Originally an adaptation of the popular 1985 television show "Jem," "Jem and the Holograms" reimagines and modernizes the story without losing the didactic nature or heart of the original franchise.
At the film's Los Angeles press junket, Neon Tommy had the opportunity to speak with leads Aubrey Peeples, Stefanie Scott, Aurora Perrineau, Hayley Kiyoko and Ryan Guzman about their experiences creating the new film.
The story, of both new age sci-fi and coming of age influences, is about Jerrica Benton (Aubrey Peeples), a timid and talented singer-song writer who gets thrown into the spotlight and, along with her foster sisters, creates the group Jem and the Holograms. The film follows the band's trials and tribulations throughout their journey; Jerrica struggles with her new identity as Jem) and the members of the band slowly realize the negative consequences of fame.
Having had a career mostly in television with appearances and recurring roles in shows such as Disney's "Austin and Ally" and ABC's "Nashville," Aubrey Peeples spoke with Neon Tommy about her transition. Peeples admitted that when she landed the role, she was intimidated by the fact that she had the huge responsibility of portraying an 80s television star with a sizeable fanbase. However, she made it clear that she did not approach the role wanting to emulate the character exactly and that during the process, she wanted to incorporate her own personal style or flare to the role. In fact, Peeples said that she didn't find any similarities between herself and Jem.
Scott, who plays Jerrica's likeable younger sister, Kimber, felt differently about her own connection with her character. Scott felt that playing Kimber allowed her to grow and that since she was the youngest in the cast, she could relate to Kimber's naïveté.
Regarding the chemistry within the cast and working relationship with the executive producer, the leads had only positive experiences to report.
"We just kind of let him do this thing because he's really smart and experienced with music," says Aurora Perrineau — who plays Jerrica's foster sister Shana — of executive producer Scooter Braun.
Hayley Kiyoko, who plays Jerrica's other foster sister Aja, had formed a close working relationship with Scott by the time they had finished shooting "Jem." Scott subsequently starred in Kiyoko's music video "Girls like Girls" and had also worked on the "Insidious" series with Kiyoko.
"It's always exciting to work with your friends over and over again," says Kiyoko of her history with Scott.
It's often said that when people sing together, the stronger their relationship with one another, the better they sound. It is no secret, then, why "Jem and the Holograms" has such a moving soundtrack.
"Working with the cast was awesome. They were very fun girls. Hayley was always joking, Aubrey was always working on her vocals, and Stephanie was just so cute," Ryan Guzman laughed. Guzman played Rio — Jerrica's love interest in the film. He also spoke of the respect he has for Braun and his work.
"I really like Scooter. He's a good guy. He's a funny man," Guzman said.
The cast, having about finished their work on "Jem," spoke of future projects.
Guzman and Kiyoko in particular, have worked on diverse projects and have more in production. Guzman, when asked about the ideal role or project, specified that he wanted to challenge himself.
"Growth. That's all I care about. Just continuously growing. I don't care if I encounter bumps along the way. That's just part of the process," he said. "For me, 'Heroes: Reborn' is keeping me very busy. I also have another film that I did called 'Everybody Wants Some with Richard Linklater.' That's coming out next April. It's a comedy. So, you'll see a different side of me."
Kiyoko is working on a new album right now and has a new music video coming out shortly. She is also currently starring on the television show "CSI: Cyber."
The talented cast and production team were faced with criticism from the franchise's fans because the 2015 film is a loose adaptation of the original television show. However, the cast remains adamant about the fact that what the fans loved so much about the show will be mirrored in the movie.
"I think a variation of the eighties cartoon has come through. We obviously had to implement new ways to introduce this new generation to Jem. So, its got the essence of 'Jem' but it's new enough to keep people intrigued," Guzman shared.
"The heart of the franchise definitely remains within the film," said Scott with a nod of agreement from Peeples.
"Jem and the Holograms" has a devoted and versatile cast. When asked about the film's most important themes and messages that should be understood by audiences, the stars didn't hesitate to answer.
"I think the most important message is staying true to yourself and looking to your family and friends and keeping them close to you," Aurora stated.
"You don't need all of the glitter and glamour to be happy," Hayley added.
Not only are the aforementioned lessons woven into the film, but "Jem and the Holograms" also provides a very specific theme that's geared toward young girls.
Guzman specified: "Empowerment is the biggest thing. Believing in yourself in order to achieve what you want. I think just realizing not everything great comes easy. You have to really work hard to achieve this super stardom, this greatness that you feel that you deserve."
"Jem and the Holograms" opens Oct. 23.
Reach Staff Reporter Daniela Silva here.