The 16-year-old talks about her debut in Netflix's new series, directed and choreographed by Kenny Ortega.

Por Alma Sacasa
Septiembre 09, 2020
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Kailey Schwerman/Netflix

Madison Reyes is only 16, but she's already an old hand when it comes to acting. "I really got into acting in sixth grade," she tells People CHICA. "My first role was in Aladdin and I loved it. So for eighth grade, I went to art school. I didn't even know those things were real! Ever since then my passion for acting has only grown."

That passion has earned her the titular role on Netflix's new series Julie and the Phantoms, debuting Thursday. Julie is a shy Puerto Rican girl who learns how to get her voice back after she joins a musical group — with the ghosts of a boy band. "I see myself in her so much. I definitely don't think that I act when I'm playing her," Madison shares. "Just in the fact of how real she is and how kind and willing to do anything for her friends she is. I like to think that I'm willing to do anything that my friends need. And her passion for music and just how she holds herself, how unique she is, and how she stands out from the crowd, especially as you see her character grow throughout the series — that's what I love about her so much."

Reyes is also happy that she can be unapologetic about her own culture while playing Julie, who's a proud Latina. "It's so beautiful," she says. "I love being able to portray that on screen because that's something that I wanted so much growing up, so being able to be that person for so many young girls now is very lovely, and I'm very excited to see how everybody takes it."

Despite her young age, Reyes wasn't afraid to speak up for herself on set, especially when it came to Julie's Puerto Rican heritage. "I made sure [director and executive producer Kenny Ortega] knew right off the bat," she explains. "I was like, 'Listen, I'm so grateful that you gave me this opportunity, but I want to make sure that my culture is shown and that we see a lot of it.' Just look at Julie's house interior. If you look closely, there are so many pictures from San Juan. And there's Puerto Rico in general in her jewelry and just how she holds herself."

She hopes that viewers see themselves in Julie as much as she does, and find inspiration in the show as well as entertainment. "Nothing is impossible," she says, "if you believe that you can do it. I'm going to live by that because it's gotten me this far, and I just want people to go out there and take that chance!"

Julie and the Phantoms premieres September 10 on Netflix.