Mother Lynn Spears said her youngest came into the world "unexpectedly, yet so adored by all the moment she arrived," describing how Jamie Lynn said yes to everything social as a kid, from basketball to softball, cheerleading and gymnastics. She did it all while watching older sister Britney become the biggest pop star in the world, focusing in on acting to differentiate herself from her famous sibling.
“I'm sure subconsciously, there was maybe some form of that,” Jamie Lynn said of taking a different path than Britney. "But for me, I loved making up characters.”
After getting her first acting job at 9, Jamie Lynn said she wasn't thinking about a long-term career plan, figuring she could try the pop thing later on. And she did try, recalling a meeting with a famous, unnamed, producer-writer who gave her a song with the "d--n" in it that left the tween singer red-cheeked in embarrassment.
As it turns out, acting was the right call, as she landed a gig on Nickelodeon's All That at 11 as the character Thelma Stump, who she created while on the road with Britney by combining her sister's bodyguard, Big Rob, with their grandmother, Granny Lexie. She loved being the youngest cast member on the wildly popular show for two years until developing Zoey 101 for herself.
The popular show ran from 2005 to 2008, as Spears was going through all the insecurities and struggles of puberty that everyone does at that age, only in the public eye, with paparazzi everywhere. “I just remember being really, really self-conscious about a lot of things during that time,” she told Nylon. “Still, I always say I wish I was as confident as I was at that moment in my life.” When the show went dark in 2008, Spears said she chose to disappear from the public eye for five years.
“That was on purpose,” she explained, noting that her pregnancy at 16 dovetailed with the natural end of the series' run, though many fans blamed her for the loss of their must-see TV. "In today's world, immediately I'd have my social media to post something, and it'd be cleared up,” she said. “But even today, people still have their thoughts about it. I didn't become pregnant until probably six months after we wrapped or something like that, but some of the episodes had not aired yet. I think that there was a conversation with Nickelodeon, rightfully so, of, ‘Do we air these episodes?’ But the show had already wrapped and there was never a negotiation to go into any more seasons. We were too old. It was done.”
By the time the decision was made, Spears was back in Louisiana trying to plot her next career move when she found out she was expecting a child with her high-school boyfriend, whom she split with two years later. “You have your first love, or what you call love in high school. You think it's forever, and then, 'Oh my gosh, I'm pregnant." I am mortified to have to tell my parents this and my family this. I do not care what TMZ thinks about it,” she said. “That was all I was thinking about: ‘These are the people I love that I have to tell, and also, I'm pregnant. There's a human being growing inside of me, and I'm so young, I'm almost a baby myself.’ I didn't really care about any of that nonsense, but when we did announce that I was pregnant, I did hide away for a little bit during that time and I didn't have a phone. But of course, the paparazzi still found me."
So, she bought a house and tried to figure out what her life would look like and hoped that shying away from the paparazzi following her would eventually create enough space to live a normal life. Mom and daughter moved to Nashville in 2011, where Jamie Lynn began trying to reboot her country music career while writing songs for artists such as Jana Kramer and searching for her own voice. She released the 2014 EP Journey and had a second child with her husband of six years, Jamie Watson, and is now working on the Zoey reboot and waiting to film her parts in the second season of Netflix's Sweet Magnolias.
Oh, and that Twilight audition? “They had to force me. Force me,” she said about her manager's insistence that she give the movie a try. “I remember just thinking like, ‘Y’all are insane. I’m not playing a vampire. That is so stupid. Why would I do that?’ But I went and read for that role. I remember sitting in this little room, and I think Lily Collins was there, and I felt so sick. Little did I know, I was pregnant.”
Check out Nylon for the full story, including Spears' description of what it was like to record the new Zoey music and reunite with her cast.