With the launch of Disney+ in Ireland just around the corner, we had the lucky opportunity of having a chat with one of the stars of the streaming services' original movies, 'Stargirl'.
American musician Grace VanderWaal plays the title role in Disney+'s new romantic drama, which is based on author Jerry Spinelli's teen novel. of the same name Celebrating the topic of non-conformity, the 16-year-old 'Stargirl' actress spoke to us about the struggle of leaving the safety of her musical abilities and taking on the mantle of a lead role in Disney's new movie.
Here's the full interview with the rising star.
Thanks for taking time out to talk to us Grace. So, tell us how did you prepare for the role? What do you think it takes to be a teenager these days?
I think that the times have not changed at all. I think no matter what, being a teenager will always pretty much always be the same struggle. So what it means to be a teenager today means exactly what it was when you were a teenager. And I prepared for the role with an acting coach, but mostly I just had to mentally prepare myself for what was about to happen. I was pretty nervous and unsure.
Had you read the book before starting to shoot the movie?
I read the book when I was 12. It's a great book and I would recommend it to everyone - it'll be a great movie too.
How would you describe your character of Stargirl?
She's outgoing - sorry that's so bland - but yes, she's outgoing and true to herself!
If you had to give Stargirl advice, what would it be?
I think I would tell her to listen more. I think she's very in touch with her own self and her own awareness and thoughts, but I think if you get too much you start to be blind of what's actually going on around you. And I think if she improved her awareness skills it would help her a lot.
What was it about the character of Stargirl that attracted you to the role?
I think I was more attracted to the movie in general, and having that experience rather than the role itself. I heard about the opportunity, and I thought it sounded really fun and nothing like I'd done before.
What were the best and worst parts of your experience on the movie?
The best part of working on the film was probably working with the cast - everyone was so sweet, and everyone made it really easy to work with. Probably the hardest part was speaking on screen! I had a really, really hard time acting. I think I was just really scared and really uncomfortable, but everyone around me make it a lot easier.
Do you think you'd like to continue acting as you get more comfortable?
I don't know if I'll pursue acting but I definitely had an amazing experience with this movie. But yeah, if an opportunity came up that I liked, I would absolutely do it again. But for now, I love music.
What was the best piece of advice that you got, in preparation for this part?
I don't think I got much advice for the film, but I think probably the best thing someone told me - which made it a lot easier - was Julia Hart, the director. She was very, very, very sweet to me and we were talking about the more romantic scenes and she made me feel so comfortable. All she had to say was: 'I'm right here. I understand. I hear you.' I don't know, that was probably the best thing she could have told me, and I couldn't have worked with someone better.
Do you mind that the movie is only available on Disney+, or does that bother you at all?
I don't think I mind. I don't care about the success of the movie as much as I care about the message of the movie for the people who see it. It would be amazing if it played in the cinemas, but it's also amazing that it's exclusively streaming. It really doesn't matter either way. I think this film isn't the type of film that's trying to reign in money, it's just trying to spread a really sweet message and a good experience for the viewers.
So, what's the main message of the movie to you?
Be true to yourself, and always do good to others. But understand that your own happiness is within you, and you cannot sacrifice your own happiness for those you love. You need to be happy as well.
As a first acting role, is it a big deal to you to be in a Disney movie?
It was a big thing! Actually, 'Stargirl' didn't originally start out as a Disney movie so it was very nerve-wracking when Disney took it on and I had already been discussing possibly taking the part. So yeah, that definitely changed things - when me and my family found out we just freaked out! Because Disney is so huge, it turned into such a huge opportunity that we never expected.
What would be your favourite Disney movie or TV series that you've loved watching?
My favourite Disney movie that I loved when growing up was probably 'Pocahontas' or 'Princess and the Frog' - that's me and my sisters' favourite movie actually.
'Stargirl' will be available to stream when Disney+ launches on March 24.