She’s already starred as the queen bee and the mean girl, but now actress and singer Elizabeth Gillies is a “Jealous Guy.” John Lennon’s classic 1971 track has been revitalized lately, thanks to this season’s American Idol performance by contestant Casey James. Now Gillies, a cast member on Victorious, Nickelodeon’s latest hit about aspiring singers at a performing arts school, is bringing soul far beyond her 16 years to the song.
After filming wrapped on the first season of Victorious last week, the cast gathered for a wrap party, and Gillies walked up to the series’ executive producer, Dan Schneider, saying shyly, “I have a little present for you.” She handed him a CD of her singing the Lennon classic, which the two talents from different generations had bonded over weeks prior on set. As a gift to the man who helped move this New Jersey-born talent from the Broadway stage of the coming-of-age musical 13 in front of national tween audiences on Victorious, Gillies called the show’s music composer and asked him to help her record an impressive take on the song.
“Jealous Guy” is more than a sentimental song for Gillies or an opportunity for Idol’s James to show his range with an acoustic rendition of Lennon’s well-covered track. The song, which was inspired by Lennon’s trip to India, has held significant meaning for those who know their Beatles trivia. In 1977, the former Beatle, who had retired to raise his son Sean, sat playing his acoustic guitar in the presidential suite of Tokyo’s Okura Hotel. When a Japanese couple arrived in his room after accidentally taking the elevator to his “private” accommodations, they had the honor of listening to one of the biggest names in music history sing “Jealous Guy” to himself. After he uttered the last line of song, “I was swallowing my pain,” the couple left, likely without realizing they had heard Lennon’s last-ever live public performance, however unofficial it may have been.
Over 30 years later, “Jealous Guy” still holds meaning for avid Beatles and Lennon fans, including the talented Gillies, who has long found relief through song. “I try to find as much time as I can in my busy work schedule to just chill out,” she has said. “I think it’s important to have something that relaxes you. For me it was always listening to music.”
Starring on a show that already made history ( Victorious debuted with the highest ratings ever for a live-action Nickelodeon series) has thrust Gillies into a whole new level of level of celebrity. Far behind her now are the local theater performances and Broadway stage. The young rising star seems remarkably clear-headed. “I just want to do what I love and if fame comes along with that so be it,” Gillies said. “Either way I’ll be happy as long as I’m getting to do my job.” A hit show and a gorgeous voice—you can admire Elizabeth Gillies, but try not to be, you know, jealous.
Jaimie Etkin is an assistant culture editor at The Daily Beast. She has also written for Us Weekly and Radar.