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April 2006
RV: An Interview with Joanna “JoJo” Levesque

RV: An Interview with Joanna “JoJo” Levesque

by Wilson Morales

April 12, 2006

For some singers, acting is something they would be like to succeed in as well as their vocal skills, but it’s not always easy. It’s hard to find time to do both and balance it out. But if they can take small steps and be lost amongst of bevy of talent, then there’s less pressure. At the age of 13, Joanna “JoJo” Levesque was the youngest artist ever to have a #1 on the Billboard Pop Charts and the youngest ever to be nominated for an MTV Video Music Award. While JoJo made her film debut earlier this year in “Aquamarine”, it wasn’t her first time acting. She’s been acting since the age of 8 and was cast in a Nickelodeon show. JoJo will soon playing the daughter to Robin William’s character in “RV”, which is directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. In speaking with blackfilm.com, JoJo talks about working with Robin, working on her next album and what keeps her grounded while balancing two thriving careers.

How many times did you have to do that scene where you picked up your brother and put him on the other chair in the bus?

JOJO: Those were my favorite things to do. I’m not going to lie, I did that six times and I kept asking to do it again because I just like to be like Josh, I can lift you up. It was fun.

Are you in super good shape? Are you able to pick him up or does he weigh like six pounds?

JOJO: He weighs like 60 pounds.

So what are the challenges acting against Robin Williams? I imagine it’s like holding your own against a tornado or something?

JOJO: Well, something I accepted early on in the shoot was that you can’t try to like be on the same level, you can’t compete with him, he is Robin Williams, so I just try to be like the best that I can be and just do you know, just read my lines, be a good little daughter to him. That’s all I can do because he is basically just the way that he is in the movies, like in person. He is just so full of life, he’s like manic and all over the place and Robin Williams, that’s just who he is.

Did you crack him up? Did you get him to laugh?

JOJO: I tried but he’s so funny like nothing shocks him, nothing, you know. He humored me I guess.

When he put you to work where did he go?

JOJO: He totally works with me especially with, when we’re on camera and stuff. He would go off script, he would, you know, stray away from it, but he would always come back to a safe place where I knew where to jump in with my line, that’s what’s so great about him, that’s why he’s such a professional because he would never leave me or any of the actors in a place where they were like lost and didn’t know where to go from there.

Can you talk about the audition process? Did you have to meet him at one point?

JOJO: Only until I was actually cast but I did like five different auditions. I had to really fight for this role. Another girl was already cast and then they cast me. I was in Australia, shooting Aquamarine and then I sent in a tape for the role and then I sent in another one and then I had two satellite meetings with Barry and he had me read like so many different times and I really thought I wasn’t going to get it because I had so many auditions and I was like, they just obviously don’t like, they’re just stringing me along and then I found out that I got it and then I met Robin when I went to Vancouver to start shooting and I met Robin and Barry at the same time and he really put me at ease because I was really nervous to meet him because he is a legend. He’s such a normal person and just made me feel really comfortable.

Can you relate to your character or do you feel that you’re like her?

JOJO: I’m like her in some ways. I would hope I’m a little bit nicer than her because she kind of handles her aggression in a mean way. She’s pretty mean to her dad, but we both turn to music when we’re annoyed or frustrated or feel like our family is crazy, so I turn to my I-Pod as well, just like she did.

What’s on that I-Pod?

JOJO: Actually, I left my I-Pod on at the hotel so what is currently, literally playing is D’Angelo, his album Voodoo.

Can you talk about your music?

JOJO: Yes, my first album came out two years actually. I’ve only had one and I was the
youngest artist to ever have a number one single on billboard and it went over platinum, over a million copies and I’m working on my second one right now so that was hard for me to like do two movies and step away from the music because it was what I’ve been doing forever and what I love.

Were you really exited when you found out you got to sing in the movie too?

