The Disney Channel looks set to break new ground this fall, when the title character from one of its most popular shows becomes engaged.
Jessie – played by Debby Ryan and the title character of the show – will feature in a four-episode arc which will show the 22 year old character accepting her boyfriend’s proposal of marriage. It is the first time a lead character on the children’s TV channel has become engaged, said Adam Bonnett, Disney Channel executive vice president of original programming.
Debby Ryan stars in the show as Jessie Prescott, a young Texas woman who moves to New York to pursue her dream of becoming an actress and takes a job as nanny to a wealthy couple with four adopted children from America, India and Africa. The show is very popular with children aged 6-11 and also the ‘tween’ 9-14 age group (My own children included). It ranks in the top five series for children and young teenagers.
The budding relationship between Jessie and her new love Brooks is handled chastely, showing the couple sharing movie dates and picnics in Central Park, and Bonnett thinks the show will also be able to handle the engagement in a way which is befitting to the young nature of the channel. “Jessie is an adult, and we felt we could tackle this in a way that still feels appropriate for our audience,” he said. “The way we deal with this romance is pure Disney Fairytale, and one with a surprise ending.”
As for Ryan herself, who will turn 21 in May, the actress admits she is far from ready to settle down with her own partner, Twenty One Pilots musician Josh Dun, saying that her career is her focus for now. She does add that the notion of marriage and commitment are “delicate” topics for the audience who look to her character for ideas about growing up. “Your principal character is deciding whether or not she should start her life with a man,” she says. “It’s not about the dress; it’s not about the wedding. It’s about the marriage. That’s something we lose sight of when we’re so young and all we want to do is dress up and play fairy tale.”
Bonnett adds that although their young audience may not necessarily be able to relate to the romance, there are still elements of the story that will have meaning for them. “Our audience isn’t dealing with somebody proposing to them, but they are dealing with choices they have to make in their life, and thinking things through, following their heart and wanting to make the right choice,” he said.
Debby Ryan has grown up on the channel over the last six years. As well as her role in Jessie, she has also appeared in The Suite Life on Deck and the TV movie Sixteen Wishes.
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