While U.S. audiences are singing along to her new video for "Not That Kinda Girl," JoJo is hard at work on "Aquamarine," a movie being filmed on Australia's Gold Coast. Thousands of miles away from her Massachusetts homeland, she paused to talk and refuel during a recent lunch break.
Though it may at first seem like a teen version of "Splash," "Aquamarine" is an adaptation of the Alice Hoffman children's novel. Along with her on-camera best friend Emma Roberts, JoJo's character helps a mermaid (played by Sara Paxton) fulfill her wish to return to the ocean. The film is due next year.
Joanna Levesque — or JoJo — got her big break on TV with an appearance on "Kids Say the Darndest Things: On the Road to Boston." The 14-year-old already has three music videos under her belt as well. Even so, JoJo is still getting accustomed to the cinematic lens.
"My experience in videos has helped me, but it's also hurt me," she said, "because in videos you look straight at the camera, kind of flirt with the camera a little bit." She laughed, shooting a quick smolder toward the MTV lens. "In movies, you have to look at everything else but the camera. If you look at the camera, you're screwed."
Despite a successful debut LP (2004's JoJo) and the soon-to-be-completed "Aquamarine," she shows no signs of slowing down. While she wouldn't divulge many details, JoJo coyly revealed that she's working with a screenwriter for a separate movie project.
"The movie that I'm writing will not be like ['Aquamarine'], I can tell you that," she said. "I'm really looking forward to it because people will get to see me as ... a character with depth, a character that has problems. This is not a movie like 'Thirteen.' She's not going to be a drug addict, it's not like that. ... This is something that is going to be seen in a different way."
It won't be like "Glitter," either. JoJo disclosed that while her project will involve music, her own vocal talents will not be featured. "I made a promise to myself that I'm not going to sing in movies. People know I'm a singer, so they don't need to see it again in movies."
Beyond music and film, JoJo is also working on something more practical: getting her diploma. "It is difficult, but ... I still have to graduate high school and finish that business up," she said.
JoJo squeezes in about three hours a day in the school trailer in between scenes, completing at least 15 school hours a week. She gushed like a schoolgirl about her favorite studies: "My favorite subject is writing. I like to learn about history too. Different forms of writing: creative writing, structured writing ... all different sorts of creative things like that."
Outside of studies, weekends have been spent doing typical activities like shopping at the mall. Incognito she is not. "When we try to go to the mall, it gets kind of funny," she said. "Just the way that people stare, or they'll run up to us. It's nice, though, that even in Australia people know who we are. They've seen my videos and heard my songs. It's really cool to go to a place that's completely around the world and people recognize you."
JoJo said being immersed in another culture has been an educational experience. The Australian dialect in and of itself has supplied her with a host of new expressions.
"I've picked up a few things," she said. "They say, 'That's heaps of fun,' 'Good on ya' and, of course, 'G'day, mate.' Everybody says 'mate' — 'Oh, that's your mate.' ... They have a really cute way of speaking."
Even though she said she plans to explore a bit more of Australia after filming and promotional work are complete, JoJo also expressed some homesickness.
"I definitely liked the experience, but I'm so ready to come back to America. I'm starting a 20-plus-city tour in July, and I can't wait to get back in the studio and record a new one. There's just so much more to be done."
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