interview with jade pettyjohn

Catch the exclusive interview with the star of <i>American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars</i>.

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With the Olympics rapidly approaching, it's only fitting that the newest American Girl is a gymnast and she's even starring in her own movie! McKenna Shoots for the Stars, available now on Blu-Ray Combo Pack and DVD, will get young viewers excited about the upcoming competition and inspire them to work harder at their own passions, school work, and friendships.

Flicks for Kids editor Lois Alter Mark calls the movie "empowering" (read the Age-By-Age Guide here) and was thrilled to be invited to attend the Olympic Gymnastic Trials in San Jose, California, for an exclusive interview with 11-year-old Jade Pettyjohn, who plays McKenna. After spending time with her and watching her interact with the hundreds of fans who lined up for autographs and photos with her and Olympic gold medalist Carly Patterson, Lois came to the conclusion that the personable young actress really is a doll!
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LAM: Jade, you are pretty much the new "It" girl for American Girl! How does it feel to represent McKenna, who was named their 2012 "Girl of the Year"?

JP: It feels great! There are so many American Girl fans, and they're all so excited about the movie. And I love that I can say I'm really a doll!
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LAM: You are a doll! What was your reaction when you found out you were going to be playing a gymnast? Had you been involved in gymnastics before the movie?

JP: I had only done a little bit of gymnastics before. Actually, when I was auditioning for the movie, they had a totally different story line because they wanted to keep the whole thing a secret. I thought it was going to be a dance movie, but when I found out it was going to be about gymnastics, I thought that was awesome.
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LAM: How did you train for the movie?

JP: They flew me out to train with the Junior Olympic Team three or four weeks before we started shooting. I trained with Panthers Gymnastics, which is based in Canada, and I had the best coaches. They taught me so much. And the gymnasts--oh, my gosh--they train for like 25 to 35 hours a week, and they're my age! They put so much hard work and dedication into their training, and it's really inspiring. They definitely took me under their wing, which was so cool. I'm still friends with a lot of them.
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LAM: They must have been so proud of how far you came by the time you started shooting.

JP: They were very supportive. They had this trampoline for me to train on, so I would land in a foam pit. At first they were afraid to teach me anything because they didn't want me to get hurt.
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LAM: I can understand that!

JP: Exactly! But by the end, they were saying, "Oh, now you can do this and you can do that," and they were teaching me all kinds of new moves.
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LAM: What was your favorite?

JP: My favorite was a little front tuck thingy where you jump on the trampoline, then basically do a little flip and end up in the foam pit. That was a lot of fun.
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LAM: So now you can join the girls who just made the Olympic team!

JP: Well, they're pretty good. (Laughs) They're really really good! I don't think I'm ready for that.
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LAM: Maybe the next Olympics?

JP: Maybe!
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LAM: What surprised you most about the gymnasts' training?

JP: I didn't realize how much they trained. I knew it was a lot but I sort of thought they were born with that talent. It sounds weird now, I know. I watched 8-year-olds learning how to do back handsprings on the beam. They're 8! I never understood the different levels of skill, or that there are so many details.
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LAM: You do a really good job in the movie of getting across the fact that it requires a huge amount of time and effort to get to the top.

JP: Thanks. I think the movie is so cool because it's like an action movie for girls. There really aren't that many movies about gymnastics.
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LAM: Gymnastics is such a popular Olympics sports--especially women's gymnastics. Why do you think people like watching it so much?

JP: I love watching it because you can see all these girls in sparkly outfits and they're so beautiful, and they're doing things action figures would do. They're so strong, and I just feel like it's so beautiful.
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LAM: Speaking of strong and beautiful gymnasts, how did it feel to be signing autographs with Carly Patterson today?

JP: I was completely starstruck when I saw Carly Patterson! I couldn't believe she was there in person, and I couldn't believe I was sitting with her and signing autographs!
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LAM: I bet, after seeing the movie, she was starstruck seeing you too!

JP: Ha ha ha!
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LAM: What is the most important message that you'd like girls to take away from the movie?

JP: Balance. Not actual balance but balance in life. You need to experience a little bit of everything. If you just focus on one thing and nothing else, you might end up taking away all the fun of doing it.
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LAM: You know, I asked Carly Patterson what she thought about McKenna�s philosophy that balance and support are the two things that are most important for success, and she completely agreed. She said that she could never have become a gold medalist without balance in her life and the support of her family and friends.

JP: Wow, that is so cool.
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LAM: Do you have that balance in your life now? I would imagine acting is your gymnastics.

JP: Definitely. I don't want to just focus on acting because I want to act for the rest of my life and I don't want to lose the fun I get from it. I have other hobbies I really like, too. I'm a musician, and I sing. My friends and my family are so supportive of everything I do, and that obviously really helps.
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LAM: So what's next for you, Jade? Another movie? Another sport?

JP: I can't talk about it just yet, but I will tell you as soon as I can!
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