don’t want to engage.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 38:51
So it’s two sided. I, if a child was clearly uncomfortable, I did not want to interact, but then the parents would often force me to interact like they were not willing to accept like me walking away. So I would often just start narrating which I do with my son now who is Autistic. And like, I would just essentially do some sort of like narration so I would sit like just talk and answer a question that I asked as if they had answered it. So for example, “Are you doing well? Are you having a wonderful day? I’m having a wonderful day as well. Thank you so much for asking.” Like I would just keep the conversation going as though they had answered. And I think it disarmed them a little bit, because if they didn’t feel like I was standing there waiting for an answer. They just were like, okay, like they just kind of dealt with it. I also I didn’t speak very loudly as my character the stepsisters have a harder time with that. But I, I was already largely quiet. But the problem with Lady Tremaine is if she’s too quiet, then she becomes terrifying. So I tried to live terrify. So if I wanted to be terrifying, I just stopped talking. That was like a thing. You just stop talking and people are terrified of you. Because there’s nothing scarier than something that you see as scary. That is not making noise or moving.
Stefanie Bautista 40:31
That’s a total mom move. That’s a teacher move.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 40:34
And I was 21 years old, like I was 20 to 24. So like, you know, I was very young when I was doing it.
Stefanie Bautista 40:42
Yeah. Actually, I did want to ask you about that. How was it playing a mother with two adult children? As the age that you were? Did you really have to, like, study a little bit or even pull from your own experiences? Because, you know, she’s she’s, she’s a mom with a lot of baggage.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 41:03
She’s a mom, but she’s not a mom. So she’s a mom in the biological sense, right? But she’s not nurturing. So that was easy. She’s not nurturing. She’s not motherly in any of her interactions. Really. She’s not patient. She’s not kind she’s not compassionate. So she’s not any of these things we associate with mother’s. So honestly, her her short temper, her kind of stoic nature, her sarcasm, her quick wit are things actually associated with a lot of younger people a lot of times, and, and since I was a trained actor at the time, I just leaned into the funny parts of her. I know I’ve talked about this before, but I played her. Almost like, like Dorothy from Golden Girls, or, or Jessica Walters character in Arrested Development, Lucille Bluth. Like I kind of played it like that just like very, like, Country Club, old lady. And that’s kind of like what I leaned into, if that makes sense.
Ariel Landrum 42:23
No, totally makes sense. I actually like Dorothy.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 42:28
I do too. I vibe with her very well. But that’s kind of like the character that I like leaned into.
Ariel Landrum 42:34
I think that’s really important that you highlight the that she isn’t the like the mother archetype. Because if we’re talking about the mother archetype, that is usually seen as like this intrinsic feminine ancient energy of Safe Space nurturing, and protection, and creativity. And she really wasn’t those things, there was a lot of just hardness there was a lot of what we would call the shadow part of that mother archetype. Where there there isn’t there isn’t nurture, there isn’t presence, there isn’t willing to problem solve, oh, no collaboration.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 43:17
I will say that there is a certain part of her character, though, that I did find a lot of compassion for and that is, like, you have to imagine, they gloss over it in the films, but they, you have to imagine a woman in France in that time period. Having lost two husbands within a few years, really. Her entire livelihood is based on being married to a person of wealth, she’s lost her first husband, who presumably she was very, we are closer with right has two children had two children with and her second husband I know they touched on this in the live action film was clearly a marriage for security and wealth and, and things like that, which was common back then. But um, you have to imagine the amount of fear number one that is instilled in in a woman of that time period, who is losing her ability to feed herself and her daughters. And then the reality that you mean, you may become destitute and not marry again, and so you your entire survival is wrapped up in your daughter’s marrying someone of that caliber. So you can see where her level of obsession grew at that point. So that is essentially where I found a lot of compassion for her. Because a lot of people are the victims of their own circumstances, you know, victims of things that happen to them in their lives. And I think that that can be said for most villains is they are all the aftermath of a lot of negative happenings.
