On June 3, Disney+ will release Hollywood Stargirl, a sequel to the 2020 film about free spirit Stargirl Caraway (Grace VanderWaal). Caraway is a silver-voiced teenager whose simple acts of kindness work magic in the lives of others.
Vital Thrills got a chance to talk to the cast and writer/director Julia Hart about the anticipated film, which follows Stargirl’s journey out of Mica, Arizona, and into a bigger world of music, dreams, and possibilities.
In Hollywood Stargirl, when her mother Ana (Judy Greer) is hired as the costume designer on a movie, they relocate to L.A., where Stargirl quickly becomes involved with an eclectic assortment of characters.
They include aspiring filmmaking brothers Evan (Elijah Richardson) and Terrell (Tyrel Jackson Williams); Mr. Mitchell (Judd Hirsch), one of Stargirl’s neighbors; and Roxanne Martel (Uma Thurman), a musician Stargirl admires and encounters on her journey.
Hart spoke about how Hollywood Stargirl was different from the first movie. She said, “Well, I was eight weeks postpartum when we made the first film with my second child, so it was already easier. Because my youngest is now almost four. So, when we made the movie, he turned three actually while we were shooting ‘Hollywood Stargirl.’
“So that was the biggest difference for me. And then, also, it was so special to get to shoot it in LA, where I live. We made the first movie in Albuquerque, which is one of my favorite places to make movies. But it was really wonderful to get to stay home and to get to show the LA that I love in a movie that I made.”
Grace VanderWaal spoke about what it was like coming back. “It was very exciting because, you know, I feel like after seeing everyone love ‘Stargirl,’ it really made me appreciate and be honored even more to play her character. So, it was very nerve-wracking, but I just feel like I just slowly grew more and more love for her.
“And just so happy to get to play her, and she, you know, she’s growing up. She’s seeing the world and experiencing different things. So, she’s still her, but I think that the difference in this one is she’s just maturing and kind of defining that word of maturity and what it really means to her.”
Judy Greer, who plays Stargirl’s mom, joked about the first film: “Well, the first movie really sucked me in. I hadn’t seen it, sorry, everyone. And so, I got offered the role, and so, I was like, oh, I’ll check this out. And, like, my husband and I watched it and just were crying and laughing, and we loved it, and it had such a warm heart.
“And then I had this really great Zoom meeting with Julia, and I fell in love with her. And we shot this during the pandemic, and I personally just really needed to A, get out of my house like the rest of us. And I wanted to be around people that had really big hearts and had a lot of love, and I felt that I was going to get that with this group, and I was more than right about that.”
Elijah Richardson plays Evan and was asked about the differences between himself and his character: “Honestly, I think that we’re exactly alike. I think we’re exactly alike. We have the same passion. Tyrel and I actually clicked in the chemistry reading like it’s nothing, so, you know, he automatically felt like my brother. So, when we got on set, we were just like, you know, we was just saying lines at that point.”
Tyrel Jackson Williams was asked the same question. He said, “Yeah, it felt so easy and seamless. Like, from the first chemistry read, from the first auditions even. As soon as we got on set, it was just like, oh, it’s going to be like this? We have nothing to worry about.
Greer talked about what message she took away from her experience on Hollywood Stargirl. “Oh, when you said message, it threw me ’cause I was going to say, like, I tried to take away my entire wardrobe. Natalie O’Brien, our costume designer, really nailed it. But, you know, I think Stargirl’s endless optimism was really infectious.
“I bet everyone would agree with me on this panel. You can’t drive home from work when you’re making this movie and, like, feel down at all because she sees the world in a different way. Which was something that really sucked me in from the first movie was the way Stargirl just like, takes in information and like, spits out happiness and love and positivity. And so, that was the message I took away. Like, it’s okay to see things from a different point of view and to like, try to see the good point of view.”
There’s a whole lot of chemistry between Richardson, VanderWaal, and Williams. Richardson said, “I mean, I would say, we had to kind of work to get that bond because at first we were like, okay, this is you… Eventually, we started to hang out more, and we realized that we had a lot of things in common. You know, we all like food, so we went out to eat. So, yeah, after a while, we started to click. It didn’t start immediately, but yeah.
VanderWaal joked that they were really shy, and Williams added, “I think it was also a kind of a side effect of the pandemic, too. Because we met for the first few times a few days before we were about to get started shooting. So, we knew each other as Zoom squares. So, like, when we were actually together with each other, we were like, hey.”
Hart said of adapting the story and taking it in a different direction: “I was really excited to have the opportunity to, ’cause I love, love Stargirl, and I love Jerry’s books. But I was excited about taking her out of Mica and into a larger world. To show her journey on a grander scale. And I was also really excited, too. And Grace and I had a lot of fun in the development process of the sequel, talking through, like, you know, Grace was 14 when we made the first movie. And she was 17 when we made this one. That’s a huge difference.
“And we really wanted to honor both Grace’s growth as a young woman and also Stargirl’s and how they’re different and how they’re similar. The most exciting thing for me about making the sequel and the most important thing to me was that the movie is from Stargirl’s perspective. The first movie and the first book are obviously from Leo’s perspective, and it’s how he sees Stargirl. And so it was really exciting just to get to have a whole movie through her eyes and her mind.”
Jenna Busch has written and spoken about movies, TV, video games, and comics all over the Internet for over 15 years, co-hosted a series with Stan Lee, appeared on multiple episodes of “Tabletop,” written comic books, and is a contributing author for the 13 books in the “PsychGeeks” series including “Star Wars Psychology.” She founded the site Legion of Leia and hosted the “Legion” podcast.