Fourteen-year-old Zendaya Coleman may be a newcomer to television, but she’s been entertaining audiences for as long as she can remember. “My mom started working at the California Shakespeare Theater in Oakland when I was two years old, so I’ve always grown up around theater,” the actress recalls.
Her theater background proved beneficial when Disney came looking to cast upcoming fall series “Shake It Up!” The skein, the network’s first attempt at a female buddy show, follows two best friends as they land jobs as background dancers on a local television show.
Disney feels fortunate to have Zendaya onboard. “Zendaya has such a great presence,” explains Judy Taylor, senior vice president of casting for the Disney Channel. “She’s smart, confident and completely engaging. She’s somebody you never tire of watching.”
Coleman hopes that just as theater led her to television, “Shake It Up!” will someday lead her to opportunities in the music industry. “I love singing and would love to record an album at some point,” she says — a goal Disney has a long history of helping young multitalents achieve.
“Shake It Up!” bows Nov. 7 on the Disney Channel.
Bella Thorne has played plenty of daughters, co-starring with screen dads Bill Paxton (“Big Love”), Christian Slater (“My Own Worst Enemy”) and Billy Baldwin (“Dirty Sexy Money”) among others, but the 13-year-old’s first real break came when she became a child spokesperson for a series of Texas Instruments commercials. That’s when “casting directors started calling me in and giving me a shot,” she recalls.
Since then, Thorne has appeared in recurring roles on a half-dozen TV shows and has four films slated for production over the next year. But all of that is likely to be dwarfed by her casting as one of the two co-leads on the Disney Channel’s new fall series “Shake It Up!” — an easy choice, according to Judy Taylor, senior VP of casting and talent for the net.
“Bella is a dynamo,” Taylor says. “She’s a big personality, total high-energy. You want to get to know her better the instant you meet her.”
Despite a slate of upcoming work that would make many adults jealous, Thorne knows she still has a ways to go: “I love performing, and I do see myself working in the entertainment business forever, but I am only 13!”