This post is in partnership with Disney
Disney will be releasing an adaptation of Jerry Spinelli’s young adult novel Stargirl on their exclusive streaming service, Disney+. Directed by Julia Hart, Stargirl follows Leo Borlock (Graham Verchere) is a typical teen who blends in with others at Mica High School in Arizona. When Stargirl Caraway (Grace VanderWaal), a previously homeschooled, colorful, ukulele-playing force of nature, arrives to enter tenth grade, most of the kids at school shun her because of her uniqueness. However, Leo falls in love with her. The film will follow the ups and downs of being a teenager in high school and what it is like to experience first love.
ThatsItLA talked to VanderWaal on set of the upcoming film. While VanderWaal has a background in music and was the winner of season 11 of America’s Got Talent, she originally wanted to be an actor. But after she appeared on AGT, she pursued music.
Everyone can relate to the pressures of trying to fit in with a clique or group in high school. However, some go against traditional norms and embrace their individuality. That’s how VanderWaal sees Stargirl. “Stargirl is like really quirky, just different. And I don’t know she’s just like what someone would be if they lived without judgment or like norms, I feel like,” she said. “So it’s really cool that you could like see how someone could be if they were genuinely a hundred percent themselves.”
VanderWaal says she sees a lot of herself in Stargirl but believes she isn’t as cool as her. Still, she sympathizes with how difficult it can be to be the quirky one in high school. “I definitely related to her, but I never had the confidence that she did in the book. And I was never as sure of myself as she was,” she said.
Though VanderWaal was new to the acting gig, Hart helped make her feel comfortable. “She let me have a lot of flexibility with it, so I would be like I just don’t feel like Stargirl would say that or I feel uncomfortable saying that, she would literally be like okay let’s change it to what you think it could be, that was like super cool,” she said.
VanderWaal even collaborated on a few scenes and had some input on a dress that will appear in the upcoming film.
The young actress is such a fan of a book that the copy she owns is beaten up and is filled with post-it notes. Though she loved the story and always hoped it would be a movie and thought that it would be perfect for her considering where she is at in her career.
But what she likes most about the film is its message about “being yourself.”
“I think what I like about the Stargirl film is that there are so many like be yourself sort of films and books and everything out there,” VanderWaal said. “And like if it were really that easy to just say just be yourself, everyone would never have a problem with it.”
So in order for Stargirl to be something more than just another one of those “be yourself” films, VanderWaal says there is some more depth to it about sacrifice and self-care. “I think what’s cool about this film is it shows that like because Stargirl is so strong and she’s so incredibly sure of who she is,” she said. “But it shows that when you start caring about someone and loving someone how you would sacrifice your happiness for theirs. And I hope that the message that comes out of this is beyond being yourself but understand that your happiness is most important and your-self care is most important.”
Disney will release Stargirl exclusively on Disney+ on March 13, 2020.