Youth & Consequences was released earlier this month on YouTube Red and you play the role of Plain Jane. What was your first impression of her when you read the script?
I pretty much instantly connected to Plain Jane. Jane has a huge heart, which is one of the things I love most about her. Throughout the season, Jane is going through this struggle to find herself and her voice. I saw a lot of strength and vulnerability in her struggle that really excited me. Her heart and desire for self discovery are what ultimately drew me to Jane.
What do you think people could learn from a character like Plain Jane?
I think one of my favorite things about our show is how Plain Jane and the other “popular” girls at school aren’t mean. You don’t have to be a bully to be admired. I think a lot of teen shows have that stereotypical mean girl queen bee of the school, and it’s been really exciting to be on a show that isn’t feeding into that stereotype. Plain Jane might be popular, but she’s also a good person, and I hope that she can be an example to young people.
These days, teens are constantly using different outlets to make their voices heard, whether they’re vocalizing their anxiety, shining a light on bullying, or just trying to engage and share their life with a wider audience. Do you think that the use of social media has more of a positive impact on teens, or a negative, and why?
This is a tough one and to be honest, I’m not sure, but I think the answer might be both. I like to think it has more of a positive impact, but there are definitely many negatives to social media. One negative thing about social media is I think it puts teens in a place where we are constantly comparing ourselves to each other and trying to live up to what others are portraying and that’s difficult. I think it can make people feel bad about themselves when they don’t live up to what they are seeing. I also think for some people, they use social media to make connections, instead of actually connecting to the people they are with in the real world. The most important connections we make are with the family and friends we are with and that’s something that should never be replaced by social media. Another downside is sometimes I think people on social media can get really mean. They pick on people and make horrible comments – things they would actually never say in person. Cyberbullying is definitely a real issue. With all that said, there are a lot of positives as well. I think social media has a powerful way of making teens feel heard. Social media allows us to be heard by our friends and by people across the world. It’s a space where you can be vocal and have opinions. Social media is a place where we get to learn from each other and be exposed to the views of those around us. It has a beautiful way of connecting us all and I think it makes the world feel a little smaller and that’s an incredible thing. There are definitely some negatives, but I think social media is great when used in the right way and with the right attitude, so I hope that wins out in the end.
What is one social issue you yourself are personally very passionate about?
Right now, it’s hard for me to talk about anything but gun control. I recently attended March for Our Lives in LA and it was one of the most heartbreaking but also inspiring things I’ve ever been a part of. It’s been incredible to see how young people are leading this movement and I think it has shown the true strength of our generation. No child should be afraid to go to school, or to the movie theater, or to a concert, or anywhere. It’s truly insane that our children our dying and our government has done nothing. We won’t be silenced. We will make a change. We’re literally fighting for our lives.
How does this project differ from your prior work with Disney?
Youth & Consequences is a high school dramedy and definitely feels grown up from the kids comedy I was doing on Disney. We get to tackle so many important political issues such as transgender rights and gender equality, something that I wasn’t able to do on Disney. Being a part of a show that has the ability to be more politically active and has a more mature voice has been a cool experience. Disney was great, but as my fans are growing up I’m excited to be on a show that is growing with them.
I know that you used to dance, so do you have any hopes of including your love of dance into future acting gigs or would you prefer to keep the two separate?
I would love to dance and act together! I’ve gotten to dance a little on past projects and it was so fun. Combining two things I love that much never feels wrong.
What style of dance are you currently most drawn to?
I love all dance, but presently I’m probably most drawn to hip hop.
If you ever did a musical, would you be more intrigued in a dark, dramatic story, or a comedic one?
I love comedy, so maybe a comedic musical. That said, I also think drama has a beautiful way of grounding musicals. Can I say both?
Who are some actors on your radar that you’d love to work with in the future?
There are so many. In my dream world I’d love to work with Emma Stone. She’s a huge inspiration of mine, so she is definitely high up on my list.
What advice might you have for other young actresses that are breaking into the industry today?
Give it everything you have. If you’re going to give this career a shot, you really have to go all in. That’s my biggest rule for anyone looking to start in the industry. My advice particularly for young actresses is don’t be afraid to speak up. It took me awhile to get past the fear of being seen as “difficult” or as a “diva,” but once I found my voice on set I only wished I hadn’t been afraid before. We deserve to be heard.
On a day off, would you rather: attend a cooking class, go hiking, or watch a movie with friends?
Watch a movie with friends, no question!
I understand you’re a bit of a brunch fan. What your go-to choice for brunch?
French toast forever and always.
What’s one sport you have absolutely no interest in ever participating in?
Maybe rugby? Really just any sport with a lot of aggression.
When faced with your greatest fear, are you more likely to tackle it head on, waiver about how to handle it, or run away with your arms flailing?
I’ll waiver about how to handle it at first, but eventually I’ll tackle it head on. Getting over my fears is something I’m always working on in my life, and it’s really necessary in order to live a full life and achieve my dreams, which is most definitely my goal. Fear can be paralyzing and that’s just no way to live.