Laura Marano Austin & Ally

If ever a part was made for Laura Marano, it’s the role of Ally in Disney’s Austin & Ally. Ally is a music-loving songwriter — which just about sums up Laura. The 16-year-old, whose sister is Switched At Birth’s Vanessa Marano, has already appeared on screen in many projects, such as Without A Trace, Dexter, Heroes, The Jacket and Superbad, and voiced roles in Finding Nemo and Ice Age: The Meltdown. The soundtrack to Austin & Ally is also available now…

Are you anything like Ally?
Ally and I are a lot alike, but a big difference is that she has stage fright and I don’t. But we both write songs, we both love school, and we’re both goody two shoes. We’re both really awkward sometimes too, so it’s perfect.

Was the role written for you?
No, it wasn’t at all. But I remember my mum and I reading the character breakdown. We both thought it was really weird because it was like they were filming me, because Ally was exactly like me. I still had to audition, but I really, really wanted to get the part.

You may not suffer from stage fright, but has there ever been an incident where you may have faltered for some reason?
I remember in fourth grade [aged around nine] I was performing at my school’s winter holiday’s parade. The year before I’d been a really big hit because I sang Santa Baby with one of the Santas and it was I guess, super adorable. So I knew that this year, I had to be really good. But I’d been using my voice a lot and hadn’t done any vocal warm ups to conserve it. And I just remember singing and my voice completely cracked. I was mortified. It was horrible.

How well do you all get on as a cast?
Oh, my goodness. It literally could not be better. Not only are the cast amazing, but all the crew, the executive producers, and everyone at the TV network are awesome too. We work so hard, but we have so much fun while we’re doing it.

Because you write your own material, and Ross (who plays Austin) also sings and plays many instruments, do you ever have jamming sessions on set?
Yes, and everybody in the cast plays an instrument. Our set is surrounded by instruments too, so we constantly have jam sessions during lunch or whenever we have a break in filming. It’s great fun.

You’ve been compared to a long list of Disney stars who started in TV shows, like Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez and Debby Ryan, to name but a few. Is that a big pressure for you?
Well, I’m really lucky because I have such a great support system with my parents and my older sister. They’re always here for me. So they always tell me that you should never really put pressure on yourself. If things don’t work out, or they don’t go as planned, it shouldn’t matter. It’s always about you and always about whether you’re happy or not. So because of that, I’m coming here with the mindset of just letting things happen, and see what unfolds. If it’s a huge success, then fantastic. But if it’s not, well I’m still having fun.

Your mum was an actress, but she really didn’t want you and your sister to follow her into the business, did she?
That’s right. My dad is a college professor, so he’s totally away from the business, and my mum was an English teacher too. So education has always really been important in my life too. To this day, my mum continues to ask me, ‘Laura do you still want to be an actress? Because you can quit any time you want.’ And I tell her, ‘No, mum I really want to be an actress. I’m really happy with it. I promise.’

Is it difficult to conduct your life in the spotlight?
Oh, my gosh. Well I’m wearing contact lenses today but I actually wear glasses. And when I wear glasses, nobody recognises me. It’s literally like I’m Clark Kent. It’s the craziest thing ever. Also, I go to a regular high school and most of the people there are so cool about it. I guess it’s weird for them to have their friend be on such a big thing as the Disney Channel. But they are really cool and supportive and try their best to make me feel as comfortable as possible, which is great. I love the acting world, which is really fun, and I have such a great time there. But it’s important to have your high school life too.

Are any of your school friends in showbiz?
No, but I’ve just found out that Stephanie Scott, who is in Disney’s A.N.T Farm is going to my school now. So I think I’m going to Disney-fy my high school. I’m pretty excited about that.

Have you ever been star struck?
Oh, I get star struck all the time. Seriously. I certainly did when I met some of the Harry Potter cast. I met Tom Felton [Draco Malfoy] and Rupert Grint [Ron Weasley] at the Teen Choice Awards. I wanted to ask for a photograph, but I was too shy and the words would not come out. But then someone asked for me. It was the most awkward and most awesome five minutes of my life. It was ridiculous. I was so star struck. I am obsessed with Harry Potter.

Have you visited Harry Potter World while you’ve been in the UK?
I want to so badly. We have a Harry Potter World in Florida, but I haven’t been there either and I’m so upset about that. I just want to get my wand because I am a wizard. I know it’s inside me, so I just want the world to see it! It’s definitely going to happen!

Which House would the Sorting Hat sort you into?
Gryffindor, definitely. Or possibly Ravenclaw.

Aside from being a Harry Potter fan, you’re also really interested in football?
Yes, yes. Oh, my gosh. My dad used to play soccer and I got into it and absolutely love it. We watch it all the time. When the World Cup comes on, it’s the best thing ever. Then my friends start getting into it and tell me it’s great that they can watch it, but I tell them that I watch it all the time and it’s not just every four years. I love teams like Manchester United and Juventus. I’m 100 per cent soccer!

Disney Channel weekdays

Elaine Penn