Today, the Disney Channel, a network known for creating teenage stars will crown their new princess, 12-year-old China Anne McClain. McClain will follow in the steps of Disney stars like Raven-Symoné, Hillary Duff, Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez; starring as the lead actress on the new Disney Channel comedy series A.N.T. Farm.
According to a recent New York Times article, “Children’s television is at a transitional moment when it comes to female stars. At Disney, the Big Three; Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato, have all moved on. Miranda Cosgrove, the star of iCarly on Nickelodeon, turns 18 this month. Both companies are feverishly trying to mint new headliners capable of drawing the attention of tweens, roughly defined as viewers 9 to 14.”
Could China Anne McClain’s leading role on A.N.T. Farm position her as the new Disney “it girl”?
The show is about a middle school musical prodigy who is newly enrolled in the prestigious A.N.T. (Advance Natural Talents) program at a local high school. McClain will play the character Chyna Parks, an 11-year old fish-out-of-water encountering the sometimes daunting world of high school — three years earlier than expected.
WATCH CHINA ANNE MCCLAIN PERFORM THE THEME SONG FROM A.N.T. FARM
Saturday Night Live alum Finesse Mitchell, and Elise Neal from The Hughleys will star as McClain’s parents, Darryl and Roxanne Parks.
McClain is no stranger to being in front of the camera; she made her film debut as Alexis in the 2005 film The Gospel and in 2007 starred in Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls. Since 2006 she has played the character Jazmine Payne on Tyler Perry’s TBS series House of Payne.
In an interview with theGrio, McClain opened up about her new Disney role and her plans for the future.
The young actress says she got her start in the entertainment industry at the age of 6, when a family friend encouraged her to audition for The Gospel.
“One day my dad had a friend over to the house and he told me about an audition for a little girl who could sing and act. I knew I could sing, but I didn’t know if I could act because I had never done it before. I was very nervous at the first audition, but there were a bunch of girls there that were my age and we played and had fun which relaxed me. I went into the audition and I guess they liked me, because 5 months later they called me and told me I got the role. After my first movie I realized I wanted to do it for the rest of my life.”
McClain sings and plays the guitar and other instruments on A.N.T. Farm as well as sings the show’s opening theme song; “Exceptional.” “In real life I do sing, and I play the acoustic and bass guitar, piano and I am learning how to playing the violin, which is a tuff one, but I am getting coaches to teach me how to hold it and play. The guitar and the piano I just kind of taught myself, with my dad’s help, says China.”
McClain has been home-schooled since finishing the third grade. She says her experience playing a student is fulfilling the void of not attending an actual school.
“I did go to school up until 3rd grade, before being home-schooled. School was a cool experience, I had lots of friends, but it is nothing like the experience my character on A.N.T. Farm is having at her school. The girl I play on the show is very advanced and in high school at 11 years old. It’s fun playing my character because I get all my school experiences on-set. Between filming I get to interact with the other actors, we play basketball, laser tag, and go bowling sometimes.”
Disney and Nickelodeon have launched the careers of many tween stars who quickly turn from being role models to cautionary tales. Demi Lovato known from her roles in Disney’s Camp Rock movies, had a recent stint in rehab. Jamie Lynn Spears of Nickelodeon’s Zoey 101 got pregnant by the age of 16, and Vanessa Hudgens from Disney’s High School Musical has at the center of a nude photo scandals. Miley Cyrus has taken racy photos and been involved in many un-Disneylike activities.
McClain says that she leads a very regular life. Like many 12 year olds she receives an allowance from her parents and has a bedtime of 8:30 p.m. McClain’s parents, who are on-set for her every scene, have given her advice to avoid the prevalent controversies in young Hollywood.
“My parents have told me, do not listen to the negative things that people might say about me. Don’t read columnists and stuff on the Internet. My parent’s advice really helps me, because I don’t need that stuff in my system. They have taught me to stay grounded.”
“I do have a Twitter account though, and am allowed to tweet. So far social networking hasn’t really been a problem for me. It’s just so fun, a way to talk to my friends and supporters at the same time,” McClain says.
Michael McClain says that his daughter will successfully navigate young Hollywood and follow more in the footsteps Selena Gomez, one of her idols.”Our family is extremely close knit, and the minute her mother and I or her older sisters sense the slightest whiff of diva behavior, we will jump all over it,” the New York Times reports.
China and her older sisters, Sierra and Lauryn, formed the singing group III and are signed to Hollywood Records. Between filming, McClain works on their upcoming album, which she classifies in the pop urban genre.
Executive producer and A.N.T. Farm creator Dan Signer has high hopes for China Anne McClain and his new show. “China is an incredible talent; she can sing, act and deliver jokes like no kid her age I have ever seen. She has a good family, which keep her grounded and focused. Obviously we are aware of the pressure that teen actors face and we are going to make sure we have a warm, safe environment for her to grow-up in.”
“Hopefully this show will last for 4 or 5 seasons, and if that is the case, this will be her home for her teenage years, to grow into who she will become. We know she will be great.”