Jamie Lynn Spears auditioned to play Bella Swan. In an interview with Nylon, the 29-year-old actress recalls her reluctance about going out for the leading role in Twilight — and the big news she found out just after reading for the part, which ultimately went to Kristen Stewart.
“They had to force me. Force me. I remember just thinking like, ‘Y’all are insane. I’m not playing a vampire. That is so stupid. Why would I do that?'” she remembers. “But I went and read for that role. I remember sitting in this little room, and I think Lily Collins was there, and I felt so sick. Little did I know, I was pregnant.”
At the time, Spears, who was just 16 years old, was pregnant with her first child, Maddie, who’s now 12. Shortly after the Twilight audition, Spears decided to bunker down in Mississippi in an effort to deter the paparazzi from following every moment of her pregnancy. It didn’t work.
“The paparazzi still found me. It’s not like I was in L.A. walking down the middle of the most popular boulevard; I was in the middle of nowhere Mississippi,” she says. “.. I tried to do the best that I could. And yet, sure enough, everywhere I went in Mississippi for that whole nine months, there was always paparazzi on me everywhere I went. But I just knew that if I just stayed away from it long enough that I could give my child some sense of normalcy back in her life.”
Despite the public scrutiny that followed the news she was expecting, Spears never let the opinions of strangers get to her.
“You have your first love, or what you call love in high school. You think it’s forever, and then, oh my gosh, I’m pregnant,” she says. “I am mortified to have to tell my parents this and my family this. I do not care what TMZ thinks about it. That was all I was thinking about: ‘These are the people I love that I have to tell, and also, I’m pregnant. There’s a human being growing inside of me, and I’m so young, I’m almost a baby myself.'”
In addition to general judgment about being a pregnant teenager, Spears faced criticism for causing her beloved Nickelodeon series, Zoey 101, to come to an end. In actuality, though, the teen series, which ran from 2005 to 2008, had shot its final episode months before Spears became pregnant.
“In today’s world, immediately I’d have my social media to post something, and it’d be cleared up. But even today, people still have their thoughts about it,” she says. “I didn’t become pregnant until probably six months after we wrapped or something like that, but some of the episodes had not aired yet.”
“I think that there was a conversation with Nickelodeon, rightfully so, of, ‘Do we air these episodes?'” she continues. “But the show had already wrapped and there was never a negotiation to go into any more seasons. We were too old. It was done.”
No matter why Zoey 101 came to an end, fans simply wanted more, a wish they’ve recently been granted with news that a reboot is in the works. For Spears, the chance to revisit her character is “a really big deal.”
“Obviously we want to meet her as an adult now, and I do think it should be a show for young adults. We want to do it justice for the fans that were 10 and 12 when it first aired, while also bringing in the new generation of fans,” Spears explains. “Finding that balance will be really important because we want to connect with where people are today. The conversations that we’re having right now are creative. ‘What is that story? What is the best way to meet Zoey today?’ We don’t want to just do it to do it. We want it to be good.”
Until the reboot comes to fruition, Spears is giving fans a little treat — a reimagining of the Zoey 101 theme song, which will be available for download on Oct. 22.
“[The fans] been so loyal, and I think in today’s world, especially where we’re living, I just wanted to put something out there that’s happy,” she says. “This is reminiscent of that time, but also the modern Zoey. Who would Zoey be today? What would she sound like? This hits it right on the head, especially for where I’m going with everything. And not just for Zoey, but for me, too.”
Whenever COVID-19 allows Spears et. al to begin work on the reboot, the actress is hopeful that it’ll be a less angst-filled experience than the first time around.
“I was more concerned about going to homecoming. Sometimes, my favorite part of the day would be when I’d get to go home and eat these Lean Cuisine pasta dishes,” Spears recalls of her time making the series, before admitting that she was insecure while starring on the show.
“It was all those insecurities that were very much just like every other girl has, but I just happened to be on TV. I got very insecure about a lot of things, especially in young Hollywood, and that was the time where it was very heavy with the paparazzi,” she says, alluding to her sister, Britney Spears’, height of fame. “I just remember being really, really self-conscious about a lot of things during that time.”
Spears isn’t self-conscious anymore, though, having readily accepted all the aspects of fame in order to live her life to the fullest.
“[My sister] went from this small town to become this huge megastar that will always be remembered, and seeing the way she handled it so honestly, to me, that was so brave,” Spears says. “She was open with me about it. She taught me to protect myself. And I think that I learned how to be strong, but also keep it honest, and it was 100 percent helpful in every single way.”
“This is what I love to do. This is how I work. I can’t not do that. It’s not good for me and it’s not good for my children to see me deny myself of something I love to do,” she continues, referencing Maddie and her 2-year-old daughter, Ivey. “I don’t want to feel like I have to hold myself back in any way because I can be a mother, I can be a wife, I can be a daughter, I can be a sister, and I can be an artist.”
Now that her personal life with her kids and husband Jamie Watson is “strong,” Spears says “it’s time for me.”
“My ultimate thing is just continuing doing stuff that I love and that serves me and my family, and hopefully brings some happiness into the world,” she says. “And for heaven’s sake, gives those Zoey fans what they want. Amen.”
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