In TV cult hits Summer Heights High and Angry Boys, comedic chameleon Chris Lilley played all the main characters with hilarious authenticity. But now he's channeling his efforts into one cross-dressing role, resuscitating his much-beloved Heights alpha priss for a six-episode season of Ja'mie: Private School Girl, which begins November 24 on HBO. Here, the 39-year-old relives his days as a man becoming a girl becoming a woman.
DETAILS: Ja'mie now holds court among a gaggle of teenage girls at a swanky Australian school. What's your relationship with her friends like when the cameras aren't rolling?
CHRIS LILLEY: It was strange. The girls never saw me not dressed up as Ja'mie. At the wrap party, they said to me, "It's really weird that Ja'mie's not here. We did the whole show with her. She's our friend."
DETAILS: So they treated you like you were one of them?
CHRIS LILLEY: There's a scene where Ja'mie comes to school in a slutty outfit—short dress, fake tan, long nails. I turned up on set, and the girls had this reaction to me: "Oh my God, Ja'mie, you look gorgeous and amazing!" I wanted to go straight into the scene, because they were already doing what was exactly in the script.
DETAILS: You sport full-on private school drag. Does that require a lot of leg-waxing?
CHRIS LILLEY: That's one of the worst things about a female character—it's pretty consistent maintenance. And all of the girls are really tanned! So I had to keep up with tanning and, ugh, it was hard work. And by the end of the day, Ja'mie still has a bit of a mustache.
DETAILS: Did you get caught up in the girls' vanity?
CHRIS LILLEY: Oh, yeah. There's a scene where we all wear our party outfits, but Ja'mie has limited clothing options because I can't reveal certain things and I don't have hips like the other girls. So I was really self-conscious about my party outfit! I was literally saying, "Do I look fat? Do I look fat in this?"
DETAILS: In all of your shows, you're always in full costume. Do people ever recognize you on the street?
CHRIS LILLEY: Yeah. People always want me to talk like the characters. I've done it, like, twice, and it never goes down well. People call their friend on FaceTime, hold the phone in front of me, and go, "Say something funny!" Usually their friend goes, "Who the hell is this guy?"