But before we watch (and ugly cry during) the finale this Thursday (December 29), we chatted with Hannah Montana’s BFF — and Lola Luftnagle’s frenemy — Traci Van Horn (Romi Dames). Dames’s character suffered from a nasal condition, making her voice simultaneously irritating and hysterical. Remember when she couldn’t properly pronounce “mauve?” Tragic. Here are some of Dames’s fondest memories from the show.
Traci’s iconic, nasal voice wasn’t planned whatsoever.
According to Dames, the script called for “a 16-year-old girl who was a super snobby socialite type,” but mentioned nothing about her voice. Because she’d been doing sketch comedy, she decided to test out the now-signature voice. “This is fun,” she recalled telling herself before the audition. “I’m doing it for me.”
Luckily, the show’s producers loved it, and her small part quickly grew into a bigger role. “They loved writing for the voice,” she explained. According to IMDb, Dames went on to film 13 episodes. Can you even imagine Traci without the voice?
Dames’s voice does not actually sound like that IRL.
Even 10 years after Hannah Montana premiered, fans still assume her character’s voice is her real voice — until they hear her speak. “[They] always ask it real politely because they don’t want to offend me in case it is, which is real sweet,” she said over the phone (in a totally not-nasal voice).
At only 13 years old, Miley Cyrus was unlike anyone in Hollywood.
Dames had so much fun with the “motor mouth” Disney Channel starlet. She recalled that “everything that popped into her brain popped right out of her mouth, and it was so much fun, because you don’t encounter that a lot in Hollywood.” Dames loved being on set with the “ball of energy and fun” that was Miley. “It was just instant adoration,” she said.
Billy Ray Cyrus had actual heart-to-heart chats on the Stewart family’s porch.
The “Achy Breaky Heart” singer and actor was so kind to Dames, and to everyone who came across his path. While filming one episode, Dames remembered she hadn’t been on the show in a while, so Cyrus stopped her and said, “Romi, I haven’t talked to you in a long time. Let’s go out on the porch and sit for a little bit.” (And by “porch,” he meant the porch on the Hannah Montana set, which is the most Robby Ray thing I’ve ever heard.) “So we’re sitting,” Dames recalled, “there’s a bench or swing … and he’s just asking me about my life, how things are going.” Art imitates life.
Dames was closest to Jason Earles because they were close in age.
Dames, who was 26 when she started working on the show, is two years younger than Jason Earles, who played Cyrus’s TV brother. Since Miley was so young, Dames and Earles naturally gravitated toward each other. “I adore Jason,” she said. “He is such a talented comedian and he has physical comedy down in a way that I haven’t seen in a long time.” The duo actually worked again after Hannah Montana on a web series called Summer with Cimorelli, filming an episode which poked fun at the Disney Channel show.
There was a baby raccoon on set.
The animal trainer for Traci’s pet cat, Madonna, had “adopted a baby raccoon and was trying to get it acclimated to human contact,” Dames said. The cast and crew would randomly see it sauntering down the hallway on set.
Speaking of animals, Madonna the cat was actually played by two brother kitties.
Their names were Potato and Mr. Higgins, which are two of the dopest cat names ever. Unfortunately, Potato decided he was done having to wear a tiara and be an actor, so he bit Dames and was promptly replaced with Mr. Higgins. “Potato was over me,” she joked.
Cyrus and Emily Osment literally followed Dames around on set while doing the Traci voice.
On one episode, Cyrus had to imitate Traci’s distinctive voice. In order to practice, Miley followed Dames around speaking in Traci’s voice, while Osment followed her, also doing the voice. “I had these cute little ducklings walking behind me, just doing Traci voices,” Dames admitted, “and we were all just walking in a row going to, like, craft services, or walking around the set.”
Dames believes Traci is still living the dream today.
When asked what she thought Traci would be up to now, Dames was quick to answer. The socialite’s “definitely been through at least three divorces,” she joked, and “just turned 29 for the second time.” Dames imagined that Traci tried her hand at designing purses, then looked into the PR life, then hired someone to be her PR person. Now Traci is “probably just enjoying going to red carpets and living the life she always did,” Dames noted. Sounds pretty good, actually.