“My family knew nothing about this. No one in my family had ever been in the ‘industry,’” explains 20-year-old Kelli Berglund, who shot to fame following the premiere of her widely popular Disney XD show, Lab Rats, four years ago. Fast forward to today and she is quickly becoming one of Hollywood’s actors to watch. “I was 9 years old and doing a dance performance and there was a talent agent in the audience. She came up to my mom and I afterwards and was gushing, saying, ‘She’s amazing! It would be so cool to get her with an agency!’”
From there, Berglund went on to do a bunch of commercials and small spots, including a stint on Hip Hop Harry, a show she describes as “Barney-esq.” At 16 though, she booked the role of her lifetime as Bree Davenport, a bionic teenager on Disney XD’s Lab Rats. “That was really the first foot in the door for me,” says Berglund, looking back fondly on her run with Disney. The show went on to have four seasons and a spin-off season, a rarity for Disney shows. “That was the first time I really got to embrace a character and do something with it. There was such a big following for it as well. It was the number one show on the network every year that it was running, so that was a cool feeling.”
With that notoriety, however, comes another role that’s a bit closer to home. As a young woman in the limelight with a massive following, Berglund has become a role model and inspiration for many girls around the world—a position that she doesn’t take lightly. Of course, she’s still learning herself and nobody is perfect, but she does her best to be someone kids would be proud to call their idol.
So how does she approach it? Well, she mirrors herself after those who came before her. “I look up to people like Selena Gomez, who has kept a really good head on her shoulders and has a great career for herself,” she says. “You know, I’m sort of following the same path as her. Some people sit there and are like, ‘Well, you can take the Selena Gomez path or the Miley Cyrus path,’ and I don’t necessarily agree with that because I do admire Miley as well for some of her views and opinions and the way that she is. But, if I could have half of the career that Selena Gomez has, that would be a dream. She is the sweetest girl. I’ve met her in person and you hear nothing but good things about her.”
“My producers were writers on That ‘70s Show and so they knew Mila Kunis when she was 15 years old,” Berglund continues. “She’s another huge inspiration for me. She’s my girl crush and I love her. I found that out and I was freaking out and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what was that like?’ They told me that I actually remind them of her, which is awesome to hear. They said of course it’s hard because you’re constantly put in the spotlight, and they saw that with her, but she maintained her values. Work was important to her and she managed it all.”
Although she’s funny, charming, and someone five minutes into the interview I wanted to besties with, I’d argue that maintaining a grounded outlook and strong work ethic is really what draws her fan base to her—a group of people she holds very close to her heart. “How can I not?” she gasps when asked about fans and the moments she’s experienced with them. “They take so much time for me every day and are constantly keeping up with what I’m doing. I just can’t thank them enough. I remember early on in my career, I was at this Girl Scout convention doing a meet and greet. There was this huge line of girls to meet me and this one little girl came up to me. She literally didn’t say anything, just started bawling her eyes out, and hugged me so tight. I was just thinking, ‘This is insane. I’m just Kelli and I have this affect on this little girl and I really can’t believe that.’ That was a really big moment for me.”
I look up to people like Selena Gomez, who has kept a really good head on her shoulders and has a great career for herself.
Sure, that face-to-face interaction is incredible, but thanks to social media, it’s also possible for Berglund to get to know the people who support her without moments like that. Although, it’s even more special when the two collide. “There is a girl that I talk to a lot on Twitter. She has a fan page for me and her name is Joanna and she is the sweetest girl ever,” she says. “She shows up to a lot of the events I do when there is a chance for fans to be there, and every time, I always make a point to go over to her and give her a huge hug and say hi because she’s been so loyal.”
And even though she frequents red carpets and spends her days on television sets surrounded by acclaimed actresses and actors, Berglund isn’t that different from her loyal following. “I get it though,” she assures me with a laugh when asked if there is anyone she would be that devoted to. “I would camp out for Liam Hemsworth.” Fair point. Who wouldn’t?
In addition to acting, Berglund is also interested in fashion and even released her own clothing line in collaboration with The Style Club last year. “I definitely wanted to make sure that it stayed true to what I would wear in real life,” she explains. “I had a big say in the designing process, from choosing the colors and styles to the actual cuts of the dresses. I was very conscious of the fact that I didn’t want to be sitting there promoting all of these clothes when secretly I was like, ‘I hate all of these.’”
Although she describes her personal style as edgier with a darker color scheme, Berglund admits that sometimes she just wants to put on a pink dress. One of her goals through the design process was to incorporate that mixed preference. “What we would do is take a simple dress and do it in different colors, depending on how you wanted to style it. Some girls like to wear all black with studs and chains and some girls like pink dresses with white fur. I just wanted to make sure there was something for everyone.”
Between all the different avenues of her career, it seems as though she doesn’t have a second to herself. So, when she does get some well-deserved time off, what does she do? “Well…I sleep. Then, I sleep,” she laughs. “No, but I do like to do nothing—just go out to dinner or hang out with my friends and family. My life is so hectic that I like to keep it simple in my downtime. I have people texting me like, ‘When am I ever going to see you?’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t know, because I’m always busy.’”
[My fans] take so much time for me every day and are constantly keeping up with what I’m doing. I just can’t thank them enough.
“I do have a new hobby, though. I actually just moved into my first house so I’ve taken quite an interest in interior decorating and finding art,” she explains. “I also take dance classes when I can, but it’s hard because I’m so busy and I just moved so far away from the dance studio I used to go to.”
With the momentum and variety of her work so far pushing her forward and the support of her fans behind her, it’s not outrageous to think that Berglund will have a very busy and successful 2017 ahead of her. Before she gets there, she’s wrapping up 2016 with a network movie called A Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love, the sequel to last year’s successful A Coat Of Many Colors that premiered on NBC. “I play Willadeene Parton, which is Dolly’s oldest sister in the film, and it’s basically the story of how poor the family was and how miracles can happen,” she says. “I’m really, really excited about that because the movie did so well last year, so here’s hoping this one does even better!”
Kelli Berglund Talks ‘Lab Rats,’ Acting, and What’s Next: Photographer: Quavondo, Hair: Gui Seloperdido, MUA: Lysette Castellanos, Stylist: Yesenia Cuevas