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Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for
May 11, 2010

In the latest Disney Channel original series Good Luck Charlie, the Duncan family welcomes a baby girl named Charlie (Mia Talerico) to their already crowded household. Hoping to give her new little sister tips on adjusting to her world, Teddy (Bridgit Mendler) records an ongoing video diary for Charlie, documenting the exploits of her own life, as well as those of older brother PJ (Jason Dolley), younger brother Gabe (Bradley Steven Perry), and their parents Bob (Eric Allan Kramer) and Amy (Leigh-Allyn Baker).

Good Luck Charlie, unlike most other Disney Channel shows, is grounded in everyday suburbia without a fantasy or sci-fi gimmick--no wizards, no cruise ships, no hotels, no time travelers, no acting troupe, no pop superstar secret identities. For this reason, the series has garnered favorable comparisons to family sitcoms of the '80s and '90s, particularly the TGIF block of programming that included standards like Full House and Family Matters. Despite the throwback aspect of its framework, Charlie has a contemporary feel driven by a charismatic cast, and mercifully avoids the more archaic cliches of its predecessors, such as those signature saccharine moments that led to grating melodrama. Any sentimentality in Charlie is usually deftly trumped by a well-balanced moment of disarming humor.

Jason Dolley, already a familiar face to fans of the Disney Channel, plays PJ, the 17-year-old eldest sibling with aspirations of finding fame with his band PJ and the Vibe. In this exclusive interview, Jason talks about transitioning to Good Luck Charlie from his previous series, Cory in the House, and working with his new TV baby sister Mia Talerico.

A brand new episode of Good Luck Charlie debuts this Sunday at 8:30/7:30 central on The Disney Channel, with encore presentations throughout the following week! Check out video previews with these links: CLIP #1 CLIP #2 Congratulations on the new show!

JASON: Oh, thank you very much.

Disney Channel fans were already acquainted with you from your role as Newt on Cory in the House. How did you feel about switching gears to play PJ on Good Luck Charlie?

It was great because it is a very different show and it is a different character, but at the same, PJ has some similarities to Newt. Often he is the same guy in the scene--you know, he's the guy that "doesn't get it," which is always a fun character to play. But it's also nice to sort of transition into something more...I guess authentic and kind of mature, for lack of a better word.

One common trait PJ and Newt share is that they're both musicians. Has music become a personal hobby of yours?

Definitely. It actually was something that I started doing when I started playing Newt, because he's supposed to be really good and I had no idea what I was doing. So I tried to learn and make it look like I knew what I was doing. And since then, I kind of haven't stopped playing--I've been playing ever since, three or four years now. And now that I'm playing PJ, it's kind of nice because PJ's not supposed to be really good, so I can just play and have no pressure, and whatever happens is okay.

What genre of music is your weapon of choice when playing guitar?

Anything that ends in rock, which includes, you know, classic rock like the Beatles and Aerosmith, or even some modern stuff, slow stuff. It kind of goes all over the board.

You've been part of the Disney Channel family for several years--not only with Cory in the House, but also with original movies like Read It and Weep, Minutemen, and Hatching Pete. Did that relationship help you land the role of PJ?

Yeah, it was very much because of my place in the "Disney family." When Cory in the House ended, they kind of still wanted to put me somewhere. They wanted me to be around still, but didn't have a place for me, and it was just kind of a matter of waiting for the right script and finding the right fit. And that process took a year or so. And once this script came around, it was pretty much perfect--actually, in a lot of ways, it was perfect. And then I did some chemistry reads with Bridgit and then that was it! Here we are!

Good Luck Charlie has been described as a return to the classic family sitcom. Do you think this is a genre that had sort of died out?

I definitely do. I think that since the days of Full House and Family Matters and shows like that, we haven't had a show like that. I know my parents used to sit down with their families and watch the TGIF block. And in my generation, we didn't have shows that were on the same par as shows like Full House. I think that some modesty is required when you equate yourself with Full House, of course, but I think that that's the direction the show's going.

