In the new romantic comedy "Blended," Bella Thorne plays Hilary/Larry a misunderstood tomboy desperate to fit in. Thorne is a Candie's model and TV star, idolized by teens and tweens for playing dancer CeCe Jones on Disney Channel's "Shake It Up," and she also appeared in "Big Love," "My Own Worst Enemy," "Dirty Sexy Money," and "In the Motherhood." To see her in person -- big hair, glitter eye makeup, and all -- you'd imagine that the Larry role was a major stretch for the actress, but I discovered that the Florida native didn't have to dig deep to identify with the outsider.
How did you get the Hilary role in "Blended"?
They sent me the script and asked me if I wanted to play a boy. I thought, "Yeah, that's first on my bucket list," and I read for it. Adam Sandler has said that when he was writing the film, he was actually thinking of me, because his daughters love CeCe from "Shake It Up."
You were so convincing in that role that there were points where I forgot that you're a girl.
Thank you. That didn't require very much, because I'm a tomboy. I know I'm in a dress and have glitter on my eyes, but I'm more of a tomboy. I eat chicken wings, and when I slurp my Top Ramen, I have the stains from it all over my T-shirt. I don't wear makeup, my hair's oily, and I just lay in bed and want to watch "Bones."
What was the experience of working with Drew Barrymore like? I'd imagine that you were a fan prior to working with her?
Of course. She's hilarious, she's beautiful, and she's awesome. There is nothing that's fake about her. She cries if she sees something sweet. She's so lovable. How could anyone not love her?
I read in your bio that you "adopted" a child in Africa and are also very big on animal rights. This movie is set in South Africa and features a lot of lions, giraffes, and zebras. Was that important to you?
Yeah, my whole family, we've been sponsoring kids in Africa since I was young. As far as the animals, it's great when you see these animals living in the wild. It's not great when you see them in harsher situations. When you go to Africa, you realize how many people mistreat animals. The hunters there, they'll lure elephants with food and then chop off their tusks and leave them there to bleed to death. It's a sport there to kill animals.
When you were young, you were diagnosed with dyslexia. How did you find out?
My first language was Spanish, and I dropped Spanish to learn English to then learn how to read, because I was harshly bullied in school when I was younger. I stopped at third grade, because my teacher would just say, "She's dumb. What do you want me to do with her? I don't know how to help her. She can't read or spell if her life depended on it." I think my teacher thought I didn't want to try. She didn't realize I couldn't. My mom found that unacceptable and took me to Sylvan Learning Center to see if they could knock down those barriers. They said I'm dyslexic. My parents didn't know what to do, so I was there for a long time, and they would tell me to go read billboards every time I'm driving. I still do it. It's so embedded in my brain.
What advice would you give to others currently dealing with dyslexia?
I would say it's not easy. People give advice to young teens and say it gets easier. No, it doesn't. It's hard for me still, even though I read at a college-grade level. It's still difficult. When you see my scripts, you see how lines are crossed out and written to the side as I would see them. i'm much better of a reader, but it's not easy and [is] something you'll always struggle with.
Today you speak out about dyslexia and are the global ambassador for StompOutBullying. Can you describe what you were bullied about?
The learning disability and the fact that I spoke Spanish and not English. I'm Cuban, and my parents spoke fluent Spanish, so that was our first language. Kids were like, "You don't fit in, because you speak Spanish and you model. But as with the Harry Potter kid, they're just jealous. They just want someone to laugh at and to pick on.
The best advice is make it something you love. I would not be here in my reading if it wasn't for acting. I forced myself to read and read, even when I hated it, because I wanted to be an actor. Whatever it is, attach it to something you love, because if it's not attached to anything you love, it's not fun. I love reading books now. I love reading scripts and developing new characters.
Which apps do you most enjoy?
1. I like Instagram, because it's Instagram. I am an Instagram stalker. I know what's going on because I stalk people on Instagram.
2. InstaVid -- that's cool. If you see my videos on Instagram, I'll have music over it in the background.
3. iTunes, because I love my music.
4. WhatsApp is cool. I use that a lot.
5. Joke Insults -- those are just funny.
"Blended" opens in theaters nationwide on May 23: