As an '80s kid, I have the fondest memories of eating cereal in my pajamas in front of Saturday morning cartoons like Jem and the Holograms , a show about how much it rocks to be a girl. Now the animated series that launched gotta-have-it merchandising tie-ins like soundtracks, dolls, and sleeping bags is getting the live-action big-screen treatment courtesy of director John Chu, who did the nostalgia thing before with G.I. Joe Retaliation. But in my opinion, the success of the Holograms movie lives and dies with the title character, my lifelong punk rock princess and under-appreciated feminist icon, Jem, aka Jerrica Benton. The actress who plays Jem in Holograms is Aubrey Peeples, and she's a name you really should get to know.
Nashville fans will recognize Peeples from the country music drama. She's been a recurring character on the show since its second season; Layla Grant was first introduced as a challenger to Juliette's (Hayden Panittiere) pop-country supremacy, having earned overnight fame as a contestant on a country reality competition series. Since she arrived on the scene, Layla has become a more complex character than just the ingenue. She struggles with addiction and with loneliness, and is still dealing with the emotional fallout of her sham marriage to closeted fellow musician Will Lexington (Chris Camack). Peeples doesn't just get to emote in the part; she also performs, which must have helped her to earn the role of Jem. Jem's got to sing, after all; this movie definitely qualifies as a musical. Here's Peeples perfoming as Layla in a recent episode of the drama.
Obviously, the Holograms' style of music is a lot different than the twangy ballads of Peeples's Nashville character. I Heart Radio gave fans a taste of the Jem sound when they hosted Peeples and her co-stars for a Jem and the Holograms concert as part of the movie's promotional tour. I'm digging the track "Youngblood," which Peeples rocks in the video below in a cool smokey eye and a glam-rock glittery suit.
I hate to break it to those of you who already have serious talent envy of the actress, who's also appeared in Burn Notice, Necessary Roughness, and (be still, my heart) the original Sharknado, but Aubrey Peeples is what those in the business call a triple threat. She told Marie Claire that Jem And The Holograms also features "some incredible dancing," and gave the skinny on her all-around theatrical training.
When I was 4, my parents took me to see a musical and I was like, 'I want to do that!' I started doing all sorts of musical camps and a lot of professional theater. I took dance classes for 10 years, too—I was never the most amazing kid in the other classes, but tap stuck with me for some reason.
It remains to be seen if the big screen Jem will have a tap dancing passion that her animated counterpart didn't, but let it be known that I wouldn't be mad. It wouldn't be canon exactly, but when did a little tap dancing every hurt anyone?
Does Aubrey Peeples have what it takes to make a new generation fall in love with a pink-haired icon like Jem? She's certainly up to the task.
Image: Universal Pictures