Ariel Landrum 45:07
Yeah, yeah. Aftermath of the patriarchy.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 45:10
Stefanie Bautista 45:13
For sure, and you know, all of those things are very important to consider and I’m glad that you know you, you do take time period into consideration even though you’re playing her in real life, you still have to be consciously living in that time period when you do play her. I know that one of the things that I I was thinking about watching your your Tik Tok videos was when you were talking about the costumes, and how there were like, the costumes of before, like when Disney first started, like the really scary Mickey heads and you know, like terrifying like, Donald like, Who would want to, you know, I mean, having a gown evolve, even though it is set in a certain time period. Did they make adjustments to make it comfortable for you, since you are working these crazy hours and in the heat, and you know, what the elements of Orlando, I mean, did you really have to think I need to play this, you know, French woman in, you know, the 1700s and kind of live with that, or was there like a reprieve?
Jessica Lady Tremaine 46:21
So honestly, the dress is very uncomfortable, it is very thick satin, and it’s long sleeved and comes up to the neck, it goes down to the ankles, there was a hipcage element that is not film accurate. That they added just for silhouette reasons. But I will say it did pull the bottom half of the dress away from your body. But you do have to wear all of the corresponding undergarments bloomers tights, and the like. And it is Orlando, and it is often 95 degrees with 100% humidity and you are doing a parade route. But I will say that the discomfort of the costume and the makeup and the wig and everything else made it very easy to be unpleasant. I would say the princesses probably have a harder time because they have to be pleasant. I was able to lean into the time. Yeah, I was able to allow myself to be annoyed. Because clearly I was uncomfortable. Like I mean, you can like I know that people listening can’t see this. But I have a picture behind me of a painting somebody did of Lady Termaine of me as Lady Termaine. And you can just see, if you go back and look at photos of me. On my Instagram, you’ll see like the costume just looks unyielding. And it is.
Stefanie Bautista 47:49
Yeah, I mean, you had the RBF on and it was part of your character. And it worked for you. And I love that that was a silver lining, because I feel for those princesses every single time they are just standing and waving and pretending everything is great. But ooh sweat, I cannot.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 48:08
Ariel Landrum 48:09
And I’m curious for all the parks. Is the training the same? Like even just internationally? Or is there a difference in the way that the cast members and particularly the characters are supposed to interact? Or is it very formulaic?
Jessica Lady Tremaine 48:26
It is very different. So it’s not like in the American parks, it’s fairly similar because it’s, there’s similar social norms in the US. When you go to Hong Kong Disneyland, or Tokyo or Disneyland Paris, there are other social customs that they need to make you aware of now, I’ve not gone through the training myself, but I have heard about it secondhand, they do have to talk about certain things that are considered inappropriate in those countries. Like, you know, like, in some countries, like a peace sign is inappropriate, depending on how you have it. You know, I mean, there’s like a lot of local social and cultural things that you have to learn.
Ariel Landrum 49:05
Did Stef when you went international did you notice a difference?
Stefanie Bautista 49:09
I mean, I remember them not being around so much when I was in Tokyo and in Paris, but at the same time, I always traveled there in the winter. So I could only imagine how difficult it would be to be standing out there in like, almost snowy weather, and you know, being in character, but I mean, I did appreciate that when I did see them like in a parade or something they would be, you know, fully rubbed up. And you know, Jasmine wasn’t looking like Jasmine, she has like a bull like coat on. And it was nice, but I think that was the reason why I didn’t interact with those characters because I was in another country so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect for myself. And the language barrier was kind of like I couldn’t put myself in, you know, Disneyland mode here because we have customs and norms that are okay, and we can you know, strike up a conversation. I I didn’t know if that was okay over there. So I never really went to venture. But if I ever go back there, I’ll definitely see if you know, there, there is a difference, because I know that a lot of cast members here do travel over there to to get work, especially if they have the right. Look.
