China Anne McClain on “Hubie Halloween,” “Black Lightning,” and Meeting Michelle Obama | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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L to R: Peyton List and China Anne McClain in Hubie Halloween

China Anne McClain on “Hubie Halloween,” “Black Lightning,” and Meeting Michelle Obama

A Creative Life

Oct 30, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Actor and singer, China Anne McClain, could power a space station with her buoyant energy. In fact, for all we know, she might be doing that right now. She does just about everything else, from sing to act to light up each and every room she enters. McClain, who recently co-starred in the Netflix-released, Adam Sandler-produced Halloween movie, Hubie Halloween, is also one of the three sibling members of he harmonizing trio, Thriii. But to list her complete resume would take a while. McClain has also worked extensively with Tyler Perry, currently co-stars on the CW superhero show, Black Lightening (as the main character’s daughter, Jennifer Pierce, who is also super-powered), sang the Doc McStuffins theme song, worked with Disney, collaborated with Nick Jonas, and much more.

We caught up with the 22-year-old McClain to talk to her about her burgeoning career, what it was like working with Sandler on Hubie Halloween and much more.

Jake Uitti: Hello, China!

China Anne McClain: What’s up, man? How you doing?

I’m very well, relatively speaking. How are you?

[Laughs] I’m alright, too. Thank you for asking. I’m trying to adjust to quarantine being over, actually. I’m back at work now.

That’s a whole conversation in and of itself. The new rules, masks, gloves, sanitizer and all that. Is that your life right now?

It’s a different existence!

What’s the biggest difference—let’s start there?

Definitely for me something that you mentioned a second ago, the masks. Every time we’re done with a take—if we’re not working on a show that incorporates it, you know what I mean? A 911-type of show or something like that that’s more realistic. My show’s a superhero show. So, every time a take is over, we have to put the masks on and we have to get touched up a whole lot more, too. Because the masks are masking our makeup. I don’t mind it but it’s different!

When did you first receive appreciation for a song or joke or impression as a young person that you think, “I want to do more of this!”?

Oh my gosh, that’s a great question. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten that before! I used to run around with my siblings and we would memorize entire movies. We’d memorize The Lion King and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl and we would perform it for our family and some extended family, as well. So, that was the first time I remember our family being like, “Oh my gosh! This is great! You guys did great!” and clapping for us and picking us up and spinning us around. And I really wanted more of that. And I did my first movie when I was five, so it wasn’t too long after that moment when I got that gratification on the actual set.

You grew up in Georgia, right? And how did that area affect your creativity, your life growing up, your family?

It’s affected my family, personally, because it’s made us very loving. Like, on sets and stuff, if I could everybody—that’s another thing I’ve had to get adjusted to with the six feet apart rules. You can’t do that anymore. But if it was up to me, I would hug everyone when I first meet them. So, it affected my understanding of family in that way. And, as for my career and my creativity, this is a big music scene. In Georgia and in Atlanta, music is a very big thing here. That’s what I thought I wanted to do from a very young age. Acting kind of came as a surprise because my father is a music producer. So, that’s how I actually got my first audition, one of his friends was at our house and heard me running around, singing. He was like, “Hey, she should go to this audition I just heard about.” So, yeah, music definitely did change my entire existence.

That’s so interesting because, as you know well but other people might not, Atlanta and Georgia is a very fast-growing place. It’s the Hollywood of the south, in many respects. And you’re right there.

One-hundred-percent. And, also, Mr. Perry just opened his huge studio here, Tyler Perry Studios, and the area is getting even more activity.

Let me ask about family. It seems like more and more as we’re fractured by the Internet and social media, family, in many ways, is more and more important. You seem to be in a very close family (see: sibling band, Thriii). What does that mean to you?

Don’t get me started, man! It’s really done most things for me. It’s kept me sane. This industry is a beautiful place but it’s also a huge illusion, it’s a scary place, as well, especially for a child. So, my parents and my family have been, behind God, my biggest rock and they’ve really kept me humble and kept me on the right track. It’s difficult because something else that this industry likes to do is separate families. They like to divide and conquer a lot of times, a scary number of times. I’ve witnessed that. So, yeah, they mean really almost everything to me. They’re awesome and I don’t know what I’d do without them right now.

You’re very talented, regimented and famous. How do you balance all these in one lifetime—what are you working on now?

I really don’t know how I balance it! [Laughs] I have no idea! I think it’s a huge blessing to be able to have all of this and to be able to have all these people that support me. I just never feel alone. I feel like I always have people that are there who want to see what I have going on. And, yes, speaking of what I have going on, I was actually in the very early stages of developing a production company with my family. Because it’s cool working for other people and telling different people’s stories and playing different characters. I love to do that for other people with characters that other people have thought of. But I have my own stories as well that I’ve realized as I’ve gotten older that I can tell these stories. And I don’t want to add smut out into the world, or more smut, or garbage. I want to add something that’s going to challenge people a little bit, emotionally and mentally. And I think that’s what these projects we’re working on now is going to do. So, I’m very excited about that.

A story about Thriii would be super cool. I feel like that would work on Disney. There was probably a lot of stuff you had to deal with externally and internally to bring that trio to prominence?

You make a good point!

Hubie Halloween—what was that like? Did you have a favorite scene or experience or something you learned? Or do movies now feel like just another job for you?

