Disney+’s Stargirl Stars Talk Choreography and Sequel Possibilities
Stargirl, premiering on Disney+ on Friday, is the celebration of quirky uniqueness. The titular character (Grace VanderWaal), all sparkles and ribbon, starts attending high school in a sleepy Arizona town and a young boy who has done everything to suppress his weirder side (Graham Verchere) instantly falls in love. It’s an adorable and occasionally very emotional story, based on a bestselling YA classic by Jerry Spinelli and adapted, lovingly, by co-writer/director Julia Hart and a team of dedicated collaborators. So you can imagine what a thrill it was to see everyone from the movie celebrate their own individuality on the red carpet for the film, held in beautiful Hollywood, California, on a decidedly un-Stargirl-ish rainy night.
Stargirl can be a tough movie to describe, but Giancarlo Esposito, who plays a mentor to the kids named Archie, summed it up beautifully: “It took me back to my youth and my time in grade school, high school, when I felt like I didn’t belong when I wasn’t allowed to be the guy that I was – a bit of an oddball, a bit of an outcast and I wasn’t able to have the courage to embrace that. This film allows the opportunity for people to embrace that, if they choose, the wonder of their dreams.” He then said, with that Esposito twinkle, “I’m here to tell you that you can. Because I did. And here I am today.” (This is why he’s an icon, folks.) Maximiliano Hernández, another adult in a movie full of younger actors (who you know from the MCU), put it even more directly: “The story is simple and sweet and it’s the kind of thing we need right now. I think the audience will absolutely adore it.” We sure did!
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But one of the elements of Stargirl that might not be apparent from the marketing materials is that it dips, occasionally, into full-blown musical territory (including a couple of numbers set to underrated Beach Boys tune “True to Your School”), something that we had to ask co-writer and executive producer Jordan Horowitz, who most remember for being the person from La La Land to identify that the wrong envelope had been read on that fateful Oscar night (he’s also Hart’s husband and creative partner), all about. “Having done La La Land made understanding how to prep a musical much easier,” Horowitz explained. “We had the choreographer from La La Land and the executive music producer from La La Land. We’d already gone through it once and knew what worked and what didn’t, which really helped with preparing the movie — getting the dance numbers ready and the songs ready.”
When we asked how the young actors handled themselves with the elaborate choreography, Horowitz said, “They didn’t know what they were in for but they were amazing.”
The young actors, however, had a different view of their own musical number performance. “I want to make it very clear that I’ve never claimed to be a dancer. Please be kind to me. I am very fragile,” Grace VanderWaal told us.
VanderWaal, of course, is best known for winning America’s Got Talent and she gets to sing and play the ukulele in the movie (traits that made her so lovable in the first place). While she was a well-known singer, we asked Verchere if he had done any singing prior to filming. “We both sang before and during the movie,” Graham Verchere noted.
This led to an amazing back-and-forth between the two young stars:
“Graham has the most beautiful voice I have ever heard in my life. It made me cry so many times,” VanderWaal said.
“Let’s be honest, I didn’t win America’s Got Talent,” Verchere replied.
“But you could have!” VanderWaal said. And this is why she is Stargirl.
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Juliocesar Chavez, who memorably plays one of Verchere’s marching band chums, admitted he had musical experience, just not the musical experience required of him for the role: “I can play piano, drums, guitar, ukulele, and bass, but I had to learn how to read the bass drum music and play the bass drum.” But the musical numbers? “It was a fun experience and something I’d never experienced before.”
The other big question we had, of course, is whether or not we’d a follow-up, considering the book had a sequel and similar material like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before have transformed into must-watch streaming franchises. VanderWaal said, “Me and Graham are [talking about the sequel]! Trying to set up meetings!” (In the book, their characters are the only ones that return.) When I asked director Hart, who admitted that doing an adaptation (and something that didn’t originate with her) wasn’t initially part of her plan, she just smiled coyly and said, “I’m not allowed to say.”
In other words: don’t be surprised if Love, Stargirl makes its way to Disney+ in the not-too-distant future.