Hayley Kiyoko, Aubrey Peeples and Stefanie Scott in Jem and the Holograms (Justina Mintz/Universal)
The cast and creative team behind Jem and the Holograms sat down to talk about the process of finding new ways of telling the Jem story. Based on the original show from the ‘80s, producer Scooter Braun and director Jon Chu (Step Up 2: The Streets, Step Up 3D) tackled bringing Jem to a new generation of fans and finding a new Jem and the Holograms in young Hollywood actresses and performers like their lead, Jem Aubrey Peeples (“Nashville”) and hologram Hayley Kiyoko.
When Braun brought up the idea to Chu that he was being considered to helm this project based on their work together on the 2011 Justin Bieber doc, Never Say Never, he laid it out honestly.
Scooter Braun: I said to Jon, “They want you to do this because you’re the dance guy, and they think this is a concert film. But I’m not trying to make a concert film, I’m trying to tell a story.” To Jon’s credit, he said, “You know, it’s funny you say that. I’m not the dance guy. I’m just a filmmaker who was given dance, and I did it to the best of my ability. Now, I’m known as the dance guy. But I make movies and tell stories, and that’s what I want to do.” At the end of that phone call, I said, “We’re making this movie together.”
Chu wanted to flex his storytelling muscles and even pitched the idea for Jem over 10 years ago, but this time around, he and Braun wanted to tackle her origin story in YouTube-culture form while keeping a rise-to-fame story intact.
Jon Chu: We came down to: We need to tell the story of Jerrica. That was our vehicle in. This is sort of the Batman Begins to Jem and the Holograms. Even Synergy will evolve eventually. I always saw this as a first step of getting us into the world and knowing that things are about to hit the fan.
Actress Aubrey Peeples plays Jem and says she almost didn’t make the audition. She parked in a no-parking zone, ran late and thought she messed everything all up, but the opposite was true, as Chu thought it showed her surface similarities to the character.
Aubrey Peeples: Jon was like, “She’s quirky, just like the character!” I’m just very disorganized and messy. I had to sing at almost every audition. It was a very long process but very collaborative. I do think that she’s very much a character. I don’t feel like we have a lot of similarities, except for the fact that I don’t know how to use the internet either.
Peeples and co-star Hayley Kiyoko (Aja) share that the cast was really excited to portray the iconic cartoon characters but also make them current in the new film so newer audiences could relate to the timeless themes of Jem and the Holograms.
Hayley Kiyoko: Once I knew what it was I was so excited to have the opportunity to bring to life something that is so iconic and a great message to the screen – seemed like a really fun challenge. But it’s also about introducing it to an entire new generation. We obviously have our characters and our backstory, but we’re bringing some new life, new energy and portraying the characters how we want to.
A.P.: We studied the series constantly, we had to do our research. Musically, I feel that this movie is very accessible to pop radio, which is awesome. I think the music is going to be super cool for fans. One of the main themes in the film is that Jerrica realizes that maybe fame and fortune isn’t what makes her happy. It’s family and friendship. All of us as artists and actors and musicians, we can relate to that too because success isn’t fun without other people.
Jem and the Holograms opens in theaters Oct. 23.