"Hellcats" on the Prowl!
The show centers on Marti Perkins (Aly), a pre-law student on a scholarship but...it's cancelled and her often drunk mom forgets to tell her. Athletic but not exactly the cheerleader type, Marti tries out for a spot on the popular Lancers squad to get the scholarship that comes with the slot.
When a key squad member is injured, a spot opens up but pert Southern squad member Savannah Monroe (Ashley) isn't pulling for Marti to get it. Marti's moves and athleticism impress Savannah, however, and the two end up roomies. Injured squad member Alice (Heather Hemmens) is extra miffed when Marti is assigned her crush Lewis Flynn (Robbie Jones) as squad partner. Marti's own boyfriend Dan (Matt Barr) isn't thrilled either.
Here is the scoop on the new series straight from Aly and Ashley!
Kidzworld: You girls both come from the Disney TV world and you both sing and dance. Did the casting people go looking for that?
Aly: I think it was a cool coincidence that we both just happened to come from a musical background and the Disney world. That was not some genius person's idea. I think it was just something where we happened to be right for these roles and fight for these roles really hard.
Kidzworld: Have you found that some people might have a negative opinion of cheerleaders?
Aly: Some people have preconceived notions about that but we were like, "Hey, do you know what? We are going to show the real side of these people and these characters." Cheerleading is bad-ass. These people are athletic. These people work out like crazy. These people are trustworthy because they are there to catch you when you are up in the air, flying. They are there to have your back. When you are injured, they are there to help you out.
Kidzworld: I think they're wrong but some people have said that Ashley is like Sharpay in this.
Aly: I don't think that Ashley seems like Sharpay at all. First of all, she's brunette now, and...
Ashley: My hair color has definitely changed.
Aly: And I think that there's a softness to Savannah that I don't know if, necessarily, Sharpay had.
Ashley: You know, I think the reason why people thought that is because, in the very beginning of [the pilot], we do have a conflict. Savannah and Marti do. She calls us groupies and that's very offensive. And Savannah is the team captain. She's a team player. So you do not call them groupies. She's also from the South, and she, I think, for me, is completely different from Sharpay.
Kidzworld: Describe her a bit more.
Ashley: I think she's been in her own little bubble. She's a cheerleader. She's very religious. She's Christian. She's very naive. She's a little bit soft. I feel her and Marti being roommates, they grow together. Marti is bringing Savannah out of her bubble. You start to see in the pilot she's actually a really nice girl. She sees Marti, and she sees how good she is. She isn't anything like Sharpay.
Aly: She's not as selfish, I think, as Sharpay. If she obviously wanted to be the star of the squad, she wouldn't want to hire Marti to help them out. But I think that she sees that there's something there in Marti that can help their team and help them get to nationals. I don't think you would ever imagine these two characters to be friends, but the thing that pulls them together is their passion for what they love to do. For Marti, it's law and, for Savannah, it's making it to nationals. The stakes are high for both of them.
Kidzworld: You both have some great dance/cheer moves in the show but will you both keep up your music careers on the side since you don't sing in the show? Or, will you sing on the show?
Ashley: I think that we both will keep our music careers, obviously separate from the show, but I think if there's an opportunity to sing on the show, you know, that's exciting, too.
Aly: Well, A.J. [her sister and singing partner] would be missing. I think that it's also up to the writers and the producers as well to figure out how to fit that in. I know that there is a storyline coming up where Marti does happen to perform in a very cool, relaxed, organic setting. So we are ready for that. But my music is very special to me, and I take it extremely seriously. My career as an actor is separate, but when it's combined, that's awesome, too. So it's all about a balance.
Kidzworld: You changed your performing name to 78Violet. Why?
Aly: We thought of Aly & AJ when we were, like 10 and 12 and our music was really evolving and changing, and we had recently just started leaving our record company and we just needed something fresh and new. Violet is our alter ego; who we become when on stage and 78 is a number that has a lot of meaning to us when it comes to our music career and things that we've gone through as sisters.
Kidzworld: For Hellcats, did you have to learn a lot about how the college cheer system works? I've heard that some girls just stay in college and not graduate on purpose just to stay on the squad.
Aly: Yeah. There's also a lot of girls that they call “ring chasers” who basically move from school to school, chasing a nationals ring, the title. So sometimes they will switch schools basically throughout college all over the country just to get on that certain team that maybe has a great year or has won it previously. Then they end up maybe being a coach at one of the cheer camps.
Kidzworld: Do you do all your dance/cheer numbers or do you have doubles?
Ashley: We do have stunt doubles. But the pilot, we did two weeks of dance rehearsal, and those were for the two dance numbers. When we got into production, we learned that we have like two days and we're going to learn a whole, like, three-minute song and it was kind of a little nerve-wracking. So, we do a lot. It's been kind of hard, but we get through it. And the best part is when we actually go to perform. We get to go look at what we accomplished.
Aly: You actually feel the rush that these girls feel after a competition. At the end of a big cheer number that we just filmed, Ashley and I were pumped. I was like, "Dude, that killed. We killed it." And I just was like, “Wait, I'm not my character.” But I'm excited off the adrenaline rush.
Kidzworld: Have there been any injuries?
Ashley: There's going to be obviously, here and there something that we hurt because we're doing so many physical things.
Aly: And even if it's not dangerous, it's dance. You can twist an ankle. You can fall wrong or something.
Kidzworld: It's cool that Tom Welling of Smallville is one of the producers on your show. Why do you think he picked this particular show to produce?
Ashley: [laughs] He wanted to be surrounded by cheerleaders.
Check out Hellcats starting September 8.
Lynn Barker, an editor and entertainment journalist for several websites, magazines and newspapers, has been active in the entertainment industry for many years.