Jade Pettyjohn on “School of Rock”

Photographer – Jessica Pettyjohn

Nostalgia has become a common trait associated with those born in the 1990s to the early 2000s. For example, the constant reminisce of television shows and movies that premiered during childhood has been so great that it even prompted the reemergence of some of this older media content.

Nickelodeon has been the frontrunner when it comes to embracing the nostalgia, from their Nick @ Nite time blocks to actually producing new episodes of old shows, like Figure It Out! While the rebirth of some shows were short-lived, Nickelodeon has seemed to hit the jackpot on bringing a new light to one of their most beloved movies – School of Rock.

Already renewed for a second season, the television series of the same name follows the main plot of the movie where Dewey, an unsuccessful musician, poses as the substitute teacher at a prestigious academy. While there, he inspires the students in his class to break out of the molds the school and their parents have created for them, encouraging the formation of a secret rock band.

For Jade Pettyjohn, this has become a dream come true. Taking the helm for her character Summer, played by Miranda Cosgrove in the original film, School of Rock has meant so much to her and she looks back on every aspect of the process so far with such fondness and joy.

“I did about five to seven auditions,” Jade admits as she remembers the process to landing the role of Summer. Although some actors look back on this time with pure exhaustion, the excitement is true for her through every step. “It was crazy but it was actually a really good, fun process! You get to meet all the actors who are going up against everyone so we’re all doing chemistry reads with each other.”

In fact, Jade recalls meeting more than just the other actors. “We get to see all of the Nickelodeon and Paramount executives and directors who are going to work with us,” says Jade, grateful for the opportunity to speak with so many people involved with the series. “It was crazy. It was a long process for sure but in the end, it worked out.”

The budding star is no stranger to the movie that spawned a giant fan base which has lasted the thirteen years since its release. A big fan herself, Jade says that, surprisingly, she wasn’t nervous the night the series premiered.

“You know,” she says, “I thought I was nervous at first but then I realized those nerves was actually just excitement – butterflies and excitement.”

Jade mentions how the cast waited a year for the School of Rock premiere and the anticipation that had been building for a long while. For the premiere of the first episode, she invited the entire cast, friends, and family to watch in her “tight” living room. “It was just excitement and it was the best way to watch it,” Jade says. “It was a really great experience.”

After the show’s premiere in March, fans have been able to love the familiar characters in a new way. The ability to grow the characters past the restrictions of a movie is something that Jade is particularly fond of.

“We have more time to play around with Summer than we did in the film,” she explains. “The film is just a one-time thing, so we have more episodes. I get to play more of her girly side as well as her sarcastic element she in the film. I get to mix that up and play around with what the writers want and the viewers want to see.”

Not only do fans get to see Summer develop as a character but they also get to witness Jade’s acting potential grow and improve while the series continues as this is her first time as a series regular.

“It was one heck of a rocket ride, for sure,” Jade says of the transition of guest starring on Nickelodeon shows to playing a lead. “It’s such a different experience. When you are guest starring or recurring, you’re there for a few episodes and everyone kind of – they’ve already dissolved into a group and you feel like a visitor almost, or a little branch of it.”

While she doesn’t look back on her time as a guest star badly, the pure happiness that Jade has in being part of the main cast in apparent as she expresses her clear adoration for the cast and crew. “As a series regular, you know, School of Rock is my baby. And I get to work with my best friends and I get to work with an amazing crew and executives.” She acknowledges that she gets more memories and a stronger relationship with everyone in a way, as a series regular versus just coming in for a few episodes. “It’s definitely a different thing but I enjoy it, I want to do more!”

Another perk of being a series regular means getting to be a part of every episode and meeting all the special guests, which makes it hard for Jade to pick her favorite episode. She mentions the episode ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’ that aired last week as one she really likes. “It’s got Kendall Schmidt guest starring in it. It was really fun to shoot and it’s very funny.” In addition to that, Jade chooses an earlier episode ‘A Band with No Name’ as another favorite. “[It] was the one where Kira Kosarin guest starred so that was really fun. There’s a lot of them. Each one is very different from each other, and very unique, and I have my own little experiences with each one.”

These experiences, or collection of moments as Jade refers to them as, is what makes being on School of Rock such a comfortable experience. “We’ve had a lot of moments on set in between takes or during takes where we have so much trouble not laughing because all of us are really funny! And the episodes will be really funny or we’ll have inside jokes, but we’re constantly laughing to the point of tears or on the floor, like rolling around.” She laughs as reminisces on the memories. “We probably look like dorks if you walked in on us and we’re all like constantly laughing on the floor! But those are really fun and those are really great memories.”

More memories are sure to come as School of Rock continues shooting its second season now.

