On March 8, 2002, the Disney Channel premiered an original movie unlike any of its predecessors. Cadet Kelly followed one girl's journey from a comfortable life of privilege to a life of structure and discipline at military school. The DCOM is one of more than 100 Disney original films, yet it continues to stand out in people's memories, and Christy Carlson Romano has a few ideas why.
“It's a totally different world,” Romano, who played Cadet Captain Jennifer Stone, told MTV News. “I think that Disney films usually are very much about a sport or a family, and this one is about these kids living on their own ... away at boarding school.”
Romano also pointed out that many twentysomethings grew up watching her and costar Hilary Duff (Kelly Collins) on their respective Disney Channel shows, so having them star in a film together was a treat. But even for younger people who may not remember Even Stevens or Lizzie McGuire, the relationship between their characters is something special.
Unsurprisingly, there is a noted fascination on Tumblr surrounding Jennifer Stone and Kelly Collins, with many fans 'shipping the duo as a couple, or even believing the film to have hidden (or not-so-hidden) lesbian themes. BuzzFeed even published an article providing evidence that Cadet Kelly was secretly about being gay. What does Romano think of it all? To her, that interpretation is pretty awesome.
“What I make of that is that this is art. Even if it’s a Disney Channel film, it’s still a piece of art. And the reason why my films and TV shows have done well over time is because they have substantial value that obviously rings true with the fans and fans of all ages,” she commented. “I feel very blessed to have played Jennifer Stone because I do think that if she could have influence over people going through all sorts of different things, then that’s very flattering to me.”
Surprisingly, Romano and Duff hadn't met before filming; Even Stevens was only in its second season and Lizzie McGuire was just starting. “She's like a little sister,” Romano reminisced, “because she's a little bit younger than me, so we got to get to know one another and become friendly during the rehearsal process.” While their characters were at odds with each other, the actresses themselves definitely were not. They'd go shopping for purses when they weren't filming, with Romano favoring Coach and Duff preferring Louis Vuitton.
Romano's favorite memory from set is probably the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Cadet Kelly: that epic military dance sequence, set to the song “One Girl Revolution” by Superchick. After spending the entire summer sticking to a strict training regimen — including real drill-team practices like throwing guns in the air and learning how to properly shout and take commands — the dance scene was a chance to really blow off some steam. “When we recorded the dance scene, it really did feel like an exciting moment for the characters,” Romano recalled. That scene was actually filmed last, which made it even more of a fun relief.
Cadet Kelly ends with Jennifer Stone planning to move when her dad is transferred to Europe, leaving the film somewhat open-ended as to where Jennifer and Kelly would both end up. According to Romano, they likely remained friends. “I definitely think they respect one another after that experience,” she said, laughing. Of course, it's probably safe to say Jennifer still calls Kelly “maggot.” Some things never go out of style.