Raini and Cierra: Girls in Progress
By: Lynn Barker
We have an exclusive interview with two Disney Channel faves about their new feature film!
If you are a tween or teen female, you are a “girl in progress” making your way to young adulthood, hopefully, one small step at a time (hey, guys are going through this too!).
In the new funny and relatable film Girl in Progress, hot Eva Mendes stars as Gloria, a mom who never really grew up. Her young teen daughter Ansiedad, (Cierra Ramirez), is more responsible than her mom. Getting fed up with babysitting mama, “Ann” creates a step-by-step plan to go “bad girl”, grow up fast and leave home!
Helping her best friend in her quest is Tavita (Raini Rodriguez). When Ansiedad disses Tavita in front of her new mean girlfriends, the pretty, full-figured teen takes it to heart, is devastated and starts on her own path to destruction.
Kidzworld is in Beverly Hills sitting down with Raini, 18 and Cierra, 17, to talk girls and their moms, boys of course and the fact that Cierra has a big crush on Eva’s boyfriend Ryan Gosling and Raini wants to play a serial killer! Wha…??
Kidzworld: Raini you are still on “Austin and Ally” on the Disney Channel and Cierra you were on “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” for a while but you two never met?
- Raini: No we didn’t. We found out that we’re both from Texas and live about an hour away from each other and in L.A. we live about 20 minutes from each other so now we’re great friends. We also have mutual friends. It was odd that we had to fly up to Vancouver (where the film was shot) in order to meet.
- Cierra: It’s so funny how we’d never met. We met at the audition but we both live outside Houston.
Kidzworld: Since you two hit it off so well, were you goofing off on set a lot and did you hang out and do anything fun off set in Vancouver?
- Cierra: Oh yeah!
- Raini: We were so funny. We’d come up with nicknames for each other and the crew and had our own handshake. We were constantly singing on the set and she’d sleep over at my apartment a lot too. We went tubing on the snow in the mountains. I went to set with my dad and Cierra was with her dad and our dads bonded.
Kidzworld: Raini, you’ve had a little more experience than Cierra in films (recently Disney’s movie Prom) so did you give her any advice?
Raini: She was great. So professional. She was so ready to learn and wasn’t afraid to ask for advice. We helped each other out with everything, with our characters and rehearsals. Going into each project you start all over again anyway because you don’t know the director or crew or other actors. It was great. We helped each other out.Raini Rodriguez at our interview
Kidzworld: Cierra, your character Ansiedad does all the chores at home; dishes, vacuuming and the like. Do you do chores at home?
- Cierra: I do but, filming all of those chores I had to do the dishes and I’m kind of a rinse ‘um and put ‘um in the dishwasher girl. So, I remember Patricia (Riggen) the director saying, “We had to go back and do a body double because it wasn’t really believable that you were the mom who does all the chores”. I was so embarrassed. I do have to make sure my room is in tip top shape but I’m going to have to learn all of that as I grow up.
Kidzworld: Cierra, was your poor character eating bread and dipping it in coffee for dinner because mom hadn’t bought any food?
- Cierra: Yes! And that was real black coffee. I was sooo buzzed by the end of that shoot!
Kidzworld: Changing gears here, who is your celebrity crush right now?
- Cierra: Well, it’s actually really funny. He’s taken by (my costar) Eva… Ryan Gosling. I made her fully aware of my crush. He melts my heart and if he were to walk in here right now, you have no idea how red I’d get. (I tell her about my interview with him and his great grey leather jacket). Oooooo I bet he looked hot!!
Kidzworld: Yeah! Okay. We’ll calm down now. Raini, let’s get serious. What advice besides “you are beautiful the way you are” would you give teens who feel like they simply must lose weight or change their appearance in some way? Your character Tavita takes pills and does it the wrong way.
- Raini: Well, first of all, you are beautiful the way you are. Love yourself. That’s more important. Find a great support system; parents, family, friends. But if it’s your friends telling you that you need to change, find new friends. Don’t change just to fit in with them. Find friends who accept you for you.
If you think “I want to get skinnier”. Don’t try to do that because “Oh, I want to be beautiful”. It should be because “I want to get healthy”. Or “I want to excel at a sport and to do that I need to lose weight”. Do it the right way. Don’t take a bunch of pills or try to starve yourself. That is what Tavita was doing and she hit rock bottom. That’s not something I’d want anyone to go through. I was glad to portray that so other girls can see what would happen if you take that route.
Kidzworld: Awesome advice! Ansiedad tries to grow up fast. Cierra, you personally had to turn from kid to teen while in show biz, so was your own coming of age process difficult?
- Cierra: My parents had me take a step back from acting (for two years) so I could get the whole teenaged experience in school, a public school. I had lots of friends and got that whole experience and am kind of still writing my coming-of-age story. They keep me grounded.
Kidzworld: Raini, I know you said that being in the movie Prom was sort of your prom but how about you Cierra? Did you do your school prom?
- Cierra: You know, I never really wanted to go to prom. Getting into high school you have all these hopes growing up watching movies. You feel like you’re going to fall in love with a senior boy. I thought it was overrated and nothing like the movies. I did lots of other things like Cotillion and Senior Men’s and Senior Girl’s events so I feel like that’s a version of it.
Kidzworld: Ansiedad fake-dumps Tavita in order to fit in with a mean girl crowd. Raini, did you ever feel dumped by a close friend or did you ever leave a close friend behind?
- Raini: I’ve never left anyone behind. I accept you for who you are and that’s that. But, I’ve been left by people and it really hurts. In order to portray that and showcase that hurt on screen, when Tavita is getting bullied in the cafeteria, it’s great because it shows that it really happens. Kids do that to other kids. So I’ve felt that way before but I’ve let it go. It’s not something you should hold on to because it will eat at you. Just grow from that and move on.
