Before heading to Hollywood, Australian-American actress and singer Kirrilee Berger resided in Teaneck. Her professional career began on Broadway as Kirrilee was the youngest actress to play the role of Jane Banks in Mary Poppins. The 18-year-old actress moved on to National Tours of Mary Poppins and Billy Elliott.
You may also recognize this young star from Amazon’s Just Add Magic and Disney’s K.C. Undercover, playing the role of Amy Bishop (co-starring Zendaya).
Currently, Kirrilee stars as Danielle “Dannie” Furlbee in the CBS All Access original drama series $1 and is a cast member on Netflix’s The Who Was? Show, based on the series of best-selling books. This fall, Kirrilee will also voice the character “Poppy” on Nick Jr.’s Butterbean’s Café.
The “Jill of All Trades” star (Oh, did we mention she’s also a talented dancer?) recently spoke with Best of NJ about her two new series, the audition process, and of course, her fondness for the Garden State.
What was your childhood like?
My childhood was certainly different! It was filled with lessons and auditions. However, I did have the absolute luxury to attend sleepaway camp at French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts for 5 years and that gave me some of my fondest childhood memories.
How did you get an agent and the confidence to audition, professionally?
I actually got my manager 15 years ago through a showcase at the JCC (Jewish Community Center) of Tenafly, NJ. I think I always had such a passion for performing that the process of auditioning felt very organic to me.
Tell us about CBS All Access’ original drama series $1. What attracted you to the script?
$1 is CBS All Access’ first completely original series. I was so drawn to the project because of how human it is. It talks about social hierarchy, money, family, love and even crime. I truly believe the audience will be captivated by the raw, grounded tone of the show that our incredible director Craig Zobel has created. The show takes place in a small, rust belt town with a stark class divide. When a shocking crime occurs, we discover that everyone is not as innocent as they seem. (Editor’s Note: At press time, there is no official run date for this show; check here for future updates.)
Another project of yours is The Who Was? Show, available on Netflix, in which kids learn about history in a fun, but educational, way. Tell us about it.
The Who Was? Show is based on the Penguin book series, Who Was? Our show is a crazy sketch comedy that teaches students of all ages about the amazing historical figures that have shaped our society through sketches, music, animation and even with a helping hand from a few of your favorite celebrities! The audition process kept me on the edge of my seat. It was tons of improv, characters, accents, singing and dancing. I never knew what to expect when I walked into each audition for the show!
You’ve studied at the famous Joffrey Ballet School. Do you still dance?
I’ve always had a HUGE passion for dance! Since I’ve been juggling so many different projects, I don’t get to dance as much as I’d like to, but I take advantage of every opportunity I get to dance.
You got your start on Broadway in Mary Poppins. How do you personally overcome stage fright, and what did you enjoy most about being on stage?
I still struggle with stage fright to this day. It’s live theater! Every mistake will show. However, especially being in Mary Poppins, the look of sheer amazement on the audience’s face makes all the nerves melt away.
What advice do you have for kids who want to pursue acting or singing, professionally?
Love every second of it. Every audition, every class. That is an opportunity to do what you love. Don’t do it for fame and fortune. Do it because you have such a passion for performing and telling a story that you believe people need to hear. Tell a story that makes people feel something.
Which charities are near and dear to your heart?
I have such a soft spot in my heart for Children’s Miracle Network. I have done a great deal of work helping to raise money for this incredible charity with the help of the Miss America Education Foundation.
How do you stay so grounded in Hollywood?
I think with today’s age of social media it’s so easy to get caught up in followers, likes, hits and so forth. It’s so important to step back and remember why I started a career in this business. I have such a passion for art and telling stories that need to be heard. Remember not to live your life behind a cell phone screen. When I’m filming, my phone is in my dressing room. Always. It allows me to be in the moment without distraction and to look around and be so thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given. Be present. Be thankful. Never take a moment for granted.
What was it like living in New Jersey? Tell us about your fave Jersey hangouts!
There is something so special about living in New Jersey. Everyone is kind and welcoming. Almost like family! I would often go to Bischoff’s Ice Cream after school with my friends and the staff would almost immediately have my favorite ice cream soda ready and ask what I learned that day. That’s just what Jersey people are like! So open and genuinely friendly. Even though I live in Los Angeles now, I’ll always be a Jersey girl! I always miss the Dunkin’ Donuts on every corner, diners and Garden State Plaza.
Follow Kirrilee Berger on Instagram.