Starring as the lead in Nickelodeon’s hit TV show, Bella and the Bulldogs, soon to be 17-year-old Brec Bassinger has already made her mark in the entertainment industry. Bella and the Bulldogs portrays a young girl, Bella, who leaves the cheer squad to become the star quarterback of her school’s football team. Though the show is geared towards a younger audience, its underlying sociological basis sets it apart from the rest. Working at diminishing the gender norms set in place for both men and women in our society, Brec Bassinger has proven that she is not only an icon, but also a great role model for young girls everywhere.
Cliché: At 2 years old, you starred in pageant shows before deciding to embark on an acting career nine years later. What was it like getting a head start on your career at such a young age? Did you ever feel like you missed out on some aspects of having a “normal” childhood?
Brec Bassinger: Pageants for me were definitely like a hobby. They were very fun and I met so many people. I still have friends today that I met at the pageants and they definitely taught me a lot about acting. I had an interview process at the age of 3, so it prepared me for things such as this interview right now. I definitely think I still got a childhood, though. My mom and I always talk like, “Oh, what if I started acting when I was even younger? Where would I be right now?” but we wouldn’t have started any earlier. I would have kept it the same way because I still got a childhood and went to a normal public school. I got to be part of my middle school volleyball team and cheer team. So I feel like I kind of got the best of both worlds. Even though I didn’t get the full four years of high school, I still got a lot of the typical childhood experiences that I am so appreciative of.
Now starring in Nickelodeon’s latest hit, Bella and the Bulldogs, in what ways do you find yourself similar to your character?Well, the obvious one is that Bella and I are both from Texas, but I would say one huge thing is that we’re both huge girly-girls who are always around guys. I grew up with two older brothers so I was always hanging out with the guys and Bella is definitely like that as well.
In many ways, Bella and the Bulldogs works at separating traditional gender norms. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you felt you were questioned for doing something “unfeminine,” or not typical for women to do?
Well, like I said, I grew up with two older brothers, so I kind of got habits that typically boys would have, like playing a lot of sports. My brothers were state champion wrestlers, so I kind of wanted to follow in their footsteps and I went to wrestling camp. I remember that I would wear a bow to wrestling camp every single day, and the coach came out and talked to my mom and said, “She is the only girl I’ve seen wear a bow to wrestling camp.” So I think I’ve been very lucky since I have gotten to have this girly side and kind of a tomboy side. I know there are a lot of instances where girls don’t or aren’t as supported when making those choices, and that’s why I’m so fortunate to play Bella and to get to support and motivate girls who don’t have that support group.
Is there a message you feel the show portrays well across the platform to young girls who look up to both you and your character, Bella, as a role model?
Absolutely! Like you said, it breaks down gender stereotypes, and I think it really portrays that young girls specifically can do anything they set their minds to. I think another huge message this show portrays is working hard. Bella is an extremely hard worker and she wouldn’t have gotten any of the success she had without her hard work. I think that’s a really important thing for young people to see.
Exactly. And it also shows a lot of social relationships with friends and the boys on the football team.
Yeah! At first, when Bella joins the football team, the boys are very against her. They don’t want a girl being on the team—but as the show evolves, the relationship of the team evolves, too, and they end up becoming a family. I think that’s really important because it’s kind of how relationships work in real life. You have struggles, but if you’re there for each other, and then it ends up being a beautiful, well-rounded friendship.
You’ve also taken upon many other projects including your first TV movie, Liar, Liar, Vampire. Is there any type of character you would hope to play in the future that you haven’t gotten to play thus far?
I’d really like to play a twisted character that you think is normal and sweet, but then, maybe they have a personality disorder or something—just something really twisted! I think that’d be fun to play.
Are you looking to do more movies in the future?
Absolutely! That’s very much a goal for me. I love the way movies are filmed and how the finished product turns out. I would really like to be in more features.
How is the production process or just the entire experience of filming a movie different from a TV show?
Well, Bella and the Bulldogs is on a very strict routine. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, we do a table read and rehearsals, and on Thursday and Friday, we film using multi-cameras on a sound stage. But with the Nickelodeon TV movie I was on, we were always filming on location and in more of a single camera format. You got your scenes the day before because you have so many scenes in a movie and it gets kind of hard to memorize them all, whereas in the show, you have to have them all memorized. But with the movie, you get to work on each scene more individually, so you really get the chance to make each scene special and almost have this deeper motive. You always have to think about the motive in each scene, which I think is really cool! You kind of have to study the scenes more and you have more time to.
How is getting into character in a movie different from Bella and the Bulldogs, which you have done for quite some time now?
It’s funny because now, I don’t even have to think I’m Bella because I’ve played her so much. I know her and she’s like a friend to me. When I starred in the movie, it was a struggle finding that character. She was very different from Bella. She wasn’t quite as animated; she was kind of an outsider. So, the director and I really worked closely. We had hours and hours of rehearsal, not only before filming, but behind the scenes, too. We would meet and just go over the scenes and our inner monologue. Forming each character takes time at the beginning, but once you get it, the character becomes a part of you and you know what the character would do before you’re even doing it, which is really cool!
Along with your acting career, you were also made junior ambassador of the Junior Diabetes Research Foundation. Being someone who was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 8, can you talk a bit about your own experience, as well as any advice can you give to those going through a similar struggle?
I was diagnosed when I was 8, and fortunately we caught it very early, so I didn’t have too many health struggles at the beginning. Honestly, my path with diabetes has been very healthy. I haven’t had many complications, but I also had a great support group behind me and that made me very accepting towards it. I know a lot of people out there who have diabetes don’t have as well of a support group, so by speaking out and being the ambassador, I like to be that supportive backbone that people can have. They can look at me and see that no matter what you have, you can still do anything. Who would have thought that I would become an actor? I think there are a lot of kids out there that think diabetes can stop them from doing things, so by speaking out, I just want to show that you can still do anything. Diabetes doesn’t change who you are.
Having so many projects and a great head start to your career while only being 16, what do you hope to accomplish in the future?
I’d love to get into the writing and directing side of acting. Coy, who plays Troy on the show, and I are talking about making a short film and directing and filming it. We’re just talking about that right now, but I have confidence that we’ll do it. That’s just the start, but also I would like to get into more feature films and some more dramatic roles as well.
What’s next for you?
Right now, we’re waiting to hear about the third season of Bella and the Bulldogs, so I’m in contract with that—which means I can’t audition for too many things, but I’ve been going on a few auditions here and there, and I’m actually signed on to a movie right now that we’re looking for funding. I’m hoping for a third season of the show, and I’ll be doing a lot of work with Junior Diabetes Research Foundation, which I’m excited about!
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“April Cover Star Brec Bassinger Proves She is One to Watch” was originally published as “Ciao, Bella” in Cliché Magazine’s April/May 2016 issue
Photographer: John Hong, Hair: Dinah Raphaelle, Makeup: Mandy Perez using Make Up For Ever, Stylist: Adena Rohatiner. White Lace: Sabo, Jewelry: Melinda Maria, Shoes: Mambrini