News Column

Allentown Fair: Bridgit Mendler hopes 'Good Luck' follows her through career

August 27, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 27--For an actress whose primary job for the past four years is nearing its end, Bridgit Mendler sounds pretty upbeat in a phone call while riding a train from New York to Washington, D.C.

Mendler's Disney Channel show, "Good Luck Charlie," which is in its final season, is going out on top, nominated this year for the Kids Choice Awards' Favorite TV Show and Mendler nominated for the both the Kids Choice Awards' and Teen Choice Awards' Favorite TV Actress.

Mendler now has a burgeoning music career -- one that saw her debut album, "Hello, My Name Is ..." hit the Billboard Top 30 when released last October and produce a platinum single, "Ready or Not." A second single, "Hurricane," debuted at No 1 on Billboard's Bubbling Under chart.

Mendler will show off her musical talent when she co-headlines a concert with rising teen idol Austin Mahone on Aug. 28 at the Allentown Fair grandstand.

"Good Luck Charlie" stars Mendler as Teddy Duncan, who makes a video diary for her toddler sister, Charlie, to watch for advice as she gets older.

The sitcom premiered to 4.6 million viewers in 2010, making it the highest-rated Disney Channel original series premiere in two years, and the week's highest-rated cable program. It since has had as many as 7.7 million viewers. A 2011 movie from the series, "Good Luck Charlie, It's Christmas," was the year's No. 1 live-action cable movie.

But Disney announced after the April premiere of the fourth season that it would be the last. Mendler says the final episode has been shot and the show's season typically ends in January, but she doesn't know when the finale will air.

Mendler says she never expected the show to last more than four years, which has been the cutoff for even Disney's most popular shows -- such as Selena Gomez's "Wizards of Wonderly Place," Demi Lovato's "Sonny With a Chance" and "Victorious" starring Victoria Justice, who played Allentown Fair last year.

"I think we kind of always expected that it would only be four seasons," Mendler says. "I mean, Disney never really goes beyond that. Usually you can expect around three, and four is kind of like a bonus year.

"I think, you know, just the finality of it, maybe, was sad, but at the same time, I think we're all proud to have done as much as we did."

One holdover from "Good Luck Charlie" is Mendler's two-year-old relationship with actor Shane Harper, who portrays her boyfriend, Spencer Walsh, on the show. Mendler says, "Things are going well. We're happy as can be." That is all.

Mendler came to the show after small parts in films such as "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" and "Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2," then a recurring role as a teen-age vampire on "Wizards of Waverly Place" for three years. She reportedly also auditioned for the "Sonny With a Chance" title role that went to Lovato.

Like those other female Disney leads, Mendler says her primary career focus was acting, but Disney gave her opportunities to work in music.

She's credited with co-writing the "Good Luck Charlie" theme song, and Disney cast her in the 2011 TV movie "Lemonade Mouth," about a high school music group, the soundtrack of which hit Top 5 on Billboard. Two singles from it sung by Mendler, "Somebody" and "Determinate," hit the Top 100.

Mendler says she always was musical during her early years in her native Washington, D.C., and after her family moved to the San Francisco area when she was 8 and she started acting professionally at 12.

"I wrote songs pretty much all my life and I played a little bit of piano. I played the violin and then I forgot how to play the violin," she says with a laugh. "And I taught myself guitar."

But Disney gave her "a feeling music was something that I could actually give a real shot," she says. "I mean, I've always had a passion for it, but I never really thought that I had something that other people would want to listen to. So I guess it was just a matter of self confidence."

She signed with Disney's Hollywood Records in 2011, and says her debut album "was a great learning experience. I really learned a lot about pop music and working collaboratively with people."

"I think everything that's happened with 'Ready or Not' has been incredible, and this being the first time I'm really, really doing music, I didn't really know what to expect. But I think that we're all really excited about what's happened, and I feel very proud and grateful for the response."

She says she's just in the very early stages of working on her sophomore album. "Well, so far I've just been doodling lyrics wherever I go and just trying to start thinking about the things that I want to say," she says, laughing. "But I don't have any real material to, like, elaborate on right now."

But with studio time booked for September to start the disc, things should start moving faster, she says. Mendler says the disc will be music her fans expect.

"I feel like just having the voice that I have and the writing style that I have, regardless of where I go for my next album, it's still going to have my own identity along with it," she says.

For now, Mendler is concentrating on her live shows. She and Mahone teamed up for several state fair dates, and she's doing solo dates, as well. She says she expects to tour to promote the upcoming album, as well.

That sounds a lot like the career path of Lovato, Gomez and Justice.

"I think it's a wonderful foundation to have worked with Disney Channel, and, obviously, some people have built amazing careers off of that, and that's something that I find inspiring," she says. "But at the same time, I'm my own person just like they are, and I think it just really depends on what you make of that experience."

Mendler, who turns 21 in December, says she would "love to make more music and movies and that sort of thing. I'd love to have more of a hand creatively in the writing and creation of things. So that's part of how I'd like to eventually angle it.

"And beyond that, I think we'll just have to see. I mean, I do have an interest in fashion [she has a clothing line through Disney, inspired by her Teddy Duncan character, that's sold at Target stores]. I also have an interest in food. So we'll see if that becomes part of my career at some point."

She also took a jazz history course at the University of Southern California this spring, and says she hopes to take more next spring.

"I'm kind of taking what comes my way," Mendler says. "I'd definitely love to continue acting, but it's kind of been nice to allow music to take the front seat for a little while, since I've been working on 'Good Luck Charlie' for so long. So I don't have a strict plan for the future. I'm kind of just seeing how it comes."

john.moser@mcall.com

610-820-6722

Info: 610-433-7541, http://www.allentownfairpa.org, http://www.ticketmaster.com.

Also: with Alex Aiono, 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 29, Keswick Theatre, 291 N. Keswick Ave., Glenside. Tickets: $29-$45, http://www.keswicktheatre.com, 215-572-7650.

BRIDGIT MENDLER

with Austin Mahone

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28.

Where: Allentown Fair Grandstand, 17th and Chew streets

-- How much: $25-$39

Setlist: Songs from her 2012 debut album, "Hello, My Name Is ...," including the platinum "Ready or Not" and the new "Hurricane," as well as songs from her Disney TV show "Good Luck Charlie," and some covers.

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(c)2013 The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)

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