Debby Ryan seems to be taking her designation as the Disney Channel’s newest It Girl in stride. With her stint as a supporting player on “The Suite Life on Deck” wrapping up as the series airs its grand finale graduation episode tonight (5/6), she’s deep into preparing for her own “Jessie” series to begin production next month. The question has been raised, can she be the next Miley Cyrus?
“No one will be the next Miley Cyrus,” responds the highly self-possessed actress, who turns 18 May 13. “She’s had such an iconic journey, and she’s still on it. Selena (Gomez) has the same thing, and Vanessa Hudgens. I always say I don’t want to be the next anyone. I want to be the first Debby Ryan.”
Not that she doesn’t admire predecessors in the Disney talent stable. “It’s a small circle. Of course I know these girls,” she says, referring to Miley, Selena, Vanessa, Ashley Tisdale, Chelsea Kane and others. “Young Hollywood is a small circle, a small town. You run into people like Abigain Breslin or Dakota Fanning and say hello. It’s like being a theater kid in school, you have the same friends and tons in common. I’ve gotten some great advice from these people.”
Such as? “Someone said — and I’m paraphrasing it a little to make it my own — people are going to love you and people are going to hate you, and you can’t find your identity in it either way.” She also, she says, gives advice to younger talents on the Disney Channel ladder, like Bella Thorne of “Shake It Up,” and her soon-to-be “Jessie” cast mates.
“Questions will come up and I might say, ‘I’ll meet you at Starbuck’s and we’ll chat it up,’ so it goes around.”
Debby has been spending “a lot of time in the writers room” as well as in casting sessions for “Jessie” — on which she’ll play the nanny to a multicultural brood of a wealthy and prominent New York City couple. “Disney has thanked me for coming in to read with the kids, but of course I want to read with them and see how we interact,” she says. “Once we get the cast all nailed down, I want to take them all to Disneyland, which is going to be awesome.” Of course.