JOJO: No, because I wanted to keep music and acting separate so I knew I had to like sing off key to my MP3 player and I thought that would be funny and that’s fine but then Barry because he’s quirky and he’s funny and he likes to do weird things, he added that scene at the end where we all sing Route 66 so I didn’t know how it would turn out so it ended up being funny so that’s fine.

Have you gone on long trips like this with your family or nearly not as long?

JOJO: Not with my family but like being on tour and stuff for music I’ve been in tour buses so it’s kind of like a souped up version of an RV so I know what its like to be in a confined space with a lot of people and one toilet and you know, and junk food like Cheetos and stuff. I can relate to it in that way.

What can you talk about what you like about acting, and what you do like about singing?

JOJO: Well, both are pretty creative. With acting of course you play a character and you really become that person and like what they would do and how they were dressed and stuff like that but with music you can be whoever you want and you can represent yourself and however and take chances and don’t need to confine to just this one type of thing.

Do you prefer it, acting or singing?

JOJO: I like both of them but like I learned early on because with music video stuff you look into the camera and you’re supposed to make eye contact and then I realized with acting you shouldn’t do that because it will freak everybody out and you’re like say your lines to the camera. I know you’re supposed to look off of course, you know, talk to the people not the camera.

There are people who do have music careers and acting careers but over time they kind of end up sort of doing one or the other, where do you see your future going?

JOJO: People have said so you’re like a singing actress or an acting singer but why can’t I just be like a person who wants to do more than one thing. Kristin Chenowith is awesome at it too. She has successfully done both and Broadway which I think is so cool, she has albums, Broadway and movies and she’s doing it all, I have so much respect for her. She’s really, really talented and I think that as long as you can do more than one thing and you keep your head on straight and stuff that that’s fine but as far as choosing one over the other I don’t really want to choose. I like them both.

How do you go about keeping your head on straight?

JOJO: Well, I’m really close with my family. I just moved back to my home town actually and I spend a lot of time with them and I think that , I’ve had my best friends since I was 8 so that is what really keeps me proud, just having them as a foundation.

You are the youngest artist ever to be number one. That’s pretty interesting and how does that make you feel?

JOJO: It is really cool, I really didn’t believe it when I first read it, heard it and stuff but it just makes we want to like have that number one album because I have the number one single so for my next album I want the album to go number one. That is something that is driving me just knowing that I have much more to accomplish but I was 13 when that happened so.

What kind of music do you sing pop or more country?

JOJO: Oh no, it’s definitely pop, pop with more R&B influences.

Is JoJo a fairly recent nickname, like part of your music or was this what you had when you were a kid?

JOJO: Yeah, something I had forever. People really didn’t call me Joanna. They always called me Jo or BooBoo or JoJo so it was always other than Joanna. I don’t know.

You went on tour with Usher – and MTV Video Awards?

JOJO: Yeah.

Can you talk about acting opposite someone like Robin Williams? There is a star but you definitely have a lot of success as a singer. What made you want to break a shadow and go kind of achieve the – maybe the Oscar glory or something like that?

JOJO: I’ve been acting since I was six and singing since I was two, like with talking and singing, but they were both things that I started very young so when I had success with music film offers started coming in so I kind of jumped to the opportunity to do it because I was reading some really good scripts and of course when RV came along and it said Robin Williams attached, I was glad I had read for this just because it was such a cool thing for me to branch out to and I definitely want to do more.

So between Aquamarine and you’re starting to get a lot more, what’s the enticement of doing films, is it the story or who’s in it?

JOJO: I’m not going to lie, it’s both because even before I read the script for RV just the fact that it said Robin Williams and directed by Barry Sonnenfeld that totally striked my interest so I know, that’s kind of like a surface thing just whose in it and then of course the content of the material drew me in too.

One would have to wonder, what have you turned down?

JOJO: Well, it’s not really turning down, and it’s not reading for; if something doesn’t really strike my interest then I won’t do it.

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