Oh, man. It definitely was not just, like, another job because I have worked with Adam Sandler on two other movies: Grown Ups and Grown Ups 2. Unfortunately, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve only gotten to spend less and less time on the sets because, thank God, I’ve gotten busier and I’ve been working on other things at the same time. And I always am sad about that because when I tell you Adam is one of the most genuine people in this industry, he really is. He always has his family around him. He always works with the same people, as well. If he likes you and vibes with you, you probably have a job with him for life. I was seeing people on the Hubie Halloween set that I had met when I was 10 on Grown Ups. So, yeah, it was so much fun and I love Halloween! So, it was great to dress up like Cleopatra. I love Halloween!

Do you have plans to celebrate Halloween in any particular way this year?

You know, I think I’m going to do what most people do. I’m going to figure out something to put on and probably take pictures of it and post them. But there is no going trick-or-treating this year, unfortunately. The Halloween parties and stuff around to have to take a backseat until next year. But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep the party going on social media. That’s one thing I like about social media—we can celebrate together not in person, virtually. Yeah, that’s probably the route I’m going to take!

People often ask what younger artists learned from mentors, advice they received and things like that. But I wonder if you, perhaps from afar, picked up something by just watching someone act or behave that’s helped you?

When I was working with Tyler Perry, and I’ve worked with him over the years starting when I was around 7, watching him, I realized that I can be nice—because, like I said, I’m from the south and that’s naturally what I want to be. I want everybody to be comfortable. But at the same time, do not change yourself for anybody. I really respect that about Mr. Perry and it’s something that I know that he didn’t know I picked up from watching him. But his demeanor in general is just, like, he is who he is. And at this point I’ve adopted that feeling. I want to be sweet to everybody and make everybody feel comfortable and everything. But at the same time, don’t sacrifice my morals, my values, who I am. I don’t have to change myself, you know?

Tyler Perry seems like such a cool person. I obviously don’t know him at all but what a guy, what a life!

What a guy. He’s like my uncle at this point, he’s dope.

What have you learned by performing on the TV show, Black Lightening?

I’ve learned some great things from the show. I learned a lot about action. I’ve always wanted to do action, always wanted to do fight sequences. I never thought about being able to fly. But my parents on the show can fly. So, I got so many amazing experiences from that show that I’ll never forget and I’ll take with me and hopefully get to do again in some other avenue in some other project. But yeah, that’s the biggest thing that I learned from that show was how to be able to work with my body in a way and tell it what to do and it just does it. Kind of like dancing.

And you met Michelle Obama! What was that experience like?

Yes, I did! I didn’t expect you to say that! Yes, oh my gosh. When I tell you I was so nervous before I met her and there were all these rules. Like, okay guys, call her this and do this and don’t do that! So, I was like, “I don’t know why I’m here! This is so scary!” But she walked in and just hugged us. She hugged all of us and was so sweet and, I mean, man—she really needs to run for President. She’s awesome.

I was surprised she didn’t. I thought in 2016 she might but she must really just hate the job. And I don’t blame her.

I guess she was probably like, “There is no way I’m going back to the White House!” She’s awesome though and so sweet.

What about your role with the great kids show, Doc McStuffins?

A lot of people did not know that I sang that theme song. To be honest, as I got older, I kind of forgot! But I—the show is so adorable. And I’ve been seeing Tik Toks of little girls dressed up as Doc McStuffins this year, which makes me really happy. I might do a little Tik Tok about it, or something, you know?

My niece, her dad is Black and her mom is white and they love Doc McStuffins. They’re always talking about Doc McStuffins and it’s a beautiful thing. So, thank you from three-year-old Olivia!

That is so cute! Thank you so, so much! That’s beautiful for them to see somebody that looks like them on TV.

What do you love most about music?

I can’t find the words to use to describe music. It’s gotten me through a lot of things in my life, a lot of different genres. From rock to score to R&B, it’s just—there’s not a word I can use to describe it. But it saves lives! It really does. But also on the other side of things, it could also destroy lives, as well. So, I think that it’s something that needs to be used responsibly. That’s a big thing that I feel about music. That’s what my sisters and I are doing right now. That’s what we’re trying to develop. We’re trying to develop music that’s really going to touch and help people and help the world move forward. Music is one of the most powerful things on this earth, that’s what I believe.

It’s a week until the U.S. Presidential election and as you look out to the world, either through your phone or your actual window, as an accomplished and motivated person, what do you see, what do you think about when it comes to the future?

Man, I’m trying not to approach it from a scared point of view. I think that the more we look positively towards the future, I think that it can’t hurt, you know what I’m saying? So, I’m looking up. For me, personally, I believe that God is in control and so whatever happens is going to happen. I think that people will try their best to take matters into their own hands by voting. It’s definitely very important to me. I think everybody who possibly can vote should. I don’t know, man. I think we should look positively to the future. So, whatever happens, we as a people, we’ve seen over this quarantine that we can gather together and make change. We can bring attention to things that were being hushed and quieted before. So, I think that if we look at it like that and see that we have power to make positive changes, hopefully the world will move in that direction.

What do you love most about living a creative life?

I would not want to live any other way! I always knew that I didn’t want a typical job or life. I don’t know why I always knew that but I knew it from a very young age. The fact that God has actually given my family success in this, I feel very blessed. There are a lot of people out there, there are girls out there that are more talented than me, that work harder than me and, you know, they’re still sitting at home trying to figure out how to get here. So, I know that it’s one in a million and I feel really, really blessed. I wouldn’t want to live any other way. Thank you for that question—living a creative life is the way to go!

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