A.J. Michalka's Horse Sense
By: Lynn Barker
Kidzworld is on the cell with A.J. Michalka, talking Secretariat and her sis Aly Michalka!
You were probably first introduced to pretty, blonde, 19-year-old A.J. (Amanda Joy) Michalka when she started singing with her sister Aly as pop duo Aly and A.J. a few years ago. Since then, the girls have turned more musically edgy and are now known as 78Violet.
The sisters have added more acting to their careers; Aly is now on the CW TV hit Hellcats and A.J. was in the film The Lovely Bones. Now you can catch Amanda playing Kate – a hippy chick and war protestor – in the true-life Disney drama Secretariat, about the great horse who won racing's triple crown.
Kidzworld: Was it fun to play a war protester and hippy chick?
- Amanda: Very fun. I don't feel like the role is that different than me. I wouldn't say I was a war protester or a massive hippy chick. I don't know if I'd go to the degree that Kate went to but I'm definitely free-spirited, very independent and very strong-willed and that's very much like Kate throughout the script.
Kidzworld: Did you like any of her clothes or keep anything?
- Amanda: I loved the wardrobe. It's so fun being a part of a period piece. The last film I did also took place in a similar era so it was pretty neat to tap into that again.
Kidzworld: Would you have liked to have been young in the '60s and '70s? No cell phones ya know. Do you think you would have liked living back then as a tween or teen?
- Amanda: Oh, absolutely! I don't even feel like I belong in this era sometimes. I'm not technologically savvy. Yeah, I have my MacBook and Blackberry. I'm into texting and e-mails but I could totally do without that as well. I think being a kid growing up in late '60s, early '70s would be a blast.
Kidzworld: Is there a real Kate and did you talk to her?
- Amanda: Yeah. There is a real Kate Tweedy and the fact that I was able to portray a real person, then actually hang out with her off set was amazing. We would go over to her friend's house and watch old footage of Secretariat racing and have dinners. It was just a surreal experience. Kate is a wonderful woman so, the fact that I look up to the real Kate as a human being is really cool. I don't think a lot of actors can say that about someone they've played necessarily.
Kidzworld: Are you a horse lover or rider?
- Amanda: Yes. I've been riding since I was six. I'm a major horse rider and horse lover. I ride Western (saddle) and English but I was really an equestrian hunter/jumper when I was younger. So, to be able to do a film that was based on horse racing was so close to home. I've been to horse races and I grew up in that world with my family going to Del Mar (track). It's such a riveting experience to sit there in the stands and watch the horses at the gate and then when the gate is opened, your heart just leaps for them.
Kidzworld: Did you ever hear of the horse Secretariat and the fact that he won the triple crown in racing?
- Amanda: I knew about the horse. I didn't know about the family behind the horse, the Chenerys. I talked to my dad a little bit and he was very aware of the race when he was younger. It was cool to be a part of such history. That horse was a huge athlete really.
Kidzworld: Did you get to hang around any of the horses who played Secretariat in the movie?
- Amanda: There were about seven horses that played Secretariat in the movie at different ages. Our cast wasn't around the horses that much. If you were playing a jockey you were around the horses every day. I definitely was able to hang out in the barn and be with the horses on set late night and talk to some of the handlers.
Kidzworld: Was it in the script that your character sang Silent Night in your school play or did they add that when you were cast?
- Amanda: It's funny. That scene was already in the script and when I auditioned for [director] Randall Wallace. I went in there with him not knowing I was a singer at all. So, when he cast me, he had no idea that I was in a band with my sister. When I sang Silent Night at the table read [of the script] in Kentucky with horses out grazing behind us, everyone was like, “Oh my gosh, she sings!” They had no idea.
Kidzworld: Are you and Aly still singing together occasionally how as 78Violet?
- Amanda: Yeah. We are definitely still heavily into the music side of things. Aly is obviously filming Hellcats but we have not strayed from our music. We've been busy promoting films - Aly having Easy A out and me having Secretariat coming out - we've been focused on both but we've not stopped writing and we actually recently wrote and recorded the theme song for Hellcats. It's called The Longhair and the first time you'll hear it is on the sixth episode so we're really excited about that.
Kidzworld: Do you have a message for kids who are fans of your music?
- Amanda: Our fans have been so patient. It's been a while since we released a new record. They all know we're super busy acting but still writing. They've been incredible. They are super supportive. We read all of our tweets. I see our fans on Twitter that have been there since the beginning – “I bought your record when I was 11.” That means so much to us. I've noticed that our fans have class. They aren't crass about other artists. They're not bullies to other artists. They don't stick to just us but they are fans of other people and they're not haters. I love that.
Kidzworld: Are you hoping to guest star on Hellcats?
- Amanda: I hope so. It's been talked about and we'll see what happens. I'd absolutely love it. I don't know yet what my character would be or what involvement I would have with Marti [Aly's character] but I would love to be on the show. I'm a huge fan of it. I can't wait to watch. I text Aly about it all the time: “I'm watching the new episode tonight.”
Kidzworld: Do you and Aly still hang out and do things together? Do you talk about boyfriends for example?
- Amanda: Oh yes! Honestly, it sounds really out there but we are really close, best friends. We talk every day. Not a moment goes by when we're not filled in on what the other one is doing. I think it's healthy to do your own thing and have your own life but, if you have that connection with a sibling, it's really important because that lasts your whole life. That's blood. So Aly and I are really close. It was a bit of a shock when Aly went away to Vancouver because she's now living there for the show. Then, it's a huge blessing when she comes home on a weekend just for a couple of days. So, I'm going to enjoy her more and more because I don't see her every day anymore.
Kidzworld: Your character Kate is spunky. Are you like that? Do you live what you believe as Kate does in the film?
- Amanda: So much so. It's funny because I look at the story and go, “Wow, this is me.” If you have the strength behind you and the confidence behind you, you will make it…You've got to go out there, be a go-getter and love what you do. If you are passionate about it, nothing should stop you and that's what the film is really about.
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