UCLA alumna Jesse Draper may be a regular actress on a hit television show, but she’s still managed to stay close to her family … literally.
A 2006 UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television graduate, Draper currently stars on the hit Nickelodeon series “The Naked Brothers Band,” a production that includes her cousins, siblings and other family members in various roles in front of as well as behind the camera.
“It’s a huge family production,” Draper said. “I think for me the best way to learn about this business is with my family.”
The show, which premieres on Jan. 21 at 8 p.m. on
TEENick, follows the rock-star lives of Nat and Alex Wolff, ages 13 and 10, who are Draper’s real-life cousins and stars of their own rock band, which began in preschool. Draper herself plays the character of the ditzy nanny and tutor to the young members of the band, a role that is unfamiliar but entertaining.
“The part is nothing like me,” Draper said. “I’m this ridiculous ditzy girl. I wear miniskirts and I have like nine tattoos. All my tattoos are of all my ex-boyfriends. I have “˜Butch’ and “˜Vinnie’ and “˜I love you forever, Abdul.’”
Starting as a light-hearted family project engineered by Polly Draper, Nat and Alex’s mother and Jesse Draper’s aunt, the original movie made its way through film festivals and won the Audience Award for a family feature film at the 2005 Hamptons International Film Festival. It debuted as a series on Nickelodeon in January 2007.
Now, what started as mere family oriented fun receives international acclaim as one of Nickelodeon’s top television programs, including nominations at the 2007 Nickelodeon Australia Kids’ Choice Awards and the 2007 Nickelodeon U.K. Kids’ Choice Awards.
It seems performing comes naturally to the Draper clan, both musically and theatrically.
“We’ve always performed for each other at family reunions,” Jesse Draper said. “We’re constantly singing songs at Christmas, goofy songs we’ve made up, or we’ll put on little family plays or make family movies. So when Polly said, “˜Let’s make a family movie,’ we didn’t realize it was like, a real movie.”
Along with an increase in the show’s popularity and success over time came an expansion of the cast to include new additions to the family production. While Polly Draper creates, executive produces, writes and directs the show, it also features Jesse Draper’s uncle, Michael Wolff, a jazz musician and former composer for “The Arsenio Hall Show” who plays the boys’ dad.
In addition, Draper’s own father plays the school principal and her two brothers and cousin play a washed-up boy band called the Timmerman Brothers. As if that wasn’t enough family involvement, Draper’s sister and another cousin will join the cast as new characters this season.
In a blend of executive, musical and acting talents, “The Naked Brothers Band” exhibits a Hollywood family very much in the public light. The family explores the music and acting industries with notable success, yet manages to retain the cohesion of a family in the private sphere.
“(Polly) brought the family together and she made it so that her family could work together,” Draper said. “We’re all so close now. We have this whole bond in a different way.”
As an aspiring actress, Draper appreciates the comfort and familiarity of working with people close to her heart, an environment that she believes promotes trust and a better performance on the set.
“It keeps it so much more fun. You really trust your family more than anyone. It’s the greatest group to work with,” Draper said.
UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television student Mallory Sacks recently collaborated with Draper for Sacks’ thesis film, a sorority documentary titled “Rush.” Sacks said that Draper’s ease on the set and her enthusiastic work ethic was an important part of the casting decision.
“For me, hiring actresses, I only wanted to work with people that I knew, that I could trust and would be responsible,” Sacks said.
For Draper and her family, their close ties, constant interaction and trust achieve that level of cooperation and a friendly, encouraging environment on the set. Draper expressed the appreciation she feels toward the supportive atmosphere of the family show, noting that her unique position of success now allows her to pursue her humanitarian interests.
Draper’s most recent project is an antismoking YouTube series created with friends in order to inform and persuade about the dangers of smoking.
“I’m a huge antismoker. I just wanted to play more fun roles and something that I felt was more beneficial to mankind,” she said.
Draper acknowledges the role her recent celebrity from “The Naked Brothers Band” had in the undertaking of the upcoming online series.
“I’m so blessed to be in this position. It doesn’t happen to everyone ““ I’m very aware of that,” Draper said.