“I’ve always liked to think of myself as a fighter, even before I got sick,” said Jacki, 15. “Since I first fell in love with the heroine Mulan as a little girl, I have admired women characters who fight their own battles and triumph against all odds.”
A self-admitted “huge nerd,” Jackie devours Marvel and DC comic books. She’s seen every Marvel movie – many times. A huge fan of the Avengers series, she began following the projects of its director Joss Whedon, known for making movies and shows featuring strong female characters.
When Jackie was diagnosed at 13 with leukemia, she quickly realized that she had to be her own superhero, and drew on the strengths of her beloved movie characters to battle her disease. And, as she fought her own life and death battle, she also dreamed of visiting a Joss Whedon production.
Her wish was realized when she was invited to join the cast of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for one, amazing day.
Jackie and her family arrived on set at the crack of dawn, 5 a.m., heading first to the hair and make-up trailer. She couldn’t believe her luck when she realized she was seated next to Ming-Na Wen, not only the actress that plays one of her favorite S.H.I.E.L.D. characters, Agent Melinda May, but also the voice of Mulan!
“I just love her strong character in the show. She always kicks butt!” says Jackie. “But I didn’t realize how starstruck I would be.” Jackie leaned over and whispered to Ming-Na, “I’ve seen Mulan so many times!”
Jackie and her family were quickly embraced -- literally – by the members of the cast and crew.
“I told myself that I probably wouldn’t actually meet the stars of the show. Boy was I wrong,” said Jackie. “I met six of them! The only two I missed were those who didn’t need to be on set that day. Every one of them hugged me. Nick Blood (who plays Lance Hunter) kissed me twice on the cheek!”
Elizabeth Henstridge, who plays another of Jackie’s favorite characters, Agent Jemma Simmons, joined Jackie for lunch, along with her adorable little dog!
“I like her character because she plays a very adept female scientist, something I want to be,” said Jackie. The two talked about their shared passions for acting and dance. At the end of lunch, the actress asked to exchange emails with Jackie, so that she could keep up on her progress.
“She was so sweet,” Jackie said. “Really, everyone on that set made me feel cared for; special. Meeting with them as people, not just actors and actresses, was amazing. It made me feel like I was one of them. It made it all feel worth it.”
When fatigue took over, Jackie was whisked away to her own private trailer “with my name on the door” for some much-needed rest. It was located right next to the director’s trailer and was decked out with every luxury a young starlet would need.
Jackie’s on-set experience was filled with wow moments. “The Bus (a futuristic high-tech plane used on the show) looked exactly the same as on TV!” said Jackie. “And I never expected the set to be so huge! Some parts were two stories high!”
Jackie also was surprised by how many takes are needed to capture even a seemingly small moment. The length of time that goes into filming and the patience and professionalism required for the actors and actresses to remain in character were things with which she could relate, having spent nearly two years receiving chemotherapy and enduring numerous hospitalizations.
“I came away from the day believing that I can be like these amazing characters,” says Jackie. Now in her final six months of maintenance chemotherapy, Jackie has set her sights on becoming an anesthesiologist, combining her love of science with her desire to do something that matters; something important that helps people. A highly motivated heroine, Jackie is on track to graduate from high school at age 16, and already takes college courses at the community college.
“I always want to stand up for what I believe,” says Jackie. “I’m always speaking my mind. I’m very goal-oriented. There are lots of things I want to do in life.”