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FAMILY ANTICS, BREAKTHROUGH ROLES, AND WAGON RIDES:
AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH BRIDGIT MENDLER

Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for RadioFree.com
May 11, 2010

In the latest Disney Channel original series Good Luck Charlie, the Duncan family welcomes a baby girl named Charlie (Mia Talerico) to their already crowded household. Hoping to give her new little sister tips on adjusting to her world, Teddy (Bridgit Mendler) records an ongoing video diary for Charlie, documenting the exploits of her own life, as well as those of older brother PJ (Jason Dolley), younger brother Gabe (Bradley Steven Perry), and their parents Bob (Eric Allan Kramer) and Amy (Leigh-Allyn Baker).

Good Luck Charlie, unlike most other Disney Channel shows, is grounded in everyday suburbia without a fantasy or sci-fi gimmick--no wizards, no cruise ships, no hotels, no time travelers, no acting troupe, no pop superstar secret identities. For this reason, the series has garnered favorable comparisons to family sitcoms of the '80s and '90s, particularly the TGIF block of programming that included standards like Full House and Family Matters. Despite the throwback aspect of its framework, Charlie has a contemporary feel driven by a charismatic cast, and mercifully avoids the more archaic cliches of its predecessors, such as those signature saccharine moments that led to grating melodrama. Any sentimentality in Charlie is usually deftly trumped by a well-balanced moment of disarming humor.

Bridgit Mendler, who fills the lead role of stalwart high school student Teddy Duncan, is no stranger to the Disney Channel family. The young actress previously guest starred on the first episode of JONAS and played the recurring character of vampire sweetheart Juliet on Wizards of Waverly Place. On Good Luck Charlie, she gets to develop a more down-to-earth alter-ego--a conscientious teen of the internet age who balances her responsibilities at home with the lightheartedness of adolescence. She also pulls double duty by performing the show's infectiously upbeat theme song "Hang in There Baby."

In this exclusive interview, Bridgit talks about getting started in acting and working with her new sitcom family.




RadioFree.com: Congratulations on the new show. This seems like such an exciting time for you guys...

BRIDGIT: Thanks! Yeah, it's been so much fun to have the episodes finally air. We've been shooting them for so long.

You shot the entire first season of 26 episodes over the course of about nine months. Now that the fruits of your labor are actually out there, what kind of reactions and feedback have you been getting?

You know, it's funny, I don't actually spend that much time out and about in the world. [laughs] So I pretty much am just in between being on set and being home. So I don't have much time to interact with people. But from what I've seen, people like the show, and it's so great to hear that they like it, because we put in all this time and energy and we had such a great time, and it's so nice to know that other people are enjoying it, too.

Your character goes by the name Teddy, which is obviously traditionally a boy's name. Is there a story behind that, other than the fact that it sounds cute?

One of the writers--Phil Baker, actually...His daughter's name is Teddy. And so I think that's where they got the idea for the show.

Like many other Disney Channel actors, you have a background in acting, singing, and dancing. Will we see Teddy have a flair for the performing arts?

Well, you have to wait and see the context of the different things, but there is some more singing and dancing coming up. I'm not going to turn into Hannah Montana or anything, but Teddy actually turns out to be, maybe, not so great a dancer in the show. She sings a couple times--some of them are trying to do a good performance, and some of them, it's just for fun. So you'll get to see a little bit of that.

When Teddy and her brothers babysit Charlie, it's usually a very natural job for them that doesn't become a comedic farce or the focus of an episode. Do you think it's rare to see teenagers with that kind of realistic responsibility in sitcoms?

You know, I think that it is rare to have, in a sitcom, a child have to juggle responsibilities. I mean, you see that in different ways in different shows--you know, juggling school and extracurriculars and that sort of thing. I think it's really nice that it's relating to family issues and to that core dynamic. And so I like that we involve that in the show, and I think it's good that it's something that's definitely a part of each of the episodes--having this baby and that sort of thing--but I like that it's not too consuming of the storylines.

Do you have any siblings of your own in real life?

I do. I have a little brother, his name's Nick, he's 13--he's the new teenager in the house.

You're obviously closer in age to him than Teddy is to Charlie, but are you still accustomed to the role of being the responsible one?

Yeah. I mean, I think that being the older sibling, you kind of have some of those responsibilities. And the age difference does kind of make a difference in our dynamic. He's closer to my age, and so whenever I'd babysit him, it wouldn't be, you know, having to change his diapers or anything like that. [laughs] It would be us hanging out and having a good time together while my parents were away, maybe playing a board game or something. But I do have some younger cousins, so I have a little bit of experience in the field. But yeah, it's a new experience. It's fun.

A recurring device on the show is that Teddy makes video diaries for Charlie. Do you like to continuously document your life with photos and videos, or do you just let things play out without constant recording?

Oh, I'm totally the documenter! I'm probably like too much of a documenter to my friends. Throughout the series, I did all sorts of videos on set. And there was one music video I made that I got everyone on set to dance along to. So that was really fun. Yeah, I like to take pictures and record videos. I like to have memories in that way. I'm not really a "writing in a diary" type of person, and so the videos are kind of a way for me to remember what went on.

Your 18th birthday is coming up later this year, yes?

It is! So bizarre...

If an older family member were to give you a Teddy-esque video diary collection for your 18th birthday, what sort of advice would you like to receive?