Ariel Landrum 50:18
I know Jessica, you mentioned earlier a little bit that, that you’re in therapy that you are working in processing through some of your experiences. I’m curious if you want to share a little bit about your mental health history and what you would want to say to like the audience members, especially people in the entertainment industry.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 50:35
Yeah, absolutely. I’m very open even on my TikTok about the mental health implications of my time in entertainment. And, and I like to take the experiences that I’ve had and try and educate you know, people coming up in the industry now, especially my students. I had was diagnosed with body dysmorphia, and I also have PTSD. And my body dysmorphia is associated with my time not only at Disney, but my time as a dancer. So growing up in a lot of dance, a lot of physical scrutiny, essentially my, my image of my body and the way that I look not matching up with with reality, which is hard, because when you’re in an industry that’s constantly asking you to lose or gain or do this or do that it’s very, very hard. And so that has been quite a difficult journey. But I will say that the PTSD part is directly from my time at the parks, it does surround I’ve had some claustrophobia, that’s, that’s stemmed from that in large crowds. Because there is a lot of unconsented, grabbing from guests, that is largely uncontrolled. And like I said, the management is not really super supportive, if you do say, “Hey, this happened to me.” So a lot of times you just internalize it, and it’s now become, I have a lot of very crazy physical triggers. And it kind of can come out of nowhere. It, it doesn’t come out of nowhere, but it feels like it comes out of nowhere. And that’s something that I try to talk about people, largely, trolls in my comment section are like, “Well, you if you can’t handle it, you should never have the job.” Well, no, that’s not how that works, really, the job should be a healthy job. And people shouldn’t have to expect to experience trauma or mental illness or eating disorders from a job. Because and largely these people who are saying these things have no idea what it’s like to be in an industry, they don’t have, they’ve never grown up in that they don’t know what it takes to be a performer, all of the scrutiny, all of the auditions, all of the rejection. So it’s very easy to speak from the other side of your keyboard. But in reality, there is a lot of mental health damage that stems directly from the unhealthy processes that they do have set up there. And they still have to this day. And I really feel like there is a lot of room for growth. And I hope that you know, one of my suggestions or my videos reaches Disney, and they begin to really take it seriously and say, Hey, maybe we need to look at ourselves.
Ariel Landrum 53:43
Yeah, I’m curious for for the benefits were there is there like an employee assistance program where you got access to like a therapist or anything like that, that, you know, might have been implemented now.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 53:56
Um, they had insurance for part time and full time cast members, but at the time, largely, a lot of us were seasonal. And we didn’t have access to that. I think that it would be great if they had therapists. They have physical therapists available for all performers throughout the day, but they do not have they do not have anybody for mental health, which I think would really be a huge deal on days when when really traumatic events happen.
Ariel Landrum 54:27
That’s a job I need to make. Well, I’ll just pin that.
Stefanie Bautista 54:30
Write that one down. Oh, yeah.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 54:32
Put it on the vision board.
Ariel Landrum 54:34
Right on the vision board.
Stefanie Bautista 54:35
Yeah for sure.
Ariel Landrum 54:36
It makes me think of when a sports psychologists who are accessible to the Yeah, I was gonna say the supporters close enough to the to the athletes. I follow. She is the sports psychologist for like Cirque du Soleil, and really talking about the experience of being a performer of when you’ve injured yourself and what that could mean for your career, having to talk about dynamics between performers, between like team members and groups, and it has really made longevity in the career for some of the performers that previously you didn’t have access to that.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 55:18
Yeah, absolutely. I think that people don’t see actors and dancers in the same light that they see acrobats and football players and the like. So I’m hoping that we’re moving towards better mental health in the theatre community. But it’s, it’s hard because people in theater community are great actors. So you don’t always know when there’s a problem. It’s not clear. So
Stefanie Bautista 55:48
Jessica Lady Tremaine 55:49
Which I you know, Ariel, you probably know, it’s sometimes hard to, to pull out honest and genuine statements from somebody who’s an actor, because they are inclined to put on a performance. And it’s, it’s hard for us to let our guard down and just be, be authentically ourselves.
