With “The Wizards of Waverly Place” having wrapped its final episode for airing July 24, series mom Maria Canals Barrera admits she’s getting a lot of questions about what she’s doing next. Fortunately for her, she has “Larry Crowne” opening July 1, with none other than Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.
“I’m looking forward to the premiere June 27,” notes the actress, who plays one of Tom’s fellow community college students — in teacher Julia’s classroom — in the feature the actor coscripted (with Nia Vardalos) and directed as well. “Tom is fun and relaxed on the set and yet very focused and professional,” Maria notes. “It was a lot of fun to see him in action as a director, finishing a scene and then saying, ‘And, cut’ — then rushing to the monitor to see the playback.”
The film has Tom’s character moving from coping with life after job loss — to a new life. “I think it was very wise of them — Tom and Nia — to write the script in these times when unfortunately, a lot of people have to reinvent themselves. Or fortunately,” Maria adds, “because sometimes when people have to reinvent themselves, they are able to move toward their original passion and become a more fulfilled person in the end.”
Maria is facing big life changes herself. With her long-time series now concluded, she’s had to say goodbye to her “Waverly Place” family — Selena Gomez, David Henrie, Jake T. Austin and David DeLuise. Of the forthcoming hour-long series finale, she says, “I believe the fans will get what they’ve been craving. The beauty of it is, it has adventure, total heart-tugging drama and suspense, humor, wackiness, randomness and a ton of special effects. It was fun doing it. We were all emotional. At the very last scene, we were crying and toasting and making speeches.”
The wrap party had a prom theme and the cast and production team received show “yearbooks” in keeping with the graduation of the young “Wizards” actors. Of her onscreen offspring, she notes, “They really are great people in that they each have a good head on their shoulders. They’re very professional, focused on their work, they enjoy it and they realized the show was a blessing and appreciated it.”
MEANWHILE: Maria says she texted back and forth with Selena recently when the 18-year-old It Girl took ill and was hospitalized after a “Tonight Show” appearance. “She sent me a note that she was feeling much better,” reports the actress, who adds that she didn’t ask the nature of her former TV daughter’s ailment. Having played mom to both Selena and Demi Lovato (in “Camp Rock” and its sequel), she’s aware of the fact both young stars are constant tabloid targets, with Demi having recently made her bipolar condition public, and Selena paparazzi bait as she dates teen heartthrob Justin Bieber.
“I don’t now how they can handle it. It must be incredibly difficult at their age,” she says.
But Maria — who has two young daughters of her own — would much rather rhapsodize about her small screen daughters. “What are the chances of two little girls who are best friends, both extremely talented, winding up becoming so wildly successful? Demi is like — she glows. She has that megawatt smile, and so much passion and enegy. I love, love, love her voice. She’s an incredible singer. And Selena, she is so naturally an actress. She was fully present, emotionally there, at 12 years of age and she’s just gotten better and better — amazing, especially when we were doing dramatic scenes.
“I really love them both to pieces,” she adds.