Tyra Banks is all dolled up for Life-Size 2
Eighteen years after Tyra Banks shined bright (and far) in the hit TV movie Life-Size, the returning producer-actress —and new addition Francia Raisa — tell EW how the long-awaited sequel (premiering in December on Freeform) reflects a period of growth and maturity for the series without skimping on razzle-dazzle raincoat eleganza. Click ahead for 13 exclusive first look images from the film, and pick up the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly (on stands Friday) to read more about Life-Size 2.
Ok, dress me... in age-appropriate cinematic themes!
Though millennials came of age under Eve's watchful eye, "some of them are moms now," Banks tells EW. So, the sequel had to "grow up with them" adds Raisa. That meant centering the story around a 25-year-old CEO navigating a quarter-life crisis after inheriting the toy company that produced Eve (who serves as Grace’s guardian angel of sisterhood).
"Sometimes we’re forced to grow…. we’re put into situations that weren’t part of the plan. And you’re going to have resentment towards that. I think that’s what happened to Grace: she was forced to grow up and be a part of a world that she didn’t ask for and wasn’t ready for," Raisa observes of her character's journey. "I think she endured a lot of resentment, pain, and fear through that process.... Grace was afraid to try and fail, and Eve comes to her rescue and is like, no, you can do this.... There’s a pivotal moment in every person’s life where you just sit down and go: it’s not that bad, I can do this, and I need to stop making myself believe that I can’t. You try to put your best foot forward, and that’s the evolution you see within Grace."
Eve of reconstruction
Eve's not entirely the same doll fans grew up with, either. Banks won't reveal how she exits Sunnyale in pursuit of the human realm for round two, but she's a changed (plastic) woman nonetheless. "There’s a little bit of a bait-and-switch where you think Eve is one thing and she turns out to be something else, so fans of the original will go, ‘Oh my gosh!’" Banks teases. "Things are new and she’s still excited about seeing things for the first time.... My other executive producer on this, Stephanie Allain, made a grid for me for the beginning of the movie to the end of the movie of how human Eve is in each scene. So, as the movie progresses, Eve becomes less doll-like and more human, so you’ll see a bit more of that evolution than you did in the first movie."
Eve still loves high fashion, and an "iconic" outfit is returning
Feminism has seen 18 years of progression since Life-Size's girl-power themes first debuted, but Raisa says Eve's sensibilities are still "stuck in 2000" for comedic, fish-out-of-water effect. Banks notes that means an "iconic outfit" from the first film — as well as a familiar character or two — will reenter the fold for the sequel.
"I play her differently now," Banks adds. "There are a little bit more layers, and much more comedy. There’s something I find a bit more endearing with this Eve than the first one…. I think a part of it is approaching it from a producer’s perspective…. I feel like I’m stronger because it’s [more fulfilling] to make something better than to do it from scratch."
Raisa embraced her Selena Gomez kidney surgery scars on set
Eve's empowering outlook didn't just work its magic on Grace; her sensibilities had an equally inspiring impact on the women behind the characters, too.
"I have a scene where my stomach shows. I was like, ‘Tyra, do you want me to cover up my scars?’ and she goes, ‘No, girl! Show them! It’s a part of your life, it’s your story," Raisa — who donated a kidney to her real-life friend Selena Gomez — says of embracing her scars on camera. "That’s the theme throughout the movie: be you, show you, love people, don’t be afraid of who you are. It takes it to the next notch from the first one.... The challenge with Grace is allowing Eve to love her. [She’s] opening her heart and becoming comfortable being herself."
"Be a Star" bops back as a rap-assisted "club banger"
Life-Size theme song "Be a Star" — the film's signature, titanic earworm — bops into the sequel soundtrack with a new pep in its step. Banks sings on the "club banger" track alongside rapper Janine the Machine and another surprise guest billed only as "New Fears Eve."
"It’s like a remix. You know the Diana Ross song “I’m Coming Out” and how [The Notorious B.I.G. and] Puff Daddy did it over [in “Mo Money Mo Problems”]? It’s like that, or when Jay-Z did “Hard Knock Life,” the America's Next Top Model creator says. "So there’s that original song and that chorus, and they have some fun with it in the verses."
Holiday-themed hundred-watt smiles
Banks serves up a hearty dose of holiday cheer with the project, as Grace's story unwraps smack in the center of gift-giving season — a prime opportunity for Eve to nestle under the tree for girls around the world.
Grace's circle of support includes familiar faces
Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton has a cameo in Life-Size 2, while actors Hank Chen (Lemon) and Shanica Knowles (Hannah Montana) have supporting roles as Grace's companions.
Banks felt Lindsay Lohan's absence, but Casey Stuart will find a way in somehow...
"I think it’s normal. It’s normal to have comfort, particularly with what you know. The unknown is kind of fearful and kind of scary," Banks says of navigating the outskirts of Sunnyale without Lohan, whose Casey Stuart will still have a presence in Life-Size 2. But Banks won't say how. "When [fans] see this movie they’re going to be like, woah, this is a really good movie!"
“There’s something beautiful we do with Lindsay in this movie that’ll speak to die-hard fans,” she teases of Lohan, whose MTV reality-show filming schedule in Greece prevented her from starring. “I can’t say how, but you will see something!”
Eve's reshaping standards of beauty once again
"There are these unrealistic expectations when it comes to dolls…. and there’s another layer to the first Life-Size when it comes to expanding beauty and accepting different beauty norms, and that’s me being a black doll and a black doll to a white girl, and it was never addressed," Banks remembers. "It just was a doll that was considered beautiful, and I think that was a powerful message that was able to eclipse all of the negative things that dolls can connote in a young girl."
She continues: "Eve is like that big shot of self-esteem and that big shot of don’t dull your shine. A lot of girls are dulling their shine today trying to make other people feel more comfortable or just not realizing their potential... Eve’s here to show [Grace] you can be that boss bitch."
Banks wasn't focused on race when casting the film, and Raisa doesn't want fans to be, either
"Never in the movie do I say, ‘Oh, I’m a Mexican owning a company.’ I’m Latina woman, I own a toy company, and that’s not something that’s a big deal. It’s not a shocker. I’m a woman who owns a company. It’s something that’s so normal. My culture and my background aren’t a statement. I’m just a person who knew how to find her way and run a business. At the end of the day, I’m a woman in a lot of pain, but I went to business school, so I know what I’m doing," Raisa says. "That’s what the beautiful thing is, because there have been films where you see any person of color and they start poor, but then they get rich and they make it to happily ever after. No! This is a person who already owns a business, who’s already working, and who went to college. Her culture had nothing to do with her upbringing…. She’s a woman — an individual — trying to impress her mother. That’s a powerful statement, and that’s what I keep trying to make sure I do in this industry now. I take roles that don’t really point out what my background is, what color I am, but just the person I’m playing. It doesn’t matter what color you are; we all go through growing pains, and that’s what Grace is going through, and everyone can relate to that. It’s not a Mexican going through growing pains, it’s a young woman."