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Interview with JoJo
By Jeffrey M. Anderson
Born in Vermont and raised near Boston, Massachusetts, JoJo, a.k.a. Joanna Levesque began singing at the age of 2 and began acting at the age of six. So when she recorded her eponymous first album at the age of 13 and it became a hit, she turned to her other love. She made her movie debut earlier this year in Aquamarine, and now appears as Robin Williams' teenage daughter in the new comedy R.V.
JMA: Let's start with the movie's prologue, in which young Cassie (not you) tells her father that she wants to stay with him forever. Then, cut to teenage Cassie (you) telling him he's an idiot. How does that stuff hit you?
JoJo: That is the sad truth. My dad even made a comment to me. 'You know what, Jo? I can kinda relate to that.' When you're younger you run into your dad's arms when he comes home, 'Daddy! You're home!' And then you become a teenager, and your hormones going crazy and that's just how it is, I think, for everybody. I'm nicer than Cassie, though.
JMA: I can believe that.
JoJo: Thank you. I think it's hormones, and just thinking that your parents aren't cool anymore.
JMA: At one point your parents know all the answers.
JoJo: And then you know all the answers. I guess it changes. I know I don't know all the answers, and I still look to my parents for a lot, but when you hit 12 or 13 things change. I don't know how it'll be for the next generation, because mine is crazy! I cannot imagine. When I have kids, I'm scared!
JMA: I like all kinds of music right now and I'm wondering what kinds of music my kid is going to listen to that's going to bother me.
JoJo: Me too! I like hip-hop, and my mom doesn't particularly like hip-hop, and I'm wondering what kinds of music my kids are going to like that I'll hate.
JMA: I heard you also like Ella Fitzgerald. Can you sing in that jazz/scat style?
JoJo: Nobody can do it like she can.
JMA: Is she an influence? Or is she just someone you like to listen to?
JoJo: Everything I listen to is influential in some way. I'm like a sponge. I just absorb things. Especially because of my tender age.
JMA: I checked out some of your music this morning. I especially like "Baby It's You."
JoJo: I recorded that when I was 12. The new one will be out when I'm turning 16. And you'll hear a lot of growth.
JMA: That's impressive! There's a lot of gospel influence in pop music today. Are you influenced by Gospel?
JoJo: Not really gospel, but the Catholic Church. My mom was a soprano. She liked Broadway music, like The Phantom of the Opera, and just singing in Catholic Church. I had a very, almost, opera background. That's what my mom listened to. It was never Baptist-type stuff where you get up and get the fever.
JMA: Onto the movie. Cassie has camped out on the R.V. couch and has decorated it with a bunch of pictures. Were those your choices, or were they Cassie's?
JoJo: They were crated for Cassie. Some of the people I had no idea who they were! As far as that skateboard movie? They had some boys from that skateboard movie, these boys with long hair...
JMA: Oh, Dogtown and Z-Boys?
JoJo: Yeah! See, I'm not particularly into boys with long hair. So that was more Cassie.
JMA: Are you a vegetarian?
JoJo: Uh-uh. I like meat. I like hamburgers, I like hot dogs, I like pork. I like bacon. Bring it on! I also like vegetarian dishes. I just had tofu the other night. I'm eclectic with my food, too. I have very good taste buds, or whatever. I like Thai Food, Guinean food, all kinds of different foods. I had hotel food today: I had lobster soup, artichoke...
JMA: There's one scene where all the dishes fly out of the cupboard and land on you. Were those lightweight, styrofoam props?
JoJo: I was afraid that Barry was going to pull some sort of evil trick on me and have it be hard and hurt me. And I know that sounds awful, but he's a great guy. Just very quirky and funny. But it sounded like something he would do. But we had to do it like five or six times from different angles, and it was painless.
JMA: Good. I was a little worried about you. What about that waterslide scene? Was that fun?
JoJo: The first two times it was great. Woo-hoo! Then, dude, after like the eighth take, they had this Jacuzzi we could jump in with our clothes on, and with the trash bags on. We were freezing. It was so cold, and we were so dirty, it was really gross. But thankfully Robin and Cheryl and Barry were keeping our spirits up during shooting. It was dark and cold and there were a lot of bugs because of the lights. There were 100,000 moths, and I was really frightened.
JMA: You were really roughing it, huh?
JoJo: We were really out there. We were in the wilderness. They had people who were on bear patrol, bear watch. Because there were mad bears out there. And a lot of bugs -- we had to douse ourselves in bug spray. We were really in the middle of it. We were roughing it.
JMA: In the dinner scene with the Gornicke family, you're served some weird dish of entrails or something. What was in that?
JoJo: It was just like a stew, a beef stew. It was meat. It was really good. I actually ate it. After it was done I ate the whole bowl.
JMA: Can you talk a little about the movie's closing musical number?
JoJo: If it was up to me, I totally want to keep music and acting separate, but Barry thought he wanted to add a scene at the end. Kristen [Kristin Chenoweth] has a beautiful voice, and everyone can carry a tune. Jeff is really good. So he wanted to add the scene at the end where we had a musical number, and I wasn't too stoked about it. It was weird to see myself on a big screen singing. And it wasn't how I wanted it to be; it's not JoJo singing. It's more Cassie singing.
JMA: Did you try to hold back a little?
JoJo: Yeah. It was just fun. It was just a bunch of white trash up there singing. It was great.
JMA: Is there some kind of pressure to make movies, even though you're already an established pop star?
JoJo: I've been singing since I was 2, and I've been doing theater since I was 6. They both came when I was pretty young. I love being creative. I love getting out there and getting a reaction. That's always something that has driven me. As selfish as that is, I like getting out there and letting loose. So when I had success with the first album and everything, it just seemed like something I really wanted to do. I'm not going to lie -- being in music has helped me get roles, and especially a movie with Robin Williams. And I don't think I could have got that if it wasn't for Barry's daughter actually being a fan of mine. So that was really cool! I did do six auditions and I did work really hard, so it's not like I just got this role, just because.
JMA: When do you go to school?
JoJo: I'm tutored. I've been working with a tutor the last two years. She's great, and it's hard, but I would prefer it to normal school.
JMA: I recently interviewed Q'orianka Kilcher (The New World); she's about your age, and she's home schooled too.
JoJo: I am such a fan of hers! I wanna meet her! I just saw that film.
JMA: What's on your iPod?
JoJo: While I was getting my hair & makeup done, I was listening to T.I.'s new album. He's a rapper. He's from Atlanta. He's great. I've been listening to T.I., D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor. Very eclectic.
April 21, 2006