Brec Bassinger’s life is about to undergo a monumental change.
“That’s what people keep telling me,” she says. “But you know what? I don’t think I’ll believe it until it happens.”
Well, buckle up, because it’s time.
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Bassinger is a 15-year-old actress from Saginaw and the star of Nickelodeon’s Bella and the Bulldogs, a comedy about a small-town Texas cheerleader who swaps pompoms for shoulder pads and becomes the star quarterback.
The one-hour series premiere is at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Nickelodeon is a kid-centric cable network with a long history of star-making TV shows. Bassinger’s engaging performance as Bella Dawson is almost certain to make her the next viewer favorite.
“This girl is going places,” Gabriel Garza, the show’s co-creator and co-executive producer, declares. “She connects with the audience in a very real way.”
Co-creator/co-exec producer Jonathan Butler adds, “Brec is a genuine, positive and lovely person. Those qualities would make anyone successful in any career. We’re just lucky she chose acting.”
So far, Bassinger has chosen not to let such talk go to her head. “I’m just a normal girl from Saginaw, Texas,” she maintains. But this rising star is already seeing signs that people are going to treat her differently because she’s on TV.
“It can get a little weird sometimes,” she says. “I started the school year at Saginaw High School. For the most part, everyone I know is like, nothing has really changed with me.
“But then, out of the blue, someone might come up and say, ‘Can I have a picture with you?’ And I’m like, ‘Really? I was in second grade with you!’”
Bassinger is almost a perfect match for Bella. “We’re both from Texas, we both love football and I was actually even a cheerleader at my school,” she says.
Each also has a passion for fashion and a soft spot in her heart for Tony Romo (although only Bella has a shrine in her bedroom devoted to the Cowboys’ QB).
One might suspect the role was written specifically for Bassinger to play, but the producers say that’s not the way it happened.
“That was a happy accident,” Butler says. “When we developed it, we knew this was a show that had to take place in a town that loves football, so the choice of Texas was clear.”
Only later, when they started holding auditions, did Bassinger, with her Texas connections and effervescent can-do spirit, emerge as the obvious choice.
“Her talent is obvious to anyone who sees how she lights up the screen,” Butler says.
Before this, Bassinger played a recurring role in Nickelodeon’s The Haunted Hathaways (as Emma, a ditsy gymnastics buddy to series regular Amber Montana). She also was featured in the 2013 pilot episode of The Goldbergs (playing Adam’s unattainable dream girl).
Bassinger is the first to admit she doesn’t have Bella’s cannon arm and can’t throw a tight spiral 50 yards, so the parallels between actress and character aren’t perfectly aligned.
But she was always involved in athletics, playing volleyball and basketball in school, and she went to a football camp to work on her form — so she hopes she’ll be believable when Bella steps onto the field.
If Bassinger, who’s currently in the 11th grade, hadn’t embarked on an acting career, she figures she probably would be a cheerleader at Saginaw High today.
She’d probably also be on the student council. As a straight-A student, she was vice president of her school’s National Junior Honor Society. “I’m really into academics,” she says.
Bassinger says she loves being on Nickelodeon.
“When I was really young, I only watched Disney Channel shows,” she admits. “But as I got older, I got into Nick shows like Zoey 101 and Drake & Josh. Shows like those made Nick my favorite.”
Bassinger believes viewers will think Bella and the Bulldogs is special in the same way.
“I’m so psyched about it,” she says. “Bella and the Bulldogs has a lot more than just humor. It has a really good message behind it: You can do anything you set your mind to. Even if people tell you you can’t do something, you can.”
At first, Bella’s male teammates will resist the idea of a girl playing football alongside them. They will hatch diabolical plans to sabotage her efforts to make the team. But as the season progresses, she proves herself and they begin to accept her.
“I’m into the whole girl power thing,” Bassinger says. “You see it more and more now, stories on the news about girls succeeding in male sports.
“I think that makes it a very inspirational show.”
Bella and the Bulldogs
▪ 7 p.m. Saturday