Disney XD star Paris Berelc discusses playing a character with cancer

You may recognize Paris Berelc from Disney XD shows Mighty Med and Lab Rat: Elite Force. Or you remember her starring in the Disney Channel Original Movie, Invisible Sister, alongside Rowan Blanchard. Now, Paris is playing a part unlike any role she’s played before, and unlike any role you’re seen on a show before. In the new Netflix series, Alexa & Katie, Paris plays Alexa, a girl just entering high school who is undergoing treatment for cancer.

YEM sat down with Paris Berelc to discuss the new show and tackling the subject of cancer for a young audience.

Young Entertainment Mag: Fans know you from Mighty Med, Lab Rat: Elite Force and Invisible Sister. What was it like to be a part of the Disney family?
Paris Berelc: Disney was the first company I’ve ever worked with and they taught me a lot. I learned a lot from them and from being on set. I have a lot of amazing memories. I met a lot of great people, I still talk to a lot of people that I worked with. I still talk to my old co-stars, I still talk to my hair and make-up girls, I still talk to my stunt coordinator. I grew up with them. It was like my own little version of high school.

YEM: Your character, Alexa, has cancer. How did you prepare for such a big role?
PB: We wanted to make sure we were as respectful as possible, and I did some research. The show creator, Heather [Wordham], she sent me some links online and we also went to children’s hospitals where we met a girl named Katie. She’s a seventeen year old girl, and she just old us her story. And it was kind of the same thing as my character, Alexa. She was going through treatment, but she was going to school, she had a boyfriend, she went to prom, and she was showing us pictures. I’m also close to people that have had cancer. My great-grandmother had cancer, my gymnastics coach has had cancer, so I was just learning different ways that cancer affected everybody. Some people I knew and some I read online.

YEM: This show is a comedy, but tackles cancer in a very real way. Is it hard to balance comedy with more dramatic moments?
PB: No, it’s not hard because in life in general, you have your funny moments and you have your funny moments and you have your dramatic moments. I like doing both. And I think the writers did such a great job mixing the two together and showing how cancer can be normal and doing it in a way where kids can watch the show and say, “Wow, this show is about cancer, but it’s not scary. I’m not crying.” It’s a good way for kids to watch it and realize what’s going on.

YEM: How did you and Isabel [May, who plays Katie] develop the right chemistry for playing best friends?
PB: It was so natural. We didn’t have to try, which was so nice. There’s people that you meet in life and something just kind of clicks, and that was how it was for me and her. We didn’t have to try so hard, and she’s great. She’s very mature for her age. She’s just really great. She’s a very sweet girl.

YEM: What’s it like to have Tiffani Thiessen play your mom? Were you familiar with her work?
PB: I actually watched a couple episodes of Saved by the Bell but I was really young. Actually, my old co-star from my Disney show had a Kelly Kapowski shirt, so I knew her as her character Kelly Kapowski. So when I heard she was going to play my mom, I thought that was pretty cool. And she’s just a cool person in general. She texted me last night after we had our screening of the show and said she was really proud of me. She really is a cool person and a very cool mom.

YEM: The show is on Netflix. Other than Alexa & Katie, what’s your favorite show on Netflix?
PB: I love DareDevil. I’m waiting for Season 3! I love Stranger Things obviously. Black Mirror is great, it’s a very intense show.

YEM: What’s the main message that you want viewers to take away from the show?
PB: I hope that they take away the optimism. Alexa is going through cancer, but she still has such an optimistic look at the world. And I hope that viewers can take that into their real life. I hope they can see that nothing can be that bad. And I hope that they take away the friendship and the support that you can from your family. And just the feeling that you’re never alone, that someone is always there for you.

Alexa & Katie is available for streaming today, only on Netflix!