People sometimes say Britney is the new Madonna, but then who's going to be the new Britney?
Ms. Spears had a hand in deciding that for herself recently, when she helped cast "Brave New Girl," an ABC Family film adapted from the book she wrote with her mom. (Click for photos of Britney and Lynne Spears casting "Brave New Girl.")
The story, adapted from Lynne and Britney Spears' book "A Mother's Gift," is based on the singer's life but is fictionalized a bit so that it becomes more about the relationship between the mother and daughter than the rise of Spears' star. In the film, the Britney character, named Holly, wants to become a singer, too, and she competes in local contests and dreams of attending and making it at a performing-arts school.
"I think it's really important that she be relatable to the average American girl out there," Spears said. "The character, she has passion about dancing and singing and acting. She's trying to pursue her dreams, you know, go out and do what you want to do, so you have to see that drive in her so people can really relate to the movie."
In their capacity as executive producers, Spears and her mother, who said they have "approval over everything," attended the casting sessions in December to get a sense of the candidates vying to fill the singer's dancing shoes. Actresses trying out for the roll of Holly had to read from a couple of scenes as well as sing, which wasn't easy to do in front of the superstar, as much as she tried to put them at ease.
"You can totally tell they're nervous when they first come in," Spears said. "But once you talk to me, you know I'm not all glitz and glam like that. I'm of course going to talk to them beforehand and try to make them feel really comfortable, support them on and laugh with them."
One of the laughs she shared with the actress who eventually was cast as Holly was over her choice of accent. Nineteen-year-old Lindsey Haun ("Village of the Damned," "Addams Family Reunion") tried to emulate Spears' slight Southern twang but didn't quite get it right the first time out — or so she thought.
"I originally thought, when I auditioned the first time for this role, that I didn't know where Holly was from," Haun said. "I knew she was kind of the Britney Spears character, and Britney's from Louisiana, right? So I based Holly's accent off of that. I went with a coach, and I was really prepared, and I was all good, but then I slipped into this really thick Texas accent, and I remember going out of the audition, 'Oh my gosh, I totally messed up. They're going to think I'm really stupid and just did any type of Southern accent.' But in the second audition, I found out in the script that Holly was from Texas, so it all turned out to be cool."
Nailing the accent wasn't the only reason Haun nailed the job. Deciding who would be the Britney-like character was a "very tough choice," Spears said. All three finalists were "so cute, so amazing," and all were able to switch quickly from reading dramatic scenes with a casting director to singing a cappella to the room of producers. But it was Haun, the granddaughter of an opera tenor and the daughter of a guitarist from Air Supply, who made Spears mouth the word "wow" after she gave the film's producers a sample of her singing voice during the casting sessions.
"That's so weird, they have to be so serious about one thing, and then [totally change gears]," Spears said. "But they did it, honey, they were amazing. They all stand out in a huge way. And [Lindsey] was hot. I was really impressed."
"Brave New Girl" airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC Family.