This is Play It Forward. Real people. Real stories. The struggle to Play It Forward. Episode 306 with actor and film director David Henrie from This Is The Year.
David Henrie, who directed and stars in the new coming-of-age film "This Is the Year," spoke to Insider about how "Wizards of Waverly Place" costar Selena Gomez contributed to the movie as an executive producer.
"It's been incredible working with her because what the show did was really bond Selena and I like brother and sister and so over the years," Henrie told us.
Henrie and Gomez portrayed on-screen siblings Justin and Alex Russo on "WoWP," which lasted for four seasons on Disney Channel. Even though it's been years since the hit show concluded, Henrie told Insider that they've "kept in super close touch and continued our friendship."
"We've gotten to see each other mature in our own paths, in our own lanes, in our own ways - which has only strengthened our friendship," the 31-year-old actor said.
BOLD Entertainment's "This Is the Year" marks Henrie's directorial debut. The movie centers on high school senior Josh (played by Lorenzo Henrie, David's real-life younger brother), who embarks on a road trip with his friends to see lovelytheband perform at a music festival, all in the hopes of impressing a popular girl named Zoey (Alyssa Jirrels).
Henrie said that one of their "main goals" was to give Zoey a proper character arc with "depth" and "genuine talent."
"[Selena] really loved that Zoey was one that dealt with a talent that she needed to learn to embrace herself but also find someone who would support that talent," Henrie said.
He added: "We kind of wanted to do both with her character, show that being in a relationship with someone who isn't trying to empower you is not a good thing. And also, learn to not be embarrassed by her own talent."
Making the movie was like a mini 'Wizards of Waverly Place' reunion with 'constant laughter' and 'constant joy'. Coincidentally, lovelytheband guitarist Jordan Greenwald, who shares a mutual friend with Henrie, is the son of "WoWP" creator Todd J. Greenwald. In addition to Henrie and Gomez working on the project, Gregg Sulkin, who stared as Mason Greyback on "WoWP," portrayed Zoey's self-centered boyfriend, hilariously named Kale (short for Kaleb). "WoWP" alum Jeff Garlin, who portrayed Uncle Kelbo, starred as Josh's teacher in the movie.
"We loved 'Wizards' because we got to make people smile, and getting to be a part of a film, which has the same goal, just made all of us so happy," Henrie told us. "It was constant laughter, constant jokes, constant throwback memories, nostalgia."
Henrie added that even filming promotional items for "This Is the Year" with Gomez was surreal.
"She was just going, 'David, do you believe we're here right now? Are we on Disney? Are we back in 2009 or is it 2020? What's going on?'" Henrie recalled. "We were constantly joking about that and literally at some point, we were like, 'Oh I miss this!'"
Henrie was 'proud' to see how assertive Gomez was as an executive producer "I was so proud to see her, as an adult, take charge and have great ideas on what we could do to make this event we're doing a success," Henrie told us, referring to the film's digital premiere.
Henrie said that Gomez's public support of the film has "been incredible" and described their collaborative process as "organic" and "non-pressured."
"It's been truly great to see how much she supports the message of this film and wanting to make people feel good right now," the actor told us. "That was the whole point of this film, was to give people a good feeling and I really do believe that this film appeals to all people and is non-controversial as well."