Teen star Selena Gomez (Wizards of Waverly Place) admits to struggling with being green. “What’s really bad about me is I leave the lights on everywhere I go,” she confesses, adding that she’s trying to improve that with self-reminders via post-it notes. Since the Disney Channel and its young casts are actively involved in promoting the Friends for Change environmental campaign, the Wizards set is as green as possible. “We have double-sided scripts and we recycle them. We don’t use [plastic] water bottles,” Gomez reports. “We’re doing our best -- we’re trying. Every little thing counts.”
One aspect of Gomez is pretty green already: her thumb. “I loved biology and botany,” she says. “I love plants and gardening. That’s from my grandmother -- I loved watching her. I would love to have my own garden someday for sure.”
Now working on music for her debut album, Gomez will begin shooting season three of Wizards in early July. On June 26, she and best friend Demi Lovato star in the Disney Channel movie Princess Protection Program, for which they recorded a duet and shot a video, the latter only available on the DVD version (out June 30). Gomez recently shot her first feature, Ramona and Beezus, based on the first installment in Beverly Cleary’s children’s book series. She’ll also star in the Puerto Rico-shot Wizards of Waverly Place The Movie, premiering on Disney Channel in August.
When it comes to green living, Marissa Jaret Winokur is feeling a bit guilty, “I always feel that I don’t do enough,” says the actress (pictured below), who has parlayed a Dancing with the Stars stint to a hosting gig on Dance Your Ass Off, a DWTS-meets-Biggest Loser reality show premiering on Oxygen June 29. “I’m trying to do organic, but it’s hard. There are a lot of good detergents. But I use disposable diapers,” admits the new mom apologetically. “I’m sorry.”
While it was hard to go back to work after being a stay-at-home mom, DYAO “was the perfect job for me because I didn’t have to be there every day and I was able to bring my son to the set. The contestants inspired her own weight loss efforts -- she’d gained 20 pounds, even though her son was born via surrogate. “Every time Zev cried I would eat,” she explains, noting that the show served as inspiration to drop the weight. “I’m back on track. I’m taking a lot of dance classes,” she says. “And it’s because of watching these contestants. I think the show definitely will inspire people.”
A crowd-pleaser called Dear Lemon Lima is winning raves at the Los Angeles Film Festival, going on now in L.A. Set in Fairbanks, Alaska but shot in Seattle, the endearing comedy nails the awkwardness and heartbreak of adolescence while telling the story of a smart, misfit teenage girl who writes to an imaginary friend in her diary, discovering her Yup’ik Eskimo heritage, new friends, and self-confidence along the way.
Shot for under two million, “We were very bare bones so I don’t think we left a big carbon footprint,” says writer-director Suzi Yoonessi, who fleshed out her original short film via Film Independent’s writer, producer and director labs, shaping it as it traveled the festival circuit. On the set, “We wrote people’s names on water bottles,” adds Yoonessi, whose own activism in PETA and other animal welfare organizations manifests in her heroine Vanessa’s concern for sea turtles and polar bears.
While the film isn’t autobiographical, Yoonessi did have a childhood imaginary friend named Lemon Lima and kept diaries; rereading them prompted her to revisit the world through the innocent eyes of a 13-year-old. Playing that part is newcomer Savannah Wiltfong (pictured left with Yoonessi), whose prior experience consisted of three lines in a seventh grade play. “It was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life but it was amazing,” pronounces the now 15-year-old, who like Vanessa is half Yup’ik and keeps a diary, “when I need to vent about something or something exciting happens.” She also relates to Vanessa’s lingering crush on her snobby ex-boyfriend. “It’s about her first heartbreak and just a few months before I had that with my first love,” says Wiltfong, who hopes to spend time in Los Angeles this summer in order to pursue acting opportunities.
While the movie has no distributor or release date yet, according to Yoonessi there’s already talk of a TV series based on it, possibly with some of the film’s cast. A print version of Vanessa’s diary is also in the works. But rather than contemplate a sequel, the director would prefer to explore the flip side of Lemon Lima, based on “my ex-boyfriend’s imaginary friend, who was named Frito E. Lay. It would be funny to do a boy version,” she says.
(Additional photo credits: Winokur by Robert Trachtenberg; Yoonessi and Wiltfong by Gerri Miller.)