If you grew up watching the Disney Channel in the 90's, the name Jennifer McGill is going to get your attention. Jennifer was a part of MMC which aired weekday afternoons at 4:30pm. It was 4:30 in my time zone anyway! I wrote recently about NBC's The Voice and Tony Lucca's audition in front of Christina Aguilera. That reunion of some of MMC's alum got fans talking and excited. I thought it would be fun to catch up with some of the cast and it has been. Jennifer was one of three of the cast that was there from start to finish on the show. MMC was on for seven seasons before ending in the mid 90's. What was life for her like on the show? What was it like behind the scenes? What has she been up to since? What is the story about a familiar song from her MMC days making a return as her debut single? Well, Jennifer was great to answer all of those questions and more for this Wrap Up Q&A.
What did you think of (Tony Lucca's) performance and the reunion with him and Christina?
-"Tony did the same great job on The Voice as he's been doing for years touring with his own music. I've seen him in lots of concerts through the years and couldn't be happier to know the world is falling in love him and his talent! I'm always happy to see Mouseketeers reunite and I think it will be an extra-cool season to watch with Tony in the competition!"
*Going back to the MMC days. Why did you decide to audition for the show and what was that whole audition process like?
-"At age 10 I had just teamed up with a children's agent who sent me on my first audition for a movie about the original Mickey Mouse Club, called "Why? Because We Like You!". When that movie was cancelled, I was asked to audition for the TV series, "The New Mickey Mouse Club", which was being handled by the same casting director. So basically, I just fell into my 1st audition, then landed the job! I was definitely in the right place at the right time!"
*What was it like to spend so much of your childhood growing up on TV?
-"It wasn't a different life, from my perspective, because that's all I knew from 5th to 12th grade! I got used to going to school year round, memorizing scripts/choreography/lyrics, and being a really busy teenager! I understand my childhood was different than most kids, but it was my normal!"
*What was a normal day like for you all there? I remember that you all did school and then it was off to work on the show. What was a typical daily schedule like for you guys?
-"In general, we arrived at 9AM for school, had lunch around noon, then spent the rest of the work day rehearsing or taping show material. If we rehearsed, we'd be split into groups in the dance trailer, vocal trailer, or backstage working on a script. If we were taping, some of us would be on stage, learning where to stand and which camera to look at when, some of us would be in the make-up/hair rooms getting ready for camera, and some would be working on outfits with our wardrobe team. There was a little downtime here and there because not everyone could tape everything at the same time...and during those times we were most likely put back in school! There were always many kids & adults to juggle on the schedule!"
*You, Lindsey, and Josh were the only ones that were there from start to finish. Did you guys have a really good bond over that fact along with being friends?
-"We will always be friends. I like the fact I was on the show from the pilot through the last show! But I can't speak for Lindsey and Josh:)"
*The MMC album seemed like a such a natural thing. The music was the thing I enjoyed the most about the show and it seemed right for there to be an album. How did the idea come about for the album and what was the process like in putting it together along with getting out on the road to promote it?
-"I don't remember having a say in when the album was being recorded, what songs I'd be singing, and where/how we would be touring! But once we were assigned the tasks at hand, I just went with the flow and had a fun experience with recording the album! It was my first project with all-original material! We had a little bit of creative input on our vocals and backup vocals, and we were allowed to play a little more with our hairstyles and clothing during the photo shoots and tours. The touring schedule was really crazy: singing at outside venues in the winter, all bundled up, yet sweating as we sang and danced for our screaming fans! During our USO tour, I would finish up class at my public high school on a Thursday, get to the airport to fly to Scotland/Germany/England/Iceland, the MMC soloists would sing for the troops, then I'd take the red-eye flight back to America to make my Monday morning classes...getting my homework done somehow during the trip! It was a whirlwind, but it's truly what I lived for, and I wouldn't trade those memories for anything!"
*From season to season, there were often changes in cast members. Was it a deal where the cast member decided not to return, a show decision, or a mutual thing?
-"Each case was different. Not all contracts were alike. Sometimes the contract was short, someone didn't want to renew, the company didn't want to renew...it was never fully disclosed why or how certain cast members would leave or be brought onto the show season to season."
*With the video jams, how was it decided who got what song and how long did it take to shoot those videos?
-"Usually the Mouseketeers were assigned songs by the company. At the start of some seasons, we were asked to submit our top songs we'd like to have on the show. Sometimes I was allowed to choose between two solos. But usually we just did as we were directed. The videos were usually shot in a day at MGM Studios (now Disney's Hollywood Studios). Even if we went on location around Orlando, we finished taping the video in one day. I shot "Hanging On For Dear Life" on location in New York City. That took at least two days. Editing for each video, from what I heard, took more than a week."
*Favorite performance of yours?
-"Almost every performance I did holds a cherished memory of some kind. Usually someone has to mention a specific one and then I could talk about it for half an hour!"
*There were so many celebrities that would appear on the show over the years. Did you have a favorite that stuck out for you?
-"I was really excited to have Brian McKnight and Boyz II Men on the show! There were many celebrities I met who didn't appear on our show as well...My favorite of those was Celine Dion and Michael Jackson!"
