A fresh-faced, bright-eyed, Southern beauty, 14-year-old Hollywood Records recording artist Coco Jones will grace television sets across the world on June 15 when she stars in the Disney Channel original movie “Let It Shine” opposite Tyler James Williams and Trevor Jackson. Coco plays the role of “Roxie,” a teenage singing sensation whose music label is sponsoring a songwriting contest at a teen club.

“Cyrus DeBarge” (Williams) writes a contest-winning song about his love for Roxie but, when he’s too shy to claim it as his own, his best friend, “Kris McDuffy” (Jackson) takes the credit. Based on the play Cyrano de Bergerac, “Let It Shine” relates a tale of young love with an underlying message about summoning self-confidence.

KW: What interested you in the role of Roxie in “Let It Shine”?
CJ: When I first read the script, I fell in love with it. Singing, dancing, and acting! The part was right up my alley. Plus, the thought of playing a rock star was like a dream for me.
KW: The movie is based on the Cyrano de Bergerac. Did you read the original play in preparation for the part?
CJ: I read a lot of summaries about the story. I also watched “Roxanne,” the movie starring Steve Martin.
KW: The lead characters’ names have been changed slightly from Cyrano and Roxanne to Cyrus and Roxie. Has the story been changed, too?
CJ: Oh, yes, they definitely updated the story, setting it around today’s music industry, featuring Gospel and Hip-Hop music.
KW: The movie is also a musical. How much did you get to sing?
CJ: I got to sing a lot. I am singing in five songs from the soundtrack.
KW: What message do you think people will take away from the movie?
CJ: The main message of this movie that everyone will take away is to believe in yourself. Cyrus learns to have confidence in his writing, Chris has confidence in his performance, and my character, Roxie, learns to be confident in her singing. Another great message that girls will take away from Roxie is to love yourself. All girls my age know about wanting to fit in. I think that they will watch Roxie trying to do the same thing with her clothes, make-up, and her entire performance. Over the course of the movie, she learns to be herself, to develop her own style, and to not change herself to please others.
KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles says: You’re only 14. How do you balance the demands of school and career?
CJ: Well, sometimes it is hard because my schedule is crazy. I am homeschooled, so my school travels with me. My parents have one rule for me: I can’t do any of this if I have any C’s on my report card.

KW: Is your online coursework mostly an extension of your performance interests?
CJ: Unfortunately, not. It is the exact same work any eighth grader would do.

KW: What do you plan to study in college?
CJ: I’d love to major in Music. I love what I do, but I want to really understand it, more in depth.
KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 
CJ: Determination. You have to be willing to put in the extra time and the extra practice to be the best. Also, no matter what responses you get from your work, you have to be determined not to give up on your dreams!
KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
CJ: Have confidence, do your own thing, find your talent, and work at it to be the best. And always, always have fun!
KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
CJ: As a sweet Christian girl, who was always loving and kind to everyone.
KW: Thanks again for the time, Coco, and best of luck with “Let It Shine.”
CJ: Thank you so much for having me!

“Let It Shine” premieres Friday, June 15 at 8 PM (7 PM Central) on the Disney Channel.


Kam Williams

Special to the AFRO