Jerrica (Aubrey Peeples) and her sisters (Stefanie Scott, Hayley Kiyoko, Aurora Perrineau) create their own destiny and catapult to global superstardom in Jon Chu’s fun reimagining of the iconic 80’s Hasbro animated television series, “Jem and the Holograms.” The four aspiring musicians embark on an exciting journey of self-discovery that leads them to find their own hidden talents and unique voices and take the world by storm. The live-action musical adventure created for a new generation honors the same underlying message of female empowerment, honesty and integrity that inspired the animated series. Ryan Guzman, Juliette Lewis and Molly Ringwald also star.
At the film’s recent press day, Peeples, Scott, Kiyoko, Perrineau and Guzman talked about the long audition process, their preparation for their roles, how they fine-tuned their collaboration as a band, what it was like bringing a great message to the screen, the excitement of sharing screen time with a badass rock chick like Lewis, how Guzman’s character in this compared to his bad boy role in “The Boy New Door,” how the movie and its music have been updated for today’s fans, their personal musical styles, what Jem means to them, and the possibility of a sequel.
Check it all out in the interview below:
QUESTION: Aubrey, can you talk a little about what the process was like getting this role and were you familiar with Jem beforehand?
AUBREY PEEPLES: I was not familiar with Jem beforehand. Of course, as soon as we found out what it was, we did all our research. It was under wraps what the project was. It was originally called #famous and then #pinkmoon because they didn’t want people to know that they were doing Jem yet. We all auditioned several times, probably five or six times each. The first time I met with Jon I thought I blew it. It was so bad, I thought. My car broke down on the way there. I parked in a no parking zone. They had to move my car for me. It’s a stick shift. They had to find someone. I was really sweaty because I was running from trying to find a parking meter. I was like, “I’m so sorry. I’m gross.” I think what ended up happening was Jon was like, “Oh, she’s quirky, just like the character.” And it’s just that I’m very disorganized and messy. We all had to sing at every audition. It was a very long process, but very collaborative.
Q: For the ladies, I know you all have a musical background or interest. Can you talk about collaborating and working together as a team and as a band? Was it challenging? Was there some fine-tuning or was it harmonious from the start?
STEFANIE SCOTT: We all bonded right away. We had chemistry reads and everything. I think what’s so cool about the film is our relationship in real life really comes across on screen. Everything looks so genuine. We really do love each other and we’re talking over each other and that’s what makes it natural.
PEEPLES: We had two weeks of rehearsal beforehand. So, right off the bat, we were spending long hours together, like 12 hours together just in rehearsals. We really bonded throughout that. Stef calls it rock star training. Thank god we get along because that would be a lot of long hours.
Q: Given how iconic the Jem world is to the people who are so passionate about it, once you each got your role in this film, what was the divide between nerves and excitement and did that change?
AURORA PERRINEAU: For me, I was excited from the get-go. I didn’t really know what it was, and once I knew what it was, I was even more excited to have the opportunity to bring something that was so iconic and I think a great message to the screen. It seemed like a really fun challenge.
HAYLEY KIYOKO: I think for this film obviously it’s about staying true to the cartoon, but it’s also about introducing it to a whole other generation. So, we obviously have our characters and our backstory, but we’re bringing some new life and new energy in and portraying the characters the way we wanted to portray them.
SCOTT: It’s also about modernizing it a little bit, obviously because it’s 2015, and we have the whole social media aspect of it as well. I think that changed some things, but it made it more current and more accessible to people of this generation.
PEEPLES: I think that’s where the nerves come in, at least a little bit for me, because we have changed a lot and there probably is going to be some hate. But I feel if we tried to replicate the series exactly, we would never have done it justice because it’s already so amazing and I think that maybe would cause more hate. So, I hope that people will respect that we are trying to bring new people into the Jem world, because that’s what it did for us. We didn’t know what Jem was, and now we’re in it and we love the whole Jem subculture. So, hopefully, it will do that for young kids today.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about how you all got to share screen time with the fabulous Juliette Lewis? What was that experience like because she is a bonafide badass rock chick?
KIYOKO: She’s exactly that.
PEEPLES: She has been my role model for such a long time. It was so embarrassing when I first met her. I was like, “Oh my god, we’re going to be best friends.” I think I scared her a little bit. She’s so cool.
RYAN GUZMAN: I just ran up to her and called her “Mom” right away. She gave me a weird look.
PEEPLES: We were all starstruck.
PERRINEAU: She’s obviously very talented, but she’s also very down to earth. It was very easy to feel intimidated, but as soon as you meet her, she was like, “Alright, you want to hang out. Let’s talk. Let’s get this done.” She was really great all around.
GUZMAN: We had a whole conversation about Brad Pitt. That was fun.
PEEPLES: She was very collaborative.
Q: Ryan, you were the bad boy in “The Boy Next Door.” How was this different being the good boy?
GUZMAN: What I did in “The Boy Next Door,” I definitely didn’t do in this movie or else it would be a different rating. It was awesome because I got to be a part of something so iconic. Honestly, one of the best parts of it was listening to these girls sing. That was the most nerve wracking thing for me, to be honest. When they asked me to sing after listening to this one (referring to Peeples) specifically sing, it was so intimidating. It’s one of those things that will captivate a very broad audience.
Q: Jem is struggling a little bit with fame. How did you girls handle that situation?
