Not many adult TV comedies make me literally laugh out loud, so imagine my surprise when I counted two LOLs while watching an episode of Nickelodeon’s School of Rock, which received an Emmy nomination this year for Outstanding Children’s Program. This series is a riff on the Jack Black film, only with Tony Cavalero donning Mr. Finn’s guitar strap. For those who loved the movie, the series has a similar spirit, offering something for adults and kids alike.
I had the chance to talk with actress Jade Pettyjohn who plays Summer Hathaway on the show. We talked about what it was like to take on the role made famous by Miranda Cosgrove, her favorite classic rock music, and what we can expect for Season 2 (although like The Go-Go’s would say, her lips are mostly sealed).
Congratulations on School of Rock’s Emmy nomination. Were you surprised?
Yes, thank you! I was totally surprised in the best way. I found out through Bre [Breanna Yde] who plays Tomika on the show. She came up screaming to me because someone had tagged her in a photo on Instagram saying that we were nominated for an Emmy. So we went around the entire set screaming and telling everyone. It was super exciting.
The show is based on the 2003 film with Jack Black. Were you familiar with the movie before you took on the role?
Absolutely. It was one of my favorite films growing up. It came out when I was very young, so I kind of grew up watching it. So when I got the audition for the role, I was extra interested.
You’re the Miranda Cosgrove role, too. Was that a role you were vying for?
Yes! Totally. I think Miranda Cosgrove did an amazing job portraying Summer Hathaway. It’s a character that’s very different from my personality, but we’re also a lot alike. It’s a fun character to play for sure.
You can tell it’s a fun character. And you do a good job not mimicking Cosgrove in the role, which would be hard to do. You really make it your own and bring a fresh take on her.
I felt like it was important to put my own twist on the character. It definitely incorporates the colors and vibes of the film, but since it’s a TV series, there’s definitely more time to explore the characters.
Are you anything like your character at all? I know you’re quite musical and play the guitar. But Summer seems to be quite the opposite of you. Is it hard to be bad at music when you actually play music?
Summer and I are very different. She’s tone deaf and I can sing. She doesn’t play music and I do. Things like that. But we also have similarities. She’s super ambitious and knows what she wants to do—maybe become the first female president someday! For me, it’s creating an acting and music career. So we’re both very determined and ambitious and like to get things done.
Playing music badly is very weird to me because it goes against everything I’ve been trained for! So it’s like “Wait, you want me to sing badly?” But it’s fun! It adds a human element to Summer, because she’s very good at a lot of things, so it’s nice to have something she’s not perfect in because we’re people—people aren’t perfect.
The show is a lot about music appreciation, especially classic rock. Are you a classic rock fan now because of the show? If so, what songs do you like?
I’ve grown up absolutely loving music, every kind of style. And before the show, I would go to Amoeba Music, one of the biggest record stores in Los Angeles, and pick up CDs and talk to people about what music they like. The music is actually what drew me to the project. I love classic rock. I’m a huge fan of Led Zeppelin, the Who, and the Doors. I listen to everything from punk to jazz to grunge to pop.
Personally, after watching the show, I thought it something that both adults and kids can enjoy together. Why do you, personally, think the Emmys recognized School of Rock? Is there something specific about the show that you think makes it stand out from other children’s programming?
This is Nickelodeon and Paramount’s first joint show together, which is a pretty big thing. I think that the show recognizes music and the history of music. It gets kids to express themselves through music, which I think is super important. I think it’s something kids should know, that they can pick up an instrument and play with their friends. And who knows, maybe they’ll become the next Nirvana or One Direction or whatever they want to be. The show follows these kids in this prep school, who are forced to stay in this kind of box, and Mr. Finn comes in and teaches them that they can actually be themselves, in whatever way that may be. And I’m really happy the Emmys recognized that.
Will you be at the Emmys?
Yeah, totally! I’m going to be at the Creative Arts Emmys, and I cannot tell you how excited I am! It’s been a big thing in our family to watch the Emmys, so I can’t tell you how exciting it will be to actually go to one.
The new season starts September 17, right before the Emmys actually. Can you tell us anything about what we can expect in Season 2?
Yes, I’m super excited for Season 2. Season 1, you’re getting into the main plot and developing the characters. But in Season 2, there’s more character arcs and relationships that grow, those kind of things. I don’t want to be that girl and spoil the whole thing. My character Summer goes through a lot this season, takes risks and tries things out. That’s all I’m gonna say!