Selena Gomez is eager to grow -- and to grow up -- as an actress.
But that doesn't have to mean cutting all ties from the kid-friendly TV series that made her who she is.
As proof, Gomez is doing both.
First, the 20-year-old North Texas native reprises her Disney Channel Wizards of Waverly Place role as Alex Russo one more time. The Wizards Return: Alex vs. Alex, a one-hour special that reunites the cast of the hit 2007-2012 comedy, premieres at 7 p.m. Friday.
Then, the next Friday, Gomez can be seen on the big screen in the R-rated Spring Breakers, in which four bikini-clad college coeds finance a week of spring break bacchanalia with a crime spree.
Her off-again, on-again, off-again romance with Justin Bieber makes national headlines, and she's on the cover of Harper's Bazaar this month.
Meanwhile, she's about to release a new album, her fourth, and will follow up with a music tour. That's the very definition of variety.
We talked with Gomez last week about these new highlights in her career.
There are many former stars of Disney and Nickelodeon shows who seem to be in a rush to distance themselves from the shows that made them famous. You don't feel that way, do you?
You're absolutely right. This show and this channel, they're the people who gave me everything. They're the ones who believed in me from the beginning, and they're my family. So it was fun to come back and do this for the fans.
The plot involves your character trying to prove she's more than just a carefree young wizard. She conjures a spell that inadvertently splits her in two -- a Good Alex and Evil Alex -- and they ultimately do battle atop the Tower of Pisa. What appealed to you about this?
We have done a lot of specials and we've fought vampires, we've fought werewolves, we've fought angels. We've fought all these different kinds of creatures. But we've never really had something like this happen to the family. So I thought it was completely interesting. It was going to be a lot more work for me, of course, with the double roles, but it was completely worth it and it was completely fun.
Which is more fun to become: Good Alex or Evil Alex?
Evil Alex is more fun. I'm so used to be playing the version of Alex that is kind of a little of both. So I've grown accustomed to not making her so mean. Then they wanted her to be really mean. I mean, REALLY mean. Sometimes that threw me. But it was fun to see how far I could go with it.
Is there a lot of Alex in you and a lot of you in Alex?
I kind of grew up with Alex. When we started, Peter Murrieta, one of the executive producers, would listen to the stories that I told about my personal life, being preteen and dealing with aspects of growing up, and he applied it to my character and tapped into the things I was going through.
It's interesting timing that the Wizards special precedes Spring Breakers by just one week. It almost signals that you're entering a new chapter in your career, don't you think?
Spring Breakers wasn't necessarily about me going to the other extreme. I was looking to do something that would challenge me. When I read the script, it was actually originally this little indie movie. And to have the opportunity to work with someone like [director] Harmony Korine and [co-star] James Franco was a dream to me. It was one of the best things I've ever been a part of. I think it really helped me grow and learn a lot as an actor.
What's the next big thing for you?
I did three movies this past year and now I'm doing music. I'm actually about to release my fourth record and do a tour. That's what's really going to be up next for me.
Any plans to do more Wizards specials in the years to come?
I think this will be it. I mean, I know I said that the last time. But I don't think our characters have anywhere else to go after this. So I think this might be it. Never say never, of course. But I definitely feel like I've played this out. And it's refreshing and liberating to play other characters. I'm enjoying that.