Photo Credit: Brett Erickson

EXCLUSIVE: Merit Leighton chats about her new Netflix show ‘Alexa & Katie’

As if there aren’t enough TV shows to catch up on… Might we suggest a new show to add to your binge-watch list? Today, Netflix premiered a brand new sitcom, Alexa & Katie, which follows the two main characters – Alexa Mendoza (Paris Berelc) and Katie Cooper (Isabel May) – as they face the challenges of their freshman year of high school while one of them is going through cancer treatment during this pivotal moment in their life.

We spoke to one of the stars of the show, Merit Leighton, who is one of Alexa & Katie’s best friends. Get ready to see her face on your small screen but you’ve probably already heard her voice without realizing it. She voices our favorite Lucinda on Sofia the First! Check out our interview with Merit where we learned more about her character, got some great K-pop recommendations and single-handedly convinced us to purchase a Nintendo Switch!

Just to get to know you a bit better, how did the idea of acting/voice acting come about for you? When did you know this is a career you wanted to pursue?
When I was a kid I thought that that the TV was a magical box that has a little universe inside of it. Once I found out you could be inside of it, I immediately wanted to be inside of it. My mom was a photographer so she posted photos of me modeling online and a manager saw them and scouted me from them. I remember after my first audition, I came out crying tears of joy because it was the best thing I have ever done. That’s when I realized that it was the thing I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

As far as voiceovers go, I love to do voice overs and I’ve done them for as long as I can remember. Voice overs kind of just come along with on-screen stuff. As soon as I got into the booth, i realized that I fell in love with it too.

You’re known for voice as Lucinda on Sofia the First which you’ve been doing for quite some time! What do you love most about this character that you’ve pretty much become over the course of 5 years?
I first voiced Lucinda when I was 9 ½. What I love about her is that we look really similar and she has magical powers. In the beginning, she was hexing people for bad reasons but then, Sofia told her that she needed to try and make friends with them, be a nice person, and helped change her from a little mischievous little witch to a good little witch. It helps teach kids that there’s a good person in everyone. Oh! And, she has a few new episodes coming up later this year which is very exciting.  

Pretty soon we’ll be able to see you portray your role as Hannah on Netflix’s Alexa & Katie! Tell us a little bit about what the show is about and your role?
Alexa & Katie is a sitcom about two girls with a super relatable friendship. They go through the challenges of starting high school together and help each other through it. Even though Alexa has cancer, it doesn’t change who she is at all. She’s just as excited as Katie is about starting high school. The creator, Heather Wordham, also wrote for Hannah Montana which is really awesome. It has an extra layer that you don’t see often in a sitcom. The entire cast and crew is amazing to work with as well.

My character, Hannah, is one of Alexa & Katie’s best friends. She’s just really awkwardly adorable and she’s a really super loyal friend. Even though she doesn’t quite get things right, she tries really hard. I’d totally be friends with her in real life too.

Did you have to do anything specific to get into the mindset of your new character? How much of your own true self do you bring into Hannah to make it your own?
We’re very similar. I’m kind of awkward and I try to be a good friend like Hannah is to my real life best friend. Hannah has her own style and her own view of the world. That makes her a really fun character to play. I always try to lean into my goofier mindset playing Hannah because Hannah is more goofy than me.

There are so many good shows on Netflix. Why should our readers be ready to tune into Alexa & Katie?
It’s a show you can sit down and watch with your whole family. My family loves to binge-watch Netflix shows together. As I’m sure, a lot of other families do too. I think Alexa & Katie will fit in really well with that and gives you some feels too. I think you all will love it.

What is your favorite show to binge-watch?
I love binge-watching Stranger Things – the first and second season. I also binge-watched Atypical which is a really good show about autism. It really accurately portrays high functioning kids and I really love that. It’s really good and I watched it in a span of 3 days.

You’re totally not unfamiliar with being in front of the screen due to your YouTube channel, KawaiiHappii. Did creating this channel sort of help you become more and more comfortable in front of the screen when it came to acting?
Since I’ve been in front of a camera, I think that being a YouTuber was just kind of a natural thing. When I was around 4 or 5, I’d videotape myself doing stuff. A lot. So maybe those were some of my actual first vlogs or something [laughs].

How did your YouTube channel start in the first place?
I loved watching YouTubers and I kind of hopped from interest to interest. I never really had a set thing so I’d be like, “I wanna make a comedy YouTube channel” and I didn’t know what to do. Finally, I found K-pop and Anime and Kawaii culture. The camera was a great person to talk to. Eventually, KawaiiHappii was born.

If you were like me, who is super brand new to the world of K-pop and anime, where does one start?
I think the best way to start K-Pop is to find a group you really like. I recommend my favorite groups, who are the boy group EXO and the girl group Red Velvet. Once you find one you’re super interested in, it all takes off from there. On the anime side of stuff, first, you gotta pick a genre you like such as horror or comedy and pick a show from that genre because animehas a wide variety of stuff. I recommend My Hero Academia which is a fast paced action-anime and Himouto! Umaru-chan which is a good comedy to start off with.

If you could bring a special guest onto your show, who would it be?
That’s a really easy question. I really want to bring Baekhyun. He’s a member from the K-pop group EXO. That’s my ultimate dream and of course, I want to have my ultimate biased.

Lastly, since I did read you are a Nintendo ambassador. What is your must-try video game everyone should play at least once?
It’d be a tie between The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Splatoon 2. Because the Nintendo Switch is just a great console and basically every Nintendo game on the switch is worth to play so you can’t really go wrong with it. I just love it so much. Breath of the Wild has beautiful graphics and great game mechanics.

Do you have a favorite console for Nintendo?
It’d probably have to be the switch because you can take it anywhere you want. It’s kind of like a handheld and a TV console mixed together. I love that you can take it anywhere you want and you can play with your friends. The controls for it feel SO good in your hands. They sit so well. They’re so light and it feels like you almost don’t have to hold anything. I like that too.

Alexa & Katie premieres TODAY on Netflix. Will you be watching? Tweet us with your thoughts @Celebmix!

Written by Ashley Bulayo

I reference anything and everything to Lizzie McGuire. Follow me on Twitter + Instagram: @ashleeeybash. I respond 99.9% of the time.