Jade Pettyjohn: On playing Nicole Kidman’s daughter in ‘‘Destroyer’’ and exploring new worlds

PHOTOS: Heather Koepp
STYLING: Charlie Brianna
MAKEUP: Daniel Chinchilla
HAIR: Kiley Fitzgerald
LOCATION: LAVish Studios
WORDS: Jasmine Perrier

For Los Angeles native Jade Pettyjohn, acting was without any doubt the path she was meant to follow. At the age of 18, her resume includes appearances on TV projects across CBS, Nickelodeon, NBC, and TNT, just to name a few. This Christmas, she takes on the big screen in Karyn Kusama’s thriller Destroyer where Jade plays alongside iconic Hollywood figure Nicole Kidman. To some, Jade Pettyjohn might be a newcomer in the entertainment industry, but the rising star who is best known for starring in the Nickelodeon series School of Rock has been working tirelessly since she was a child to shape her career.

‘‘I grew up in an environment where expressing yourself through art was the norm,’’ Jade says. Growing up, she was surrounded by musicians, directors, dancers and actors. Because of this, she was able to understand at a very young age what an actor was. ‘‘When I was four years old, I had this realization and began to ask my parents every day until I was seven years old to get an agent and become an actress,’’ she explains. Ever since that moment, Jade has never once lost sight of the passion for what she does. ‘‘With every new project, I discover a new element to the art form that makes me fall in love with film even further. I truly love telling stories and that love only gets deeper with every project.’’


Jade started her acting career by booking a national commercial, before getting a major role on CBS’ The Mentalist. ‘‘Growing up in front of the camera felt very much like home. I never felt like I was missing out on a normal childhood,’’ she recalls. ‘‘I have always kept my life incredibly balanced. I made sure I spent time with family, went on adventures with friends and carved out time for myself as well. Acting was always just something I truly loved doing and continue to do. I believe that balance is key, and I believe that living an artful life filled with adventure and authenticity only leads to better storytelling.’’


Jade’s big break came when she joined in 2016 the Nickelodeon family by landing the role of Summer Hathaway on Nickelodeon’s Emmy-nominated television series School of Rock. As she continues to take the industry by storm, Jade can be next seen on the big screen in the film Destroyer by Karyn Kusama which is releasing Christmas Day. Jade stars as Nicole Kidman’s daughter Shelby, and it is for sure a large departure from the Nickelodeon world she has worked on for the last couple of years. ‘‘Destroyer was such an important period of growth for me as an actress and as a human being. I absolutely loved the preparation process for this film,’’ Jade admits.

Destroyer deals with a police detective (Nicole Kidman) who reconnects with people from an undercover assignment in her distant past in order to make peace. According to Jade, this film represents what it means to be human, including the broken as well as the strength. ‘‘Through my own research and through extensive conversations with our director and fearless leader Karyn Kusama as well as with Nicole, I feel like we were able to capture very truthful moments. It was very important for me to truly understand my character Shelby and represent her as truthfully as possible. This exploration process was very unique, and greatly differs from other projects I’ve done, but that is one reason why I gravitated towards this project so much.’’

When she first read Destroyer’s script, Jade felt instantly captivated. ‘‘I thought that the storyline between Shelby and Erin was beautiful, broken and complex, and the idea of exploring that and finding that connection gave me butterflies before I booked the role,’’ she says. ‘‘I tend to chase the feeling of butterflies and I am always looking for projects that cultivate growth. Working with brilliant artists like Karyn and Nicole was a beautiful experience that will forever hold an important place in my heart.’’ As she strongly believes that things happen for a reason, Jade thinks that ‘‘Destroyer just felt right.’’


2018 has certainly been a banner year for the young actress. ‘‘I do feel like the projects I’ve been working on recently mark a new era of my career,’’ Jade mentions. Besides her impactful role in Destroyer, she worked alongside Jack O’Connell and Laura Dern in the film Trial by Fire directed by Edward Zwick. However, it looks like 2019 is already jam-packed for Jade as she is also co-starring in the new Hulu series Kansas City and the upcoming political thriller Against All Ennemies opposite Vince Vaughn and Kristen Stewart. ‘‘I’ve been so lucky to explore new worlds, new genres and work with incredible artists,’’ Jade shares. ‘‘I am so excited for the people who have been following my career to grow up with me with every new project and adventure. Each film is so different, so I can’t wait for them to see the variety. There is something for everyone!’’


Jade says she learned a little bit more about people and a little bit more about herself with each project and each experience her career has brought. ‘‘The beautiful thing about movies is its ability to explore humanity and celebrate different lives, cultures and worlds,’’ she states. ‘‘That is what made me fall in love with acting. That has brought about beautiful life lessons and interesting stories. I think what this job has given me, more than anything else, is an expansion of empathy.’’

In addition to her acting work, Jade is a huge role model to many young people and she is interested in using her massive platform on social media to inject more positivity into the world. ‘‘When I see how many young people are following me, especially young girls, I find it more and more important to spread kindness and authenticity through the films I do and through the content I release on social media,’’ she claims. ‘‘I want to represent people through the characters I play, and if I can make one person feel more understood and a little less alone, then I feel like I have done my job.’’

After having such a breakout year, Jade looks forward to getting as many opportunities as possible to keep shining and telling stories that she feels passionate about. ‘‘I’m interested in exploring the stories that haven’t been told yet,’’ she says. ‘‘I’m interested in exploring stories that challenge me and I am interested in stories that I would personally want to go see in theaters. I want to explore everything. Here’s to chasing those butterflies!’’


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