TV & Movies

6 Cadet Kelly Behind-The-Scenes Facts That’ll Make You Love The Movie Even More

Bring on the nostalgia.

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As fans celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hilary Duff and Christy Carlson Romano's 'Cadet Kelly,' he...

It’s been exactly 20 years since Disney teen queens Hilary Duff and Christy Carlson Romano made us want to twirl rifles and break out in choreographed dance à la Cadet Kelly. In the Disney Channel Original Movie, eighth-grader Kelly Collins (Duff) is plucked from art school and enrolled in military school, where her new stepdad works as the principal. Her rebellious streak incurs the wrath of Cadet Captain Jennifer Stone (Romano), who revels in disciplining Kelly for her offenses. Naturally, the increasing tension between the two results in a spontaneous dance battle. When onlookers witness their rhythmic chemistry, the two are ordered to perform together at a drill team competition to lead their school to victory.

While Duff and Romano spend most of the film as nemeses, their relationship couldn’t have been more different offscreen. In fact, a lot was going on behind the scenes, including budding friendships among the cast and real-life cadets wooing the ladies. To commemorate Cadet Kelly’s 20th anniversary, rewatch the Disney classic, learn the iconic routine, and lean into the nostalgia with these five behind-the-scenes facts.

Romano Was “Nervous” About Working With Duff

Photo courtesy of Disney

On Romano’s wildly popular YouTube channel, she recounted her time on the Cadet Kelly set and revealed she had some qualms about working with Duff. “I was really nervous that Hilary wouldn’t like me,” the Even Stevens star said in a September 2021 video. “Sometimes there can be pressure for women on the set, even when they’re young,” she continued, adding she feared a dynamic where one is clearly the star and the other is “number two.” Luckily, those fears were unfounded as Duff was a “classy gal” and “so bubbly and fun.”

Though the two “had a great friendship” while filming, even shopping and hanging out with Duff’s family, they didn’t keep in touch after the movie wrapped. “I was kind of hoping that I'd stay friends and stay close to Hilary, but she was so busy with her show. And I was too busy with my show,” Romano said.

Romano Helped Shape Her Character

In her September 2021 YouTube video, Romano added that she was also nervous about being “typecasted as the mean girl” with her role and worked with the producers to make the movie “a story about our friendship.” She said, “I didn’t just wanna play a one-note character.”

Duff Was Andrea Lewis’ Biggest Cheerleader

Andrea Lewis played Carla, Duff’s onscreen military school BFF, and previously shared an anecdote about working with Duff. Apparently, Duff and her mom helped Lewis with her early career. “Hilary Duff and her mom, Susan Duff, were the first people to really encourage me and my own mom to come up to LA and explore and learn,” she shared in a February 2021 TikTok. Calling her “generous,” Lewis said the Lizzie McGuire actor even set her up with the same agent who worked for Duff

Shortly after Cadet Kelly, Lewis bagged a role as Drake’s love interest in Degrassi: The Next Generation and switched to Nickelodeon, starring in a few of the network’s projects.

Romano Dated Her Onscreen Love Interest

Jennifer and Kelly were complete opposites in the movie, but they did share something in common: They were both into Cadet Major Brad Rigby (Shawn Ashmore). IRL, Romano also had the hots for her costar. “I had a huge crush on Shawn Ashmore and even went on a couple of dates,” she revealed in her YouTube video. Adding that Ashmore “is a total gentleman,” she said, “I wish him nothing but the best.”

Apparently, Romano and Ashmore weren’t the only ones dating on set. In an older video posted in January 2020, the content creator shared that the women in the film were dancers while the men were “actually cadets from a military school,” making filming feel like summer camp. “I remember when we were rehearsing over a month with our guns and whatnot, the dancers and the cadets started falling for each other,” she said. “It was really cute.”

Duff Was Made An Honorary Cadet Sergeant IRL

For the film, the stars had to practice for a month in a rigid boot camp-esque training. “I think saluting took me the longest. Saluting and marching, and then the fun stuff is a whole different story,” Duff shared in an old behind-the-scenes clip. “I dropped [the rifle] so many times, it’s so embarrassing.”

Her hard work was acknowledged when she was made an honorary cadet sergeant at the military school where they filmed. So aside from being Disney royalty, Duff has rank at the Robert Land Academy in Canada.

Duff And Romano Didn’t Notice The Film’s LGBTQ+ Undertones

The film gave fans some of the best cinematic content in DCOM history. Remember Kelly’s iconic muddy stumble straight onto Jennifer’s white dress and the impressive choreography at the end? Well, that’s not the film’s only legacy. In recent years, fans have pointed out that Cadet Kelly has LGBTQ+ undertones.

In an interview with Cosmopolitan last January, Duff was asked about her thoughts on the movie being “queer-coded.” She admitted she “didn’t know” until a How I Met Your Father co-star pointed it out. “No one has brought that to my attention except for Tien Tran ... She was like, ‘Oh my god. It is a moment in the queer community. All that close-talking with Jennifer,’” Duff said, adding, “If it helped anybody, I hope so.”

Similarly, Romano didn’t predict how the film would impact the LGBTQ+ communities. “People are saying that maybe [Kelly and Jennifer] were in love. Maybe there was like an undercurrent of tension between the two girls. It really helped a lot of girls identify their sexuality,” she shared via YouTube. “That's crazy,” Romano said, adding, “I never even thought about that. I'm very flattered.”

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