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After years of landing lead roles in hit shows like Community and Netflix’s Love, actress Gillian Jacobs knows a thing or two about the power of negotiation. As it turns out, she learned her best salary-making tips from none other than small-screen powerhouse Shonda Rhimes. “Like everyone else, I’m in awe of Shonda Rhimes,” Jacobs tells InStyle. “A few years ago, I was at a dinner with her in L.A., and I remember her saying, ‘It’s not really a negotiation unless you are prepared to completely walk away.’ And I really took that to heart.”
Since then, Jacobs has been channeling Rhimes whenever she’s making a big career move. “When you’re starting out in any industry, it’s scary because you feel so replaceable, like ‘If I say no [to this number], then they’ll just find somebody else,” Jacobs says. “But I’ve found that saying 'no' can be incredibly powerful. And to really get what you want, sometimes you have to be able to do that.”
While Jacobs, who stars in Netflix’s new comedy Ibiza (streaming now), says that knowing—and fighting for—your worth is important in any industry, she's also taken on lower-budget roles because they've excited her. “When I did off-Broadway, it was shocking—they pay you so very little,” she says of playing the role of Kate in the off-Broadway production of Kings. “I was able to make it work because I’ve had the luxury of being on television the last couple of years. Plus, it was something that I wanted to do for myself as an actor, to have that performance experience. And it was worth it.”
Here, the actress gets candid about all things finances, from her favorite fashion splurges (Dries and Givenchy, natch) to the money advice she’ll never forget.
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On her financial upbringing… Money was something that I thought about a lot when I was younger. I was very aware of the fact that we were struggling and that it was hard for my mom to pay our mortgage and stay in our house and pay the taxes. I was very conscious of it from a young age.
On her shopping strategy… I'm usually very frugal, but I recently let myself buy these crazy purple Dries Van Noten pants. I waited for a sale to cover it, though. I love them! They’ll last a long time—at least that’s what I tell myself.
On her favorite way to splurge… Definitely going out to dinner because I can’t cook. My spot is Matsuhisa on La Cienega in L.A.
On the piece of money advice that stuck with her… My babysitter used to tell me, "Never buy anything that you can't pay for in cash." That’s not really a good way to build credit, though, is it? [laughs] It’s a good way not to go into debt. I don’t really carry any cash anymore, though.
On talking about money with her friends…I'm trying to talk about it more. I listen to the podcast "Death, Sex, & Money," which has inspired me to think about it more with my characters too. On the show, Love, I really thought about [my character] Mickey's financial life. Everything needed to be very grounded and naturalistic with her. My character in Ibiza was in a different place. She's working in PR, and I know she was making a good living because of her very nice apartment. It was far nicer than any place I had in New York.
On her first paid acting job…My first real job was after college in an indie movie called Building Girl. But as a kid, the first thing I ever did as an actor was called The Steadfast Toy Soldier. I was 9 years old. It was mainly a ballet show, and I was the only actor in it. I had scenes in the beginning and end of it, and then the rest of the time I had to pretend to be asleep onstage on this really hard piece of Styrofoam.
On her first big purchase… I never had nice purses, so my first substantial adult purchase was my Givenchy bag. I’ll always keep that one.
On splitting the bill on a date… I’d offer to split the bill, both on a first date and in a long-term relationship. Why not?
On her most recent regrettable purchase... I bought myself a dress at a boutique where you couldn't return things. And as soon as I did it, I regretted it. I ended up giving it to my friend, so at least I paid it forward a little bit.
On the best part about having money… I think if you feel financially stable it decreases your day-to-day level of stress, which is good for your health and I don’t know … probably lowers your heart rate? [laughs] I'm not a doctor.
Jacobs' film, Ibiza, is streaming now on Netflix. Watch the trailer above.