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Friday, June 28, 2013

Leaving Eden's David Sapiro Interviews Leaving Eden's Jennifer Batiansila

Jen Batiansila, who plays Jill Nicholson on Leaving Eden, sat down at the computer screen to discuss the show and other topics with David Sapiro, who plays her on-camera husband, Pastor Ben Nicholson.

DS: Okay, let's start by having you tell our readers how AMAZING it is to work with me. 

JB: Haha....YES. I am truly blessed to act against one of the greats of our time!

DS: Thankyouverymuch! How did you get started in acting?

JB: At the grade school I went to, the 4th through 8th graders would put on a big musical once a year. There were auditions and CUTS (yes, kids got cut from things back in my day). When I got to 4th grade I was so excited and so SCARED out of my mind to audition. It looked like so much fun to me! So I gave it a shot, and was 1 of only 2 4th graders to make it...and the only 4th or 5th grader to get a main character. It was love at first sight!

DS: Very cool. It's a rather clinging, demanding love, isn't it?

JB: It is. It can drain you like nothing else, but the reward is equal.

DS: Amen. So, let's get to Leaving Eden. How did this show come about?

JB: It came out of the ever-so-complex brain of our beloved director. It was just a thought for quite some time. It was mentioned here and there throughout, oh I would say, the last 3-4 years. Finally there was a serious conversation between the two of us (Greg Batiansila and I) and we concluded with- enough talk. Do. 'Just Do It'. You guys should think about trademarking that.

DS: We should...I have to write that down so I don't forget. Before we get to your role as Jill Nicholson, what other aspects of the show are you involved with?

JB: I am the head producer, and I guess one of the casting directors as well. I have the joy of getting all of the actors/crew to show up to the set(on time for the most part) and make sure they know their lines...and yell at them if they don't. I breakdown each script and find out what we need to make each scene work- location/cast/crew/props, and then I play the juggling game with all of the different schedules to try and make it work. It can be very challenging, but such is life.

DS: I would imagine it gives you a lot of good material to put into your characterization of Jill.

JB: It does. I mean come one...dealing with you, Josh Pope and Scott Prox alone should send me right over the edge! Minus the fact I am married to the director. It's a wonder how I can even function at all.

DS: Oh, so you call what you do 'functioning'? I have another word for it...

JB: Nice

DS: SPEAKING of your husband, do you find it a challenge to work with family?

JB: Hmmm. Yes, no, yes...As a producer and knowing what needs to get done so Greg can try and focus his energy where it needs to go, or trying to pull him back in if he starts to stray, that's the easier part believe it or not. I would say that's how we work as a couple so it's not hard to carry that over. Now, as an actor I would say it can be a challenge. If there is something he wants to see come out of a scene and I am just not hitting that mark, it can get pretty frustrating. He will say, "good, that was fine" but I can read his face and know he is disappointed.

DS: It's certainly a difficult road to navigate, but you have done exceptionally well. How about working with your brother (Josh, who plays Lucas)? Is the show re-creating some long-lost skits you two performed as children?

JB: Ha! I am 8 years older than Josh, so those skits would have been fairly odd I think. 8yr old and an infant. Nothing interesting there. Or when he was 8 and I was 16, please! I was WAY too cool! Well, if you think about it, I hardly have any scenes with him at all throughout LEl. Season 1 had the car scene which was a blast to do because it was effortless to create. I would LOVE to do more scenes with him in the future!

DS: That scene is one of my favorites, for the very reason you mention: it's effortless. I find it very comforting to be working with friends because there's a natural rapport there that comes across on screen.
So, what makes Jill tick?

JB: Oh boy. What makes her tick? Here is what I constantly run through my head when I do a lot of her scenes. "She fell in love with a man, not a "pastor"." I think she feels like she is trying to hold on tight to all of these strings...and basically alone- Kids/housework/finances/appearances. Every time she feels like she could break from the weight of it all and maybe, just maybe even "walk away", she pulls herself back to focus on the love she has for Ben- the man. It becomes a fine line at times and I really think that conflict is brought to light even more in season 2.

DS: Great insights. I feel Ben is summed up by his line from episode 3 in the first season: "There's enough grace, just not enough me." He's trying to be all things to all people, but he often forgets that he serves God best by serving his family.

JB: What a difficult place to be...and this can ring true for many types of jobs, not just a pastor. However, there is this feeling of guilt the pastor or wife can feel when complaining or stressing out about the pastor's "job" because you almost feel it is a sin to do so. That somehow these people in these positions and their families shouldn't feel tired, burned out, bitter, alone, etc. That somehow because it is a "God" job, it makes other parts of life being sacrificed, ok. Really , they are just broken humans trying to live their broken lives just like each of us, all the while trying to help many of us make it through ours.

DS: Well said. That seems as good a place as any to wrap this up. Any final thoughts?

JB: I think the beauty of this show is the gritty realities it shows. It is not really trying to "save souls", it just wants to show you what those "souls" are going through.

DS: Perfect. Thanks for playing; we have some lovely parting gifts for you. 

JB: Thank you so kindly! I will now be exiting stage left.


  1. Leaving Eden is a wonderful study of Pastoral family dynamics. We are so pleased to be able to share this series during our monthly Christian film showings in our small rural Texas community.

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