Despite the parallels to those sitcoms from the '80s and '90s, Charlie has a contemporary feel. How do you think the show balances out the classic family comedy formula with a modern vibe?

I think, actually, [the "Butt-Dialing Duncans"] episode is a really good example of that. This is one where Teddy and PJ get new cell phones, and they accidentally call people with them because they don't know how to use them, and they get in trouble because of it. So there's still authentic, real storylines, but involving modern technology.

Do you have brothers or sisters in real life?

I do. I'm the youngest of four brothers, which is kind of interesting to play the opposite of that--PJ's the oldest of four siblings.

So what's the difference in those dynamics? How did you feel about coming on set to assume the role of the big brother?

It was interesting because as a young kid, my two oldest brothers would always sort of babysit me, and as the youngest, there weren't kids to babysit--you know, I wasn't the babysitter ever, until they had kids. My oldest brothers now have three kids total. So now I'm babysitting their kids. So I've kind of gotten both ends of it: I know what it's like to take care of kids, but at the same time, I'm also familiar with what it's like to be the kid taken care of. Which is something that PJ's not really familiar with--you know, he's always at the babysitting end of the deal.

Speaking of babysitting, what has been your experience of working with Mia, who plays Charlie? We always hear that it's difficult to work with babies, but she's so ridiculously adorable...

Yeah. And she's so amazingly television savvy. Like she's the greatest television baby I've ever seen or heard of. She's cooperative, she's cool, you can put her in anybody's arms and she'll just hang out. She's friendly, she knows everybody's names. And there's only one of her, you know, which kind of scared me to begin with. I was like, "Yikes, what happens if she's fussy?" And sometimes she is fussy--you know, she misses her nap and whatever. But in the long run, she's actually very professional about it, and she just kind of deals with it. You know, we take a little walk around the set with her mom for a break if she really needs one. But for the most part, she's pretty smooth. She's very cooperative.

She also seems to react very well to the rest of you in scenes. Is that mostly a matter of video editing, or is she really responsive like that?

It's just that she's naturally like that. There are some scripted moments for her--more now that she can talk--but in the beginning, there was nothing like that. She was just in the scene, she was just involved, and she just said whatever felt right. And I think that's partially because she doesn't really understand that what's going on isn't real. And she's very friendly with the cast. She knows us. So when she sees us talking, she kind of pays attention because she thinks we're really talking. So she doesn't really understand what's happening isn't really happening.

You've already shot the entire first season of 26 episodes. Is there an upcoming PJ storyline that you're excited about?

Let's see...There is one, actually. The one where PJ gets his first gig is pretty cool. He gets a new band member and he plays at this guy's house. And there's some cool dynamics with him and his dad in that episode. That's a cool one to look out for.

If the show were to get picked up for a second season, in what direction would you like to see PJ go as a character?

For next season, I'd kind of like to see his band get developed a little bit more. He hasn't really had a solid gig yet, and I think that'd be something that's a really fun area of his talent to explore. Also, I think PJ kind of tends to bounce around women. He's very much a ladies' man. And I think it'd be kind of interesting if he wound up just absorbed in one girl and couldn't take his eyes off her, and that part of him that was just a ladies' man that bounced around kind of dies away with this one girl. I think that'd be an interesting way to see what happens with PJ there.

He has already professed a love for Taylor Swift. Any chance of a special guest appearance from her?

Not this season! [laughs]

With PJ being 17 years old, could he be off to college in a potential second season?

You know what, that's an interesting idea. I don't know. I'd have no idea where the show's going to go. I think at this point, he's still in high school. I'm not sure what grade he's in--there's been some reference down the line as to what grade he's in, but it's not clear. He could still be in high school for a few more years.

Got it! Well, Jason, thanks very much for your time, and best of luck with the show going forward...

Thank you very much.

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