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Exclusive Interview with Janelle Ortiz from Disney’s “Prom”

Disney’s Prom is coming to DVD and Blu-ray on August 30th and I had the chance to chat with a couple of the stars from the film. First up, Janelle Ortiz who played Ali Gomez. I enjoyed talking with her about her character, her own prom and making this fun Disney film.

modOration: Tell me a little about your character Ali from PROM.

Janelle Ortiz: I play Ali Gomez and my character is the best friend of Aimee Teegarden’s character. She is basically the person in high school who wants to know everything about everybody else. She’s not necessarily malicious. She’s the typical teenager who texts all the time and tweets all the time and wants to know everybody’s buisness.

modOration: Are you and Ali a like in any way?

Janelle: In some ways. I like knowing things about people. She’s always trying to keep herself busy in a way. She meets Rolo and is fascinated by Rolo and just what he’s about and how interesting and awkward he is. I like finding quirky things about people and finding out things but not as much as she does.

modOration: Have you been to your school prom?

Janelle: I did! I was a senior this past year. I went to my friend’s prom when I was a junior and my prom when I was a senior, and they were both absolutely fantastic. We had a massive party bus and it was a 2 story bus. We took all the awkward pictures by the fireplace beforehand. We all got in the bus and danced on the way to prom on the bus, danced at prom, and danced on the way back in the bus, so there was a lot of dancing that night.

modOration: What do you think it is about prom that makes it such a big event for high school students?

Janelle: I think prom is the ultimate celebration of high school in a way. You’re celebrating everything you’ve learned in the past four years, and the relationships you’ve made and the things you’ve done at that school. It’s the final celebration with your entire class before every student goes and does their own thing and goes to college. It’s the final celebration as a group, I suppose.

modOration: This was your first big screen movie right? Tell me about the movie making experience for you.

Janelle: Yes it was my first movie. I got the audition and manager and then she submitted me for it. I went in to audition and I believe there were 1600 girls and it was pretty ridiculous. I didn’t know that there would be a lot at the time, and if I did I probably would have crawled in the corner and freaked out. There was three different auditions. You go to the casting director and director and producer and it was all on tape.

It was kind of a funny story because I got the audition, and I thought early in my career that I didn’t want to be a kid actor on like Disney Channel or Nickelodeon or anything like that. So I found out it was a Disney movie and I said I was going to rebel agaisnt it and not conform to what they watch. So I went in and I purposely did the most awful audition. There was a bunch of random pauses and random beats. After I came out I was talking to one of the producers and they said that after I left, she knew I was the one because it was the most natural. So it was fun for me.

modOration: Tell me about making the movie and what that was like for you.

Janelle: It was so great. I was so nervous. It was my first show and I didn’t know what to expect. There were so many great actors and producers there that have been working for a long time. I was nervous because I was the newbie, but they were so sweet and they took me under their wing and helped me and taught me everything I needed to know. If I messed up they said it was okay and we kept on going. It was the best experience.

modOration: Do you have any funny stories from the set you can tell?

Janelle: Yes, we have a lot of funny stories. I was the cast klutz. I’d always fall all the time because I wear glasses in real life. When I was younger I wore contacts because I played softball and I was a catcher, so I’d always get dirt in my eyes. So I have a scratched cornea and all that nonsense. So I can’t wear contacts for more than two hours. Filming is like, 8,9,10 hours straight, so I did everything on set blind. I would always trip over things and knock things over and I would just fall.

We were doing a photo shoot at the top of the staircase and I felt so cool because I did my first photo shoot snd everything. So I was walking down the stairs and I tripped and fell and rolled and tumbled and it was terrible. I was wearing my prom dress and everyone ran to me and the first thing they asked was if I ruined the prom dress.

modOration: Do you have a favorite scene from the movie?

Janelle: Yes, we have a character named Lloyd and there’s a scene where he goes up to a couple who have been together forever and it was the most awkward scene. He goes up to her to give back her pencil and they are just hugging and it’s my favorite scene in the whole movie.

modOration: I was reading that you had a sports injury, which led to you giving up your dream of a college sports scholarship. Can you tell me about that?

Janelle: When I was 8 I started softball and I was a catcher. From then I always knew what I wanted to do and I wanted to go to college doing that. My junior year in high school was when I was recruited by colleges to play and I had about five colleges recruiting me at one time. I had everything that I worked for since I was 8 years old right in front of me. My junior year, which was the most important year in the process, I got injured and I knew I could never play ever again.

What happened was I had tendonitis in my shoulder for about two years and I was a catcher. I really didn’t want to tell anyone. So for two years I told no one and it got to the point where I couldn’t even throw it to second base. So when I would play, my muscles would rip, and when they would go back together they would overlap each other.

Once that happened, that was my identity. I was the athlete, the one wearing my Letterman jacket to school, that was me. So it was like my identity was taken away from me and I kinda freaked out for a little bit and I didn’t know what to do with myself. So I started acting classes so I could get out of my own head and become somebody else. Once the classes started I just fell in love with the class, and once I got comforatble with my talent and my skill, I started auditions for Prom.

modOration: Do you have any advice for kids who have the same acting dreams as you?

Janelle: When I told my softball friend that I wanted to be an actress, she was like “What are you doing? You’re never going to be an actress. Why would you do that?”and I just told her that I was extremely passionate about it. I would definitely tell them to follow your passion. It doesn’t matter what people tell you. If people tell you no, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It doesn’t matter what they say. If you try, the worst thing that can happen is if they said no, and then you move on to the next one.

So just follow your passion and never give up and never let anyone tell you no because it doesn’t matter what other people have to say about you. If you believe in yourself, you’ll be good.

modOration: Do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

Janelle: Yeah, I have a couple things in the works. I’ve actually decided to go back to acting school. So I’m going to train better and hopefully get better with the craft itself. I’m also auditioning here and there and working on some music, so there’s a lot going on and I’m really busy but I love it!

modOration: Thank you Janelle!

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