ALL ACROSS Australia there are young women living in small towns, dreaming of what life would be like to go overseas and pursue their dreams. Many will find new dreams, new pathways to take in life. For some, like Lismore local Maia Mitchell, those childhood dreams really do come true.
Nineteen-year-old Mitchell is the star of the latest film project from the Disney Channel, Teen Beach Movie, which is due for a worldwide release this summer. The film has been heralded as the natural successor to the highly-successful High School Musical franchise and is expected to make its stars some of the most recognisable faces across the world.
Mitchell plays the role of McKenzie, a teenage girl that is mysteriously transported into a 1960s beach party film called Wet Side Story. The film follows McKenzie and her friend Brady (Ross Lynch) in their attempts to escape the film and return to their everyday life – despite being increasingly drawn into the world of Wet Side Story.
Mitchell told Australian Times that she enjoyed playing the role of McKenzie in Teen Beach Movie and found the character “super fun” to portray. She said that McKenzie is a complex character that is forced to make difficult decisions over the course of the film.
Mitchell said: “McKenzie is a really cool girl — she’s fun, she’s a surfer chick and very chilled. She has a strong urge for adventure. At the beginning of the movie, she is at a crossroads — she’s forced to choose between her relationship and going to boarding school. Throughout the movie she works through her decisions. I would love to play the role again — I got to surf, sing and dance, which was really cool.”
Despite having made her start in the entertainment industry at the age of twelve, Mitchell says that she felt like a newcomer after moving to the USA to film Teen Beach Movie. She told Australian Times that she felt “incredibly lucky” to have been given an opportunity to work as an actress, saying “people work years and years to start off their career, and I feel like I have as well, with starting early.”
Mitchell began her career in Australia on mid-2000s children’s program Mortified, which was co-produced for the Nine Network, the BBC and Disney Australia. It has turned to be the first of many occasions in which Mitchell would work with the Disney organisation, with Teen Beach Movie the latest in a string of collaborations.
Mitchell said: “Disney Channel has really good values and it is a safe place for young people in the industry because of its core values and the belief system behind it. The channel is very family orientated making it child friendly. Also, the shows are so funny and in keeping with good values.”
Teen Beach Movie filmed last year in Puerto Rico with a budget doubling that of the original High School Musical film, highlighting the Disney Channel’s faith in the project’s success. Mitchell told Australian Times that the cast and crew became very close during the film’s production.
Mitchell said: “It was amazing! It didn’t really feel like work to be honest. It was like I had stepped into a dream world where everyone was dressed as 60s characters, and singing and dancing all the time. The whole cast and crew were really close. We had rehearsals before we went to Puerto Rico – we spent weeks in dance rehearsals, so we got to know each other really well before we started filming the movie. The whole cast and crew were amazing.”
Teen Beach Movie is not Mitchell’s only project for 2013: she also stars in The Fosters, a drama series that premiered in the US on Disney-owned ABC Family on 3 June. She stars as Callie, a neglected child that is taken in by a lesbian couple as a foster child and becomes part of a very non-conventional family unit.
Mitchell said: “The characters (in Teen Beach Movie and The Fosters) couldn’t be more different, which is really fun for me. Filming The Fosters was amazing — the first time I read the script I was obsessed with the storyline and the character. It’s really cool because billboards and adverts on the TV have started to pop up, which is crazy and surreal.”
Mitchell, who’s a star well-and-truly on the rise, told Australian Times that young people should make sure that acting is their passion before pursuing a career in the industry. She said it is important to be prepared as an actor and do a lot of research into writers, directors and producers in order to fully understand the industry.
Mitchell said: “Make sure that acting is what you want to do and that you enjoy it. I also think it is important to be prepared — read a lot as an actor must understand different characters and people.”
Teen Beach Movie premieres on the Disney Channel on 19 July. The film’s soundtrack was released 15 July. More information can be found at www.disneychannel.co.uk/teenbeachmovie