*How much fan mail did you guys get on a weekly basis?
-"I have no idea the amount, in numbers, that any cast member received. As you know, all fan mail went to one address, and was the property of the company. The Mouseketeers only received a few pieces of mail every now and then. From that portion, I did develop some pen pals for a while. I remember being told I was the female cast member with the most fan mail either the 6th or 7th season. That was so cool!"
*The seventh season obviously had the show kind of trying to go to a different style of format. Were you a fan of the new format?
-"It was nice to have a change, but I missed the original set and preferred having more solid sets and backdrops like previous seasons. I believe we had smaller audience seating areas as well, which I figure fans weren't too happy about."
*What was your reaction when the news got broke to you all that the show was ending?
-"The show ended at a very convenient time for me. Though I would have most likely continued on MMC, had my contract been picked up, I was a senior in high school and had been accepted into New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. I was prepared to move forward, had a goal, and therefore I had a healthy transition into the rest of my life after the show. However, I think the most unsettling thing about finding out the show had ended while we were on hiatus is, for me, that we didn't get to gather together and say our "real" goodbyes as a full cast. I remember we were always wondering if we'd see each other again at the most recent wrap party...saying sorta goodbyes, "just in case" style. I remember that was confusing element that was sometimes hard on me year to year, as well as other kids."
*It seems like 1998 and into the 2000's was the boom era where so many of the cast just kept showing up everywhere. Music, acting, stage. What are your thoughts with so many that just have gone on to have such talented careers?
-"I'm not surprised at all. Every Mouseketeer was gifted, and just EXISTING on that show was a workout for all our talents-even the ones we weren't best at! Every one of us got better at our craft with every season, and it makes sense that many of us would make a global mark once we got released back into the world!"
*You have obviously been extremely busy since the show ended and you've been involved with a lot of different things whether it is music or stage. What has been some of the great highlights of what you've been able to do?
-"I've really enjoyed all the live theater opportunities I've had through the years. I got to work with Walt Disney World again in an a capella group called "American VYBE", I've toured the world singing with many talented party bands, written and recorded many original songs, worked on musical projects with multiple Broadway casts, and I've most recently had the pleasure of touring with a Michael Jackson tribute show called "The Ultimate Thriller"."
*What is your passion? Which is it that makes you think that this is what God wants you to do?
-"My passion has always been singing. God used to remind me from time to time that He will have His way with me and my music: For example, when I'd get a cold before I was to sing in church, my congestion would be gone for the 4 minutes I was in front of the congregation singing for the Lord! Then I'd sit back down and start sniffling again! I feel an energy in my singing that goes beyond just what I'm capable of. I believe God not only created my talent for singing, but is involved with it every day of my life!"
*What can we expect from the album and what is the story behind bringing back (Hanging On For Dear Life)?
-"Ever since "Hanging On For Dear Life" was released on the MMC album, I've had many fans come up to me with stories about tragedy and loss in their lives, and how HO4DL helped them through the tough times. As I've grown up and been recognized through the years, HOFDL was the song most mentioned in connection with my work on The New Mickey Mouse Club. People remember that song and how it is forever connected with such monumental times in their lives. For this reason, among others, my mother was also a huge fan of HO4DL and thought it was a great idea to include it on my solo album someday. Since her passing in 2003, I too have a tragedy and loss to which HO4DL is connected...for my mother, for me, and for all my fans, I'm so proud and happy that HO4DL is the first release of my debut solo project! You can expect a lot more soulful pop selections from my album. My manager/producer, Jeff Savage, and I are quite like-minded about the vibe we're going for. It seems right to bring the 90s back a little in my album, as that's the era I most loved, connected with, and performed! I'm so excited to share it with the world!"
*How is it talking with fans that have been fans through the years?
-"I have always really enjoyed spending time with fans, talking about the past. Even though we were on opposite sides of the camera, we share a similar nostalgia for that time in our lives. I think I'm mostly impressed with how vivid people's memories are of the show and the DETAILS they recall! I have friends and fans who remember stuff better than I do! I see it as heart-warming validation that what I gave my childhood to is still remembered, cherished, and worth talking about even today...that what I did still stirs the heart...still matters!"
Thank you so much to Jennifer for taking the time to be a part of this Wrap Up Q&A. As you can see, Jennifer has a lot going on and there is a lot of excitement for her new single "Hanging On For Dear Life" which is available now on iTunes. Jennifer has a bunch of ways that you can keep up with her. Check out her website at: www.JenniferMcgill.com. From there, you can find links to her Facebook music page along with her You Tube channel which is RealJenniferMcGill. You can find her on Twitter at @JennMcGillMusic. She is very active on Twitter and fans are having a great time interacting with her. If you are a long time MMC fan, you will want to check out the "MMC Geek Out" section of her site where you can check out the scrap book, guest book, and take a trip down memory lane. It is a lot of fun to check out. For more MMC stuff here on the site, be sure to check out another recent Wrap Up Q&A with Lindsey Alley to learn what all she has been up to which you can check out here. Have a great day everyone. Take care and God bless!