In 2020, with the pandemic in its infancy, writer and producer Jill Melody found herself sequestered in a one-room apartment in Tel Aviv. Israel had enacted one of the most stringent lockdowns in Western Europe. Melody, who lives in Boca, had flown in to work on a short film, and even making it out of the airport involved hurdle after hurdle—followed by two weeks of isolation.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “never let a good quarantine go to waste.” Melody spent the unwanted downtime hatching an idea for a sitcom set among the cast and crew of a zany Miami variety show. By quarantine’s end, she had scripted the pilot, and by the time she departed Israel, she had submitted her concept for a grant established to support Jewish female filmmakers.
Melody received the funding, and for the past two years, her show, titled “Just My Type,” has been all-consuming. Serving as writer, producer, showrunner and actor, Melody and her crew have filmed at locations throughout Broward and Palm Beach counties. “Just My Type,” starring local talent, is expected to be available on streaming services, as a one-hour special with the potential to extend into a full series, in January.
For Melody, widowed with three kids and five grandchildren, comedy has always been a lifeline. She has notched an appearance in “Friends” and starred in the Amazon comedy “Ms. INCORPORATED.” For five years, she ran the Florida Comedy Film Festival, last hosted at the Willow Theater in 2020 and likely to return in 2024.
“Humor is what saved me,” she says. “I’ve seen my mother pass away, I’ve seen my husband pass away. The most important thing is to keep your sense of humor. Otherwise, you’re just going to lose it.”
I understand you started acting at age 10; how did it happen?
My dad was a big inspiration for me. He was kind of like a theater dad. He told me at 10, after being in a couple of school plays, “you need to audition for this group called the Showbiz Kids.” I said, “I barely sing and dance.” … So I go to the audition, and I do my song-and-dance routine. And the lady who’s the head of the troupe said, “you’re not really a singer, are you?” I went, “nope.” She’s like, “you’re not really a dancer, are you?” I said, “nope. Can I leave now?” She’s like, “no, because you have something none of these other people have: charisma. We can teach you to sing. We can teach you to dance. We can’t teach charisma.” And that was that.
Why did you choose a Miami television station for the setting of “Just My Type?”
Miami is a kooky, crazy place. You’ve got Latinos, right-wing, left-wing, gay, straight; it’s a melting pot, and we touch on everything. We have every kind of character you can possibly imagine—and that’s what Miami is.
Are there certain movies or shows that you drew from when developing “Just My Type?”
“30 Rock” was definitely one; “Frasier.” I’m old, so I go way back to the standards. It’s that comedic timing, where you may not get it for another minute or two. I’m a child of the ‘80s, so I liked all the shows of the ‘80s.
As both actor and showrunner, what’s been the biggest challenge navigating not only the front of the camera but everything backstage as well?
Exactly that. I’m acting in it, and I’ve got 20 different hats. You lay out all the groundwork, you get the money, you get the locations, you get a great crew, and then you’ve got to put all that aside, and you’re like, “hi, now I’m an actor.” Somebody just called me about ice. I don’t care about ice—figure it out. If you have a problem with the lights, just fix it. Do your job. I have a crew of 16 people, and I have to delegate a lot. And then there’s a lot of preproduction work. It’s a Screen Actors Guild production, so getting the paperwork assigned, making sure legally you’re covered, making sure that everyone’s going to show up, making sure our COVID compliance officer is on top of everything. There’s a million pieces to it.
Were you surprised that during such a dark time, you were about to develop a comedy?
I think that’s the critical thing. My tagline is, life is better when you’re laughing. … You’ve got to keep your energy level up. You’ve got to keep smiling. What kept us all going during the pandemic? We all sat and watched Netflix, Amazon, Hulu. I wrote TV. I’m like, I’m not going to let this time be wasted. Who’s got two weeks to just sit around?