Disney Channel’s hit sitcom about Jessie Prescott, a young Texas woman who gets a job as a New York City nanny to four vastly different children, is one of the few television shows to reach the 100-episode milestone -- and ETonline was recently on the Hollywood set as they took a moment to reflect on their crowning achievement.
At 21 years old, starlet Debby Ryan has already had an enviable career -- from directing to playing the first Disney Channel character to walk down the aisle. Still, Ryan -- who previously starred in the network's The Suite Life on Deck -- was equally in awe of their accomplishment.
“Reaching a hundred episodes is insane,” Ryan tells ETonline on a mid-February evening in between takes on Stage 3/8 at Hollywood Center Studios.
A TV veteran, Ryan -- who also sings the show’s catchy theme -- saw her role on set as a proud “mama,” she’d tell her cast members, many of them newcomers when they landed the show just years ago, at the celebratory toast earlier that night. And it’s true.
“The kids have grown and experienced so much. I think that there’s such a visual progression that it makes logical sense that of course we’ve done a hundred episodes! Has it only been a hundred episodes?” Ryan says.
“It’s a hundred weeks of your life, a hundred stories you’ve told, a hundred character journeys, different guest stars and pranks and stunts and a hundred different sets of challenges and opportunities. When you think about it in those terms, it is a feat,” she adds.
Ryan worked closely with creator Pamela Eells O’Connell, with whom she worked closely on Suite Life, to find the perfect fits for the roles of the children – many times tailoring the characters to the actors. And it’s clear from how highly Ryan speaks of her co-stars, including Peyton List, Cameron Boyce, Karan Brar and Skai Jackson, just how much they’ve evolved.
“To watch these kids grow so much and handle this so gracefully has been beautiful,” she gushes. “There have been bumps and bruises along the way. This has been their middle school, high school experience.”
Brar recalled revisiting old tapes of their initial auditions for Jessie and admitting that “that was a throwback.” “We were like, ‘That’s us?!’” Boyce says.
Like Brar and Boyce, List went through her formative years while on the show, telling ETonline that the three of them bonded when they “were all learning to drive” at the same time.
With production on Jessie wrapped for good -- the show will end after four seasons and 101 episodes, this won’t be goodbye for some of the castmembers. Disney Channel recently announced that a Jessie spinoff from O’Connell and starring List, Brar and Jackson would be starting up in the spring.
“If four years ago, when I was casting, you’d have told me I’d be sitting here telling you about how they’ve grown into adorable young adults and they’re on this journey, it would be so hard to predict what that looks like,” Ryan admits. “But it makes so much sense that these people [who started] as young, inexperienced actors have turned into the lovely brilliant comedians they are now.”
Jessie airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on Disney Channel.
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