Traditional gender roles? Not in Nickelodeon’s hit show, Bella and the Bulldogs! The show focuses on Bella, a head cheerleader who pursues her passion of playing football and becomes the star quarterback for her school’s team. Pepper and Sophie are also cheerleaders and Bella’s best friends. In the show, the girls must try to remain close and maintain their friendship while proving that girls can be just as tough and play sports just as well as guys. Who knew there was more to Nickelodeon than dealing with everyday school life?
Haley Tju (pronounced like “chew”) plays Pepper, the energetic friend with an obsession with the right hair poof height. During our interview, the Chinese and Indonesian American actress proves that she is much more than the fashionista cheerleader she plays on Bella and the Bulldogs.
Audrey Magazine: How old are you?
Haley Tju: I’m 14, born on February 15.
AM: Are you homeschooled?
HT: Yes, I am homeschooled. I’ve been homeschooled for about two years now and it’s been great. I do school on set when I’m working and I have three teachers that help me. But when I’m not working, I just do it at home and get my mom’s help.
AM: Do you miss regular school?
HT: Yeah, I do! I have friends there. You always get to hang out with friends on and off work. At work, you get to hang out with your cast mates and they’re pretty amazing.
AM: How did you get into acting?
HT: My older sister, Brianne, started acting, so my mom decided to put me into acting as well. And I started auditioning for commercials and doing co-stars and guest stars and going from there.
AM: What was the first role you landed?
HT: I think it was a Pizza Hut commercial. That was really fun because they let me eat pizza at the audition. But for a show, I think I was a girl scout in an older show on Fox. That was a cool experience.
AM: What do your friends say when they see you on TV? Is it weird for them?
HT: No, because I’ve been really close to them. I’ve been friends with them since pre-school so they see me skip school and go to auditions and see me on TV. They’ve been really supportive and nice. I guess they’re just really happy for me. Sometimes it’s hard, because they schedule a hang out and I can’t because things just pop up at random times.
AM: Tell me about your character, Pepper, on Bella and the Bulldogs?
HT: My character Pepper is Bella and Sophie’s overly caffeinated bestie. She’s loyal, a fashionista, boy crazy and she’s prone to panic attacks. The girls are always there to calm her down.
AM: Are you anything like her in real life?
HT: I can be indecisive like her at times and we both love fashion, but I think her fashion is more wild than I am. She definitely expresses who she is through her clothes.
AM: Pepper is a cheerleader. Do you also play any sports?
HT: I used to be a dancer and gymnast. I still do dance occasionally. I do kickboxing and running and I love playing football just for fun. I can never actually play in a game because I can never be tackled! But I still love just throwing it around and having fun with it.
AM: Who is your favorite actor or actress that you admire?
HT: Oh, that’s going to be hard. I love Jennifer Lawrence and Shailene Woodley because they just seem so real and genuine on and off screen.
AM: Have you met them in person?
HT: No, I would love to though!
AM: What would your dream role be?
HT: I guess I’m kind of living my dream role. I always wanted to have my own show on Nickelodeon, but I would love to go into the movie industry and do more dramatic and comedic roles. I’ve always wanted to be like, the mini Maggie Q, like Nikita.
AM: Do you see yourself acting in the long run? Or do you see yourself doing other things?
HT: Acting is definitely a part of me now. I feel that it’s all I want to do. But besides acting, I do like singing and drawing and art. So maybe if I take a little break, I can go further with those. But right now, it’s all about acting because I love it.
AM: Other than Nickelodeon, do you have other projects you’re working on?
HT: Not at the moment and nothing I can talk about, but once I know more, I’ll be sure to share on my social media.
Keep an eye out for Haley Tju during the next season of Bella and the Bulldogs!
All photos courtesy of Jim Fiscus/Nickelodeon 2014 Viacom, International, Inc.