Reel Women: SAG Award Nominee Amber Friendly

(Reel Woman: Amber Friendly)

Editor’s Note: As we reach the end of Women’s History Month, it’s important to recognize the Reel Women who play the heroes in our favorite One Chicago dramas. Today we celebrate talented actress and Chicago-born and raised Amber Friendly.

Amber has a growing resume that boasts work on some of the industry’s most lauded programming. From project to project, Friendly stands out for her innate talent and versatility as an actor.

Her credits include the recurring role of ‘Layla Bell’ in Apple TV’s The Morning Show, where she was nominated for a 2022 SAG Award for ‘Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.’ Friendly also plays the recurring role of ‘Dr. Helen Green’ on 9-1-1. Her additional appearances include Shameless, How to Get Away with Murder, and Parks and Recreation. In fall 2022, Amber guest starred on NCIS,

Next for Amber is the recurring role of ‘Pearl’ in the much-anticipated return of HBO’s Perry Mason. She also just wrapped the third season of The Morning Show. Friendly has also been included in the fashion columns of US Weekly, People, WWD, USA Today and on E!’s Glambot.

Friendly grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago and holds a BFA from the Theatre School at DePaul and an MFA from the University of California-Irvine. 

Let’s meet Amber!

What’s your origin story?

I come from the Midwest, grew up in the Chicago area and that greatly influenced me growing up. The mix of cultures, the exposure to art, a great education, and a goofy, loving family. It was the perfect ground for me to launch from.

How did you get into acting

My story of how I started in the industry is really about how stubborn I am and how encouraging the people around me were from a young age. I started acting in community theater when I was in junior high, did drama competitions in high school, and got an agent when I was in college. I took the more traditional route: did local theater around town in Chicago, then came to California to get my master’s degree and was lucky enough to work with some great people in the TV and Film industry out here in California!

Who were your mentors?

I’ve met a lot of great teachers and mentors along the way. My high school drama teacher and speech team coach, Tom Sweeney was an early one. He pushed us to work on challenging material, and really stretched what I would consider ‘high school theater’. I remember working on the classics and very complex contemporary writers at the time.

I remember one year we did productions of Moliere, and Martin McDonagh in short order. It was an exciting time. We weren’t treated like ‘kid’ actors, we were just actors. That means a lot to a teenager. And, of course, I have to say both of my parents supported me in a way that let me know I could do anything I put my mind to.   

While there will be others, what do you consider your biggest achievement to date? 

Right now I’d say actually getting to do the job I’ve always dreamed of as my living. If I think about it too hard, it makes my head spin to think the thing I dreamed of doing as an 11 year old is what I get to do now. Not everyone can say that. 

Amber in NCIS: Los Angeles

What drives you to create?

It changes all the time, but I’d say it’s usually other creatives. When I watch a great performance, or see a show executed with a unique vision, I think “how cool! I want to play too!” I hypes me up. 

Award you crave, but haven’t won

I want an Emmy, baby! That’s a dream I’m aiming for. 

What shows/movies/songs are doing the best job of portraying strong women on TV?

I think a show like Abbott Elementary, which is light-hearted in genre and tone is a great example. It’s about the strength of everyday people, mostly women, who serve their community through a lot of hardship. They encourage each other and lift up the people around them. I think that’s a beautiful story.


Is there still a boys club?

I think to a certain extent there is. Things are changing, but that change needs to happen in the board rooms, the writers rooms, the department heads, etc. over an extended period of time. A company and an industry’ s culture trickles down from the top.

Coffee, Lunch or Happy Hour. Name a famous woman (living or dead) you would like to attend each function with.

Grace Jones. You KNOW it would be an amazing time. I would soak up every minute of that conversation!

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled against Roe v Wade. What can women in your industry do to defend a woman’s rights?

I believe that everyone should have access to comprehensive and affordable healthcare. And that those decisions should be between a patient and their doctor. In my industry, all people, not just women, can defend women’s rights by highlighting and funding organizations that have already been doing the work in this arena, like Planned Parenthood, The National Black Women’s Reproductive Agenda, or the ACLU.

What keeps you up at night?

Like most people, I just want to know that the people I love and care for are safe, happy, and healthy, so if any of them are going through a hard time or in trouble, it occupies my thoughts.

I also think a lot about my neighbors. In Los Angeles, a lot of our neighbors are currently without housing. No one should have to experience that. That does keep me up at night. 

What’s up with Beyoncé being nominated for 4 Best Albums of the year but never winning?

Oooh, you’re asking the big questions! I can’t say for sure. The music industry is not my area of expertise. But when she didn’t win for Lemonade, I gave up waiting for it to happen. That said, Beyonce’s reach and influence cannot be denied and her influence will stand the test of time.