“It’s so great, we’ve been waiting for so long and it’s finally here,” Jade says of finally reuniting with the cast for this new season. “We’re having so much fun.”

The cast has started to post some photos of the band back together again and Jade says that although she hasn’t posted everything on Twitter, she wishes she could post tons and tons of photos to show the amazing time the cast is having. Perhaps once season two begins airing fans will get a glimpse of the secret pictures.

Until that happens, fans can enjoy the rest of the first season before any season two speculations can bubble up. Considering they’re still filming the early episodes of the season, Jade admits that she doesn’t know much of what is to come except a lot more music, particularly a lot more musical numbers, and potentially some relationships will grow, which she finds very exciting.

“I really want to see her – oh, what do I want to see her do?” ponders Jade when asked what she hopes will happen to Summer by the end of season two. “I would like her to get a little bit more musical. That would be really cool!” She’s not dissing playing the tambourine, to which she proclaims she’s a great tambourine player, but to be able to see what else her character Summer could conquer. Jade continues, “Maybe some relationship stuff with Freddy, because she’s been wanting that for a long time. You never know! I’d like to see her take risks too! That would be really fun for her.”

Nickelodeon’s reign over the trend for nostalgia doesn’t end with simply the television show, but also includes a hit Broadway musical based on the movie. Claiming “I AM SO DOWN!” with a ‘class field trip’ for the cast to see the musical when Teenplicity suggested it, Jade says two of her cast mates have gotten lucky enough to see it live.

“I haven’t [seen the musical]… Breanna [Yde] who plays Tomika and Tony [Cavalero who plays Dewey], they went to New York and they got to see the play. I heard they were amazing! And I know some of the people who are in it, like I’ve seen YouTube videos of them – they are talented!! I want to meet them; I want to see them play in person!”

One song that fans of the movie are able to see live on Broadway but not in the show is “Teacher’s Pet”, the song that Zack writes and is the performance number in the movie’s finale. “That would be so cool for us to do a rendition of that,” Jade says as she picks that song to be the one from the movie she would want the show to incorporate.

Despite her character not having strong musical qualities, Jade is the opposite. Singing and playing instruments is something that Jade is very familiar with and what she does in her off time. For kids who want to break out in the music scene, she offers some advice.

“I think the thing that I want to tell people who want to get involved with music is stay true to your own sound. There’s people who may want to mold you into a certain sound or things like that and I just want people to know that it’s so important to be true to what you want to sound like and make music that you want to create. It’s so important. Everyone has a unique thing to offer and those unique things shouldn’t be clouded by other people’s opinions of what it should sound like.”

Outside of School of Rock, Jade stars in an indie film titled Girl Flu as Bird. The movie is set to premiere on Monday, June 6th at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Girl Flu is the complete opposite of School of Rock,” Jade explains with a laugh. “It basically follows this girl Bird who is very wise beyond her years and she gets to experience what every woman, every girl, goes through, that makes her officially a woman and no longer a child. I think it’s such an important thing for people, girls especially, to hear. I’m just really excited for people to see it. It’s a story worth telling.” As Jade looks back on her time with the movie, she expresses that it was a really great experience for her.

Growing up is not easy, especially for those that are in the entertainment industry at such a young and impressionable age. At 15, Jade has been able to navigate her teen years, and her early career, with some words from her mother.

“I’ve had so much advice that’s helped me in so many different parts of my life. But I think one that my mom gave me that I think is so genius – she comes up with the best advice – but it’s to not be afraid to make a fool out of yourself. Don’t be afraid to go out and express yourself and have fun and experiment with things. I kind of think about that whenever I’m doing something that scares me or that makes me nervous. Like yes, I’m just gonna make a fool out of myself! I don’t care if I can’t do the crazy dance moves yet but I’m learning, right? So let’s go on that roller coaster that scares you or sing with your friends out in public or something. Really, live your life. It’s helped me a lot.”

Jade extends this piece of advice to her fans, and also reiterates the importance of staying true to who you are. After laughing for a moment saying she has a lot of things to say to her fans, Jade says, “I think one thing I’d want to say is, you know, I know that people say this a lot but it’s so true – don’t be afraid to express yourself and be different – be who you are. Like I was saying earlier, everyone has something really unique about themselves and that’s what I love about people, that everyone is different from one another. Embracing who you are is so important.”

Jade Pettyjohn currently stars as Summer in Nickelodeon’s School of Rock, now airing Saturdays on Nick.

Girl Flu is set to premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Monday, June 6th.

*Above photo credit to Jessica Pettyjohn

22. Television and radio production graduate. || I think some people underestimate the range and variety of things that interest younger generations. I'm determined not to.

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