PEEPLES: I don’t think I’m nearly as famous as Jem is. I haven’t had a lot of experience with that.
PERRINEAU: For me, I don’t ever really think about fame. I feel like this is my job and I think it’s everyone’s job. We all have different jobs, and you do it because you love it and not for whatever might come with it. I don’t think anyone is as famous as Jem.
KIYOKO: Obviously, one of the main themes too with the film is that Jerrica realizes that maybe fame and fortune aren’t what makes her happy, and it’s family and friendship. So, all of us as artists and actors and musicians, we can relate to that too, because success isn’t fun if you aren’t having success with other people.
SCOTT: Yeah. You want to be surrounded by people who bring out the best in you at the end of the day rather than be Erica Raymonds who don’t do that.
Q: The show is iconic in and of itself and the comic spinoffs and everything else. In doing your research, how much of the cartoon did you pull into this and how much of your own personality with your musical backgrounds did you blend into it? Or did you try to find a synergetic balance between the two?
PEEPLES: We studied the series constantly. Obviously, we had to do our research. And I do think, like we’ve said, the movie is very much updated. But musically, I feel like this movie is very accessible to pop radio, which is awesome. For me, I had to do my research on that. I wasn’t used to it. But Scooter Braun is incredible and he led the way to that, and I think the music is going to be super cool for fans.
Q: Aubrey, in terms of this role, was it hard to get into the actual character? And with most of this movie resting on your shoulders in both the character and also the musical moments of it, what did you feel was the most challenging for you as an actress?
PEEPLES: That’s a really good question. I do think that Jerrica/Jem is very different from me. I do think that she’s very much a character. I don’t feel like we have a lot of similarities except for the fact that I really have no idea how to use the internet either. So, I guess it’s challenging when you’re playing someone so different from you, but for me as an actor, that’s what I prefer because that’s what you can really sink your teeth into. I think the most important thing about this is that we really did want to pay complete homage to the series while updating it. That was something we had to be very careful and respectful of and just keeping that in mind.
Q: How much time did you guys actually spend with your instruments and do you feel like you really honed that graph?
PERRINEAU: I had two weeks to learn the drums. I feel like I learned some songs possibly, but Hayley actually is an amazing musician and she was always on set helping me out if I couldn’t figure out what I was doing.
KIYOKO: Aurora killed it though. She looked awesome up there.
SCOTT: I learned a little kitar, which is a little different, not exactly as useful lately, but it’s a secret little thing I can know now. I know some Jem songs on the kitar, which is kind of fun.
PEEPLES: I’ve played guitar for a few years now so I didn’t have to learn it necessarily, but of course, we did have a very short time period to learn the songs. We were all learning how to be a band and learning the songs vocally and also musically as well.
GUZMAN: I did nothing.
SCOTT: He was doing ab workouts.
Q: For each of you, what is your own personal musical style?
PEEPLES: I’m mostly a blues/jazz/rock singer. I write mostly blues music. So definitely this was very different for me, but I loved getting to do it. I don’t really sing pop and it was a big learning experience as well.
PERRINEAU: I’m not really a musician first of all so I don’t know if I can answer that. The stuff I listen to is very different from Jem, like Dead Mans’ Bones, White Stripes, that kind of vibe is more what I listen to.
GUZMAN: I listen to soul, funk, hip hop, R&B. Tower of Power I will get down to right now.
SCOTT: I love anything live, a lot of acoustic, indie kind of music. They’re both musicians, Hayley Kiyoko and Aubrey Peeples, so they’re pretty amazing.
GUZMAN: Hayley’s incredible.
PEEPLES: She has a song in the movie.
KIYOKO: Yes, I have a song called “Movie Star.” Check it out. I do pop alternative music. That’s what I like to listen to.
Q: You do have a few musical sequences working with the crowd. What was that like feeding off the crowd as a performer?
SCOTT: What was so cool about that is that people actually flew in – real Jem fans from Australia and from all over the world flew in for that performance. I know for Young Blood, we sent out a tweet and just told people to meet us at the venue. We had a few hundred people show up and basically performed a concert from 6:00pm to 6:00am. It was so fun. I mean, I had the time of my life. It was nice. This was great.
KIYOKO: It was the first time we showcased our looks and our music with real Jem fans and we were wearing thousands of studs on our bodies with glitter flying and face paint so that organic energy was definitely there.
Q: In the movie, Jem becomes a symbol to all the youth of today. What does Jem mean to you guys? Jem seems to give hope to these kids in the movie.
PEEPLES: Thank you. I think at least one of the main messages from the series and in our film is about self-empowerment and self-expression and trying to filter out all the noise of worrying about what people think about you and just being yourself. It sounds cheeseball, but I think that’s a good message for anyone at any age or generation just because you always need to be reminded of that.
Q: If there’s a sequel, what would you like to see your characters doing?
KIYOKO: I’d like to be in Japan.
SCOTT: I said that. I said I wanted to go to Tokyo.
PERRINEAU: Yes, Japan. That’s about it.
PEEPLES: I think if we did a sequel, there would be a lot more storylines from the series added into it. This one mostly focused on their rise to fame. I think there’d be a lot more storylines with The Misfits, a backstory about their dad, about their mom even maybe. So yeah, that’s what I would like to see.
“Jem and the Holograms” opens in theaters on October 23rd.