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July 9, 2014, 5:31 pm

Disney show aims to inspire family discussions

Letting the light shine within is the message behind the new Disney move “Let it Shine.” A modern day story inspired by the 19th-century, ghostwritten love letters of Cyrano de Bergerac, “Let it Shine” is set in the world of hip-hop and gospel music and expresses the importance of staying true to oneself.

Starring Tyler James Williams (“Everybody Hates Chris”) as Cyrus DeBarge, Coco Jones (Radio Disney’s “Next Big Thing”) as Roxanne Andrews, Trevor Jackson (“Eureka”) as Kris McDuffy, Dawnn Lewis (“Hanging with Mr. Cooper,” “A Different World”) as Cyrus’ mother, Gail DeBarge, and Courtney B. Vance (“Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” “Revenge”) as Cyrus’ preacher father, Jacob DeBarge, this is the Disney Channel’s first original movie featuring a Black-led cast.

“Let it Shine” was directed by two-time DGA award winner Paul Hoen (“Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam,” “JONAS”), written by Eric Daniel and Don D. Scott (“Barbershop,” “Barbershop 2: Back in Business”) and choreographed by Danny Teeson (“American Idol”) and Brandon Shaw.

“The show, ‘Eureka,’ prepared me for the role of Kris because it was a great learning ground for me,” Jackson said. “When I did “Let It Shine” it was an easy transition for me; I already had that experience and knew what to expect. When I first got the script for the film I was amazed at the writing; the story line was completely different from anything that Disney has done before.

“I really wanted to a part of this movie because of the message behind the movie,” James continued. “The reason why I do what I do, entertainment-wise, is because I want to be the best and be put in the position where I’m able to influence people. This is what this movie does; it’s very relevant to the issues of what kids are dealing with today.”

The story unfolds in Atlanta, Georgia, as Cyrus DeBarge and his best friend Kris McDuffy reunite with their childhood friend, teenage singing sensation Roxanne “Roxie” Andrews, whose music label is sponsoring a songwriting contest at a teen club. Cyrus, who writes music under the name “Truth,” crafts a heartfelt and contest-winning rhyme about Roxie but to his dismay, his work is mistakenly attributed to Kris. Lacking the confidence to step forward, Cyrus stands by while Kris not only takes credit for the lyrics but ultimately begins to win Roxanne’s heart too. Now, it’s up to the true poet to overcome self-doubt, seize the opportunity to reveal his authentic self and pursue his dreams. All the while, Cyrus must convince his preacher father that hip-hop music can have a positive message.

“My character Roxie sings, dances and raps,” Jones said.

The young Disney starlet, who came into the Disney family as a featured artist on season three of Radio Disney’s Next Big Thing, a musical talent showcase competition, released her self titled debut album in 2012 describes her sound as a mixture of Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson and Nicki Minaj. However, keeping in step with her values of strong self-esteem and morals, Jones acknowledges that she has a lot of young eyes watching her.

“I’m definitely going to be a good example for them,” she said. “One way that I plan on doing that is just being myself. That’s why I wanted to play this character. I want kids to see that it’s never too late to let the real you shine within. Roxie is not only learning to believe in herself, but she gains confidence and grows as a person through her life experiences. All girls need to know that despite what other people say you’re beautiful and can make a difference by being who you are.”

As the lyrical genius Cyrus, Williams departs from his previous comedic role, to play a character who is talented, but lacks self-esteem. In a society where bullying is at the forefront of many kids issues, Williams is hoping that this film will open up conversations between kids and their families.

“Being yourself has always been an issue regardless of the time,” he said. “I’m glad that it’s at the forefront right now, but it’s an issue that everyone has gone through at some point in their life. In this film, we’re not just talking about regular kids, but we’re also talking about kids in the industry. That is a huge element in the film, because a lot of artists in the industry aren’t being themselves and now the kids are being influenced by it.

“Let it Shine” will also open the door for kids and parents to have that conversation about acceptance and being true to one self. A lot of parents may not be comfortable with the music their kids are listening to, without even hearing it first; this is a huge conflict that we have in this film between Cyrus and his father. This movie will open up many conversations, which is really just the goal. We want to get parents and kids talking because at the end of the day if everything is right at home, we won’t have as many issues when we go out into the world.”

“Let it Shine” debuts on the Disney Channel June 15 at 8 p.m.