You know, once you turn 18, you've kind of gone through a lot of the traditional high school drama and stuff--growing up, friends, and all that turmoil. I guess maybe the advice I'd want is like how to deal with being in the real world. That sort of thing. You know, you're kind of in a bubble in school, and for me, I'm in like this bubble of being on set. So I guess just how that works would probably be handy.



Your onscreen sister Mia, who plays Charlie, is a ridiculously adorable baby who seems so responsive to everything going on. How much of that is real, and how much is just well-timed video editing?

I've gotta tell ya, it's pretty much no video editing at all. I think the main thing is that she can't tell the difference between when we're filming and when we're not, so she's just always in character. She's like the most method actor ever. So yeah, she's great, and she's completely adorable, and she's really energetic and bubbly, and she's not one of those babies that cries often at all. And so I think we're just so lucky to have this great little actress. I swear, it's like she reads the scripts.

It sounds like she's a bigger pleasure to work with than some adult actors...

Oh yeah! [laughs]

Even though she's just a baby, she has a bio that lists off five of her interests...

No way! [laughs]

To gauge your sisterly compatibility with Mia, I wanted to ask if you shared these interests. #1: Animals.

Yes, I do love animals. I have a lot of pets.

#2: Books.

Love books! Books are awesome.

#3: Music.

Oh yeah! I love music. I play the guitar, piano...All that jazz!

#4: Dancing.

Dancing. Hmmm...Well, I like dancing very much. Not sure I'm the greatest at it. See, I'm pretty good at nerdy dancing... [laughs] So I guess that counts. I still have fun doing it.

And finally #5: "Riding around in your wagon..."

Riding around in my wagon...Well, if I had a wagon, I'm sure I'd love riding around in it. [laughs]

What is your earliest memory of wanting to be an actor? Did the desire come from having a love of performance, watching movies, or participating in school plays?

Well, I think I always enjoyed performing. I did all sorts of little plays in school, and I think I was around 11 when I decided that it was something that I really wanted to do. I mean, for me, the person I was looking up to was like Hilary Duff--like that was the coolest thing in the world, to be on Disney Channel, and Lizzie McGuire, and all that jazz! So I guess that's about the time. My mom actually remembers, and I don't remember this...But I was finishing up one play that I was working on through the community theatre program, and I came up to her and I said, "Mommy, this is what I want to do!" And I don't remember saying that, but apparently I said that. It seems like that was about right, because I've kept up with it.

Do you remember any of your early roles as a little kid?

I was in West Side Story. Twice, actually. The first time I was a Jet, and the second time I was Consuelo. So I guess I was kind of on both sides there. And then what else did...? Oh, I was in A Midsummer Night's Dream, I played Puck. That was kind of my big breakthrough role. [laughs] And in elementary school, I played Princess Multiplication in a play--I'm guessing--about math. I don't remember, really, the context. But yeah, those were some of my roles.

Are you currently obsessed with anything pop culture?

Oh my gosh! Yeah, I love The Office. That's like my favorite show. I also like Community. So those are two really cool shows that I like to watch. Something a little bit more pop culture... [sighing] I love 90210. I love watching that show! [laughs] It's like my guilty pleasure.

Are we talking about the new one or the original one?

The new one, yeah. Oooh, the new one, for sure!

You're in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel playing a girl who is a really hardcore fan. Who's your favorite: Alvin, Simon, or Theodore?

I'd have to say I'm probably a Simon fan. I like the bookworms.

One of our random Rorschach questions: If you were throwing a party for friends and had a pinata there, what would the pinata be shaped as, and what would you put in it?

Hmmm...What do I shape the pinata as? The first thing that comes into my mind is a star, nice and basic. It has a lot of edges, so it'd probably be easier to, you know, whack one of the edges off. And then...I love those butterscotch candies. Those are really good. And then also the watermelon Jolly Ranchers.

I thought your Wizards of Waverly Place character got a raw deal. Just getting old and walking away seems like a fate worse than death. Fortunately, it's easy to bring people back in fantasy and sci-fi. Any chance you'll reprise that role again?

There's a chance, there's hope! But you just have to keep on watching to see what might possibly happen. I make the joke on that show that I can be dead and brought back to life as many times as they want me to. [laughs] Because I've come back from what I thought was being done with the show like three times.

Where did your various Disney Channel roles fall in the timeline of your career?

Well, I worked on JONAS at the very end of October and the very beginning of November in...I guess that would be 2008. And then I think it was like two weeks later that I started on Wizards, and I did four episodes of that. And then about a month later, I shot the pilot for Good Luck Charlie. And then a couple months later, I did some more episodes of Wizards. And then I went into the production of the actual season of Good Luck Charlie in August of 2009.

If Good Luck Charlie gets picked up for a second season, what would you like to explore about Teddy as a character?

You know, I think probably I would just like to look more into the different friendships that she's developed throughout the season. And I love when they bring in new characters, and I think that that really adds to filling out the story. So I love when we have friends in the episodes, and I love the episodes when Teddy is shown as vulnerable in different senses. Like she's kind of a perfectionist, and so she doesn't like when things don't go her way. And she's not the best dancer, so...Ooo, that would be fun, if we did more episodes where I'm not a good dancer! [laughs] That was good times.

Bridgit, thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview, and best of luck with the show going forward...

Thank you so much! [laughs] Byyye!


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