Kidzworld: Is there a different bond between most Latinas and their moms? Is it usually a tighter bond do you think?
- Cierra: Well, maybe but with this movie I feel like it’s a universal message and anybody can relate to it, Latin or not. They are dealing with issues people deal with every day.
Kidzworld: Is your relationship with your mom kind of like buddies or more mom/daughter?
- Raini: It’s a little bit of both. My mom is my best friend. I can go tell her anything. She’s like “Well, you did that and it might not have been the best choice”, or “That was the best choice you could ever make!”. She’s very accepting but the first person to lay down the law with, “You want to hang out with your friends? Clean your room first!” There’s the buddy line and then the mom line.
Kidzworld: Raini, you have some serious scenes in this film. Is that more of a challenge or fun for you as an actress than being funny?
- Raini: A little of both. It’s more fun because to portray a range of emotions as an actor is wonderful. I love comedy. I would never change that but being in this drama really opened my eyes to the fact that I can do drama too and have fun doing it. Crying and screaming at your best friend is so dramatic but on the inside I was excited about it. I enjoyed it so much.
Kidzworld: Cierra, you are almost playing two parts in this movie; the sweet, nerdish bookworm girl and then the wanna-be “bad” girl. Was that hard or great as an actress?
- Cierra: It was exciting. There’s not many roles that offer two parts in one and I love that transition from “good” girl to “bad” girl and everything in between and Patricia Riggen, the director, helped me so much with all of those. We broke down each and every one of those characters to end up with Ansiedad as she is today.
Kidzworld: Cierra, I really liked Ansiedad’s clothes before she went tough girl and called herself “Ann”. Is that early style more you? Did you keep anything?
- Cierra: Yeah, it was great. I actually kept the Doc Martins (boots). I loved those and this is kinda creepy but I kept my hair extensions, the colored ones. I just loved that. I’d never colored my hair so I sometimes just put them in.
Kidzworld: Talk about meeting and working with Eva. She called you “mini-me” on set?
- Cierra: Yes she did! I met her when we were doing a pre-read of the script together. We definitely had a buddy buddy, sisterly bond. She says she’s silly to begin with and she stayed like that on set. I was away from my mom who was back in Texas and we became best friends on the set.
The whole idea of Eva being more of a sisterly type helped a lot with the characters because that’s pretty much who Eva’s character Grace was. And throughout the filming process, she became more like my mom so it was exactly like the journey in the film. We grew closer and the characters grew closer.
Kidzworld: You both sing as well. Any plans for more of that in the future?
- Raini: I would love to get into that way more. I actually had the opportunity to do a song for “Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3”. I got to sing the same song in English and in Spanish. It’ll be in the movie and on the soundtrack. I was so excited. Singing is another dream of mine. So, that was awesome.
Kidzworld: Cierra you started in showbiz as a singer, right?
- Cierra: Singing originally got me into this career. It’s not on the back burner. I definitely want to pursue it. I’m making an album that should be out soon. Growing up I listen to Patsy Cline and Etta James so I’m inspired by classics like that but I also love everything you hear on the radio.
Kidzworld: Let’s talk pet peeves on a date. What must a guy never do or he won’t get a second date?
- Raini: If he’s too into himself. I don’t like that. It’s all about him. Stop and smell the flowers every now and then. You don’t have to look in the mirror every time we’re together. That’s pretty much it. Being from Texas, I’m used to the southern gentleman out there who opens doors and pulls your chair out for you. I enjoy looking for that.
- Cierra: He can’t be too serious. You have to be funny. I like to joke around. I love to laugh and I laugh at everything so it’s not hard to make me laugh. But, if you can’t, I’m sorry. If you are funny, you get another date!
Kidzworld: Who are you listening to right now in music?
- Raini: Adele is my number one and Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin. I love a lot of oldschool R&B and soul music.
- Cierra: I love Adele and Amy Winehouse so I want to find a nice blend of classic music and stuff you can hear on the radio. I put Amy on all the time.
Kidzworld: Raini, what kind of role would you love to play someday…that you haven’t gotten to yet?
- Raini: I’d love to do something set in the ‘50’s or ‘60’s and, this will sound weird, I’d love to play a serial killer in a horror movie! That would be so much fun.
Kidzworld: They’d never guess you did it. It’s the sweet smile! (she flashes the smile). So what is next for you guys? Raini, you are still in “Austin and Ally”.
- Raini: Yes. I have three projects right now that I’m in love with, Girl in Progress, “Austin and Ally” and the Beverly Hills Chihuahua song.
- Cierra: I’m on “The Secret Life of the American Teenager”. I’m an incoming Freshman to Grant High School and I’m six months pregnant. People are saying “oh, this is your Ansiedad character in a couple of years” but no. It’s a great role. She’s a little fireball. My character Kathy plans to give her baby up for adoption. So lots of drama there.
Kidzworld: So you will have to move here?
- Cierra: I’ll live here. My dad is with me now. My mom and sister are still back in Texas. My mom is a teacher and my sister is a Freshman so they’ll finish up the school year and come out.
Kidzworld: Why will kids and teens enjoy Girl in Progress?
- Raini: It’s got a great message: to be yourself. Don’t grow up too fast because once you’re there, you can’t go back. Definitely be yourself and be in the time you’re in. Be in the moment and live it. Find good friends and don’t get involved in a crowd with kids that want you to change or grow up too fast. Love yourself.
- Cierra: I think it’s a great bonding experience. I think you should take your mother to do see it. I recently saw a screening with mothers and daughters and it was great to get the feedback that we did because we saw that the characters are really relatable. A mom and daughter told us that they now understand each other more because they were in the same situation. It will strike up a conversation. You’ll relate to someone in it.