Ariel Landrum 56:12
Yeah, this is where there’s a difference between individual change and systemic change. Because individually, if you, there’s a fear that if they put their guard down, I’m still stepping into the same environment. But now am I going to is it going to be harder for me to put it back up, it’s just a lot easier to keep it.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 56:28
Stefanie Bautista 56:29
That’s something that naturally comes after a while. So that’s like your go to, but I mean, I think you’re doing a great job, you’re reaching so many people. And, you know, these stories are, you know, absolutely essential for, you know, past members past, you know, even just Disney goers in general, and, you know, looking into the future and seeing the ways that we now interact as adults, and how we’re interacting with our children, and you know, the different perspectives that we never really thought of before coming to light, so that we’re a little more mindful when we are, you know, trying to enjoy ourselves, because us enjoying ourselves may not be enjoyable for somebody else. And it comes sometimes at the expense of not just your wallet, but also you know, people and you know, their experiences, I think the whole, you know, well roundedness of participating in something like that is I feel essential for anybody who is putting themselves in that environment on either side. So the information out there is just, you know, so invaluable to have it’s just, you cannot replace those things like you cannot make this issue up. So yeah, you know, it’s it’s good to open your eyes and listen, and you know, it totally gives me a different perspective. And I’m actually going to be visiting Disney World in about a month or two. So it’s been quite a while and now I’m visiting with my son who, before I did not have a child in tow. So we’ll see how that goes. Definitely less drinking at Epcot. That’s the only thing on my mind.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 58:07
Yeah, I’ve been there, I have two children. So I completely understand
Ariel Landrum 58:12
Any any do’s and don’ts, you want to give a Stef for her experience with her little one toe?
Jessica Lady Tremaine 58:19
Um, give him a lot of breaks. And that is not just for you. But that is a thing that I’ve noticed is a problem with a lot of people who come to Disney and Universal and really all the parks is that they they don’t allow themselves any room to breathe. And it’s because they’ve spent so much money and because it is they want to do everything and I get that worth the dollar. I get that however, when your child at three o’clock in the afternoon is having a gigantic meltdown because they haven’t had a break. Without any stimulation or without too much stimulation, it is a nightmare. Because then you can’t bring them back then you can’t do anything else. Because then they’re done for the day. So my best suggestion is the hottest part of the day, go somewhere else either go back to your resort, get a late lunch like a three o’clock lunch. And I say that because I have been that parent who’s want to do a full day and it never works out especially with young children. Just give them the space to recover because they are experiencing so much sensory wise. The sounds the sights, the people like it’s just a lot for them. And they get overloaded super easily. So yeah, that would be my suggestion.
Stefanie Bautista 59:46
Thank you. I think that’s something to keep in mind because we’re coming from just two parks here across the way to like five parks and you got to take a bus in between all of them or drive or.
Jessica Lady Tremaine 59:59
Oh Honestly, I can’t speak highly enough of resort hopping for your break. So you don’t have to do the same one every day. But if you just go and you sit at the Polynesian in the lobby, or whatever, that one’s my favorite. So I’m partial to or if you go to the Grand Floridian and you listen to the pianist, or you just kind of walk around and do something a lot more low key like, yeah, it’s, it’s a great option.
Stefanie Bautista 1:00:30
Yeah, for sure. I love that. Thank you so much. I’m definitely gonna take that to heart all the way. And I’m so excited now with this new perspective on you know, just, I feel like the differences between Disney Land and Disney World really are not that much. It’s just the perspectives are so much different when you’re looking at it on a grand scale. So, I mean, being an avid Disneyland goer, and I always have a different experience when I go to Disney World. And, you know, it’s just given a lot of different just different points, points of view and things to consider every time you go there. It’ll you know, now having this perspective will definitely help make you know my experience and hopefully the experiences of the cast members who are working so so hard to keep the parks open and also have their own jobs.
Ariel Landrum 1:01:20
So, audience members if you have learned anything today please DM us at G…
Stefanie Bautista 1:01:30
Ariel Landrum 1:01:31
What Stef said, @HappiestPodGT or tweet at us @HappiestPodGT. A please please follow Jessica on TikTok for TremaineTok, on Instagram TremaineTokJessica, or YouTube Tremaine Tok in order to learn more on how to interact with cast members, and how to be an advocate for their mental health and wellness. Jessica, is there anything else you want to add before we end?
Jessica Lady Tremaine 1:01:57
No, that’s it. Thank you so much for having me. It’s really been a pleasure. And yeah, I’m excited to hear the episode when it comes out.
Stefanie Bautista 1:02:05
We loved having you. Thank you.
Ariel Landrum 1:02:09
Stefanie Bautista 1:02:10
- Lady Tremaine
- Evil Step Sisters
- Snow Queen
- The Evil Queen
- DND Bleed
- Panic attacks
- Sexual assault
- Healthy work environment
- Access to mental health
- Working with the public
Questions? Comments? Discuss this episode on the GT Forum.
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