Even if she wasn’t famous, Debby Ryan would be a cool girl. You know the type: Smart (see her charming Tumblr), funny (see her hilariously witty tweets), and she can rock ball gowns and band tees with the same aplomb. The actress-slash-singer is totally BFF-worthy, and she just so happens to be real-life besties with half of youngHollywood.
But Debby is famous, and deservedly so—the Disney star has acted on loads of hit series (remember The Suite Life?), the latest beingJessie, which kicks off its third season this summer.
We stole a few minutes with the 20-year-old to chat about movies, music, and making it big on the small-screen.
What can we expect from season three of Jessie?
Disney has never done a show with someone who starts out so grown-up̬Jessie’s 18! She’s still trying to figure out what kind of career she wants, so she’s trying different things and attempting to move forward and really advance as an actor. More than anything, it’s about watching her grow.
You’re going through a lot of the same things are your character. Do you influence the storylines at all?
I think that’s where we get half the inspiration for the show, just saying, “Okay, Debby, what’s going on with you right now?” I’m doing what Jessie’s doing. She’s moving forward, and life is changing and shifting around her. All the stories about her family and her relationships—all of those personal things—are totally typical of someone that age.
You’ve been on TV for years now. Are movies next for you?
It’s funny—for a lot of people, features are the dream, and they’re like, “When life settles down, maybe I’ll go to TV.” For me, it’s the opposite. I’ve really fallen in love with television. TV acting is a great skill to have, and it’s nice to have that stability.
But you’re into movies and music too, right?
I can do a little bit of everything, which is such a blessing. I have an amazing team of people around me. They don’t come to me and say “You should really do this, or you should reallyconsider that.” It’s, “Do you care about this project? Do you really want to do this? If not, don’t push it.” Acting and the industry of making movies is beautiful, but it’s so exhausting and suchhard work, if you don’t absolutely 100% want to do something, it defeats the purpose. You haveto want to do it and choose things that are worth fighting for. A career is not as much defined by things you say “yes” to as much as things you say “no” to.
You’re also recording an album! What should we expect from that?
I wouldn’t do the music thing if it weren’t for my brother, who’s a producer. He understands me and helps my vision come to life. I want to tell stories, and I want to tell them in the right way. He helps me do that. For the longest time, I was afraid to be a Disney girl who does music. It’s like, I love those girls. Those girls are my favorite. But it didn’t feel like me! Music is such an intensely personal thing for me, and I knew if I was going to do it, it would be in my own way.
What does it sound like?
There’s a little bit of everything. There are ukeleles and screaming guitars and loud drums and fun piano. It really is a fun record that’s about experiencing every shade of life.
You also manage to do a lot of charity work, too! What are you doing right now?
I’m an ambassador for Disney’s Friends for Change, and I asked them if there’s anything we can do to help little girls in India get education and a better quality of life, because that’s important to me. A few months later they introduced me to an incredible charity called Free the Children, which helps young people empower other young people. They recently partnered with Amwayto look for changemakers who are positively affecting their communities and, therefore, the world.
You always look awesome on the red carpet. Are you into fashion?
It’s such an exciting subplot of what I do. I’m blessed because get to tell stories and help people, but I also get to step out and wear cool things and tell people who I am. I’m inspired by street style and Teen Vogue. I love band tees and pearl earrings!