When Aubrey Peeples found out that she was auditioning for the role of a pop star in the new Jem and the Holograms movie (in theaters October 23), she knew that it was a big deal. But the Nashville star didn’t realize just how cool it truly was until she actually landed the part of Jem, the pink-wearing lead singer of a girl band from the iconic ’80s cartoon series. “I didn’t really know what it meant to play her at first, because I was a ‘90s baby and missed the whole thing,” Peeples recently told InStyle. And so once she was cast in the role, it was time to play catch-up. “I watched the whole cartoon series on Netflix and bought the DVDs,” she said.
When researching Jem, Peeples became a huge fan of the truly outrageous character she was about to play onscreen. “The cartoon was so fantastical, and I love that it had so many female role models,” she said. “These women were rock stars, fighting crime. They were so badass!” Even though Jem maintains her cool-girl vibe in the movie, Peeples added her own twist when recreating the beloved cartoon character. “She pays complete homage to the original Jem, but she’s a modern adaptation,” she said. “The most iconic things that you remember about Jem are brought to life through the makeup and costumes, a lot of which were handmade from scratch to get her style just right.”
But the cartoon version of Jem wasn’t Peeples’s only source of inspiration. She also channeled a few of today’s biggest pop stars during filming. “I'd say she has the heart and youthfulness of Taylor Swift—if Taylor dressed like Lady Gaga,” said Peeples. She even wears a geometric dress “that looks super Gaga” for one of the band’s performances in the movie. And while the abundance of pink and leopard-print clothing was definitely exciting, for Peeples, it was the accessories that stood out most. “Jem has so many cool shoes, like black lace-up combat boots, and she also wears a ton of rings,” she said.
But it was Jem’s beauty look that really got Peeples into character. “The wigs and hair pieces were super fun to wear,” she said. “And Jem wears the craziest, coolest, most extravagant makeup ever. She goes for a lot of bright colors, whereas I typically tend to choose darker ones.”
Jem’s style wasn’t the only thing that Peeples wanted to get right. After watching the original cartoon, she knew how important it was to maintain Jem’s signature positive energy that captivated audiences back in the ‘80s. “There are messages about staying true to who you are and taking care of your family,” Peeples said. “Jem and her sisters have a really tight bond. There are so many nice moments between them in the movie, and that actually made me miss my sister a lot while we were filming.” Peoples may relate to the movie’s portrayal of strong family ties, but that’s pretty much all she has in common with Jem—or Jerrica, as the character is known IRL when she’s not performing.
“We’re so different,” said Peeples. “Jerrica is reluctant to step into this role of fame, but I was always very much going after my career from the get-go.” Still, some things remain universal along the path to a young star’s success, whether real and fictional. “Jerrica is really shy, so she puts on this mask and learns how to be confident through her work,” said Peeples. “That’s how every performer learns how to be confident. I still prepare for a long time to be comfortable and rock out onstage.”
Jem’s road to fame in the movie is completely different than the cartoon. “Jerrica is discovered on YouTube, which didn’t even exist in the ‘80s,” said Peeples. “So in the movie, we deal with the whole message about how social media can be good and bad—because this amazing technology is very powerful.”
To see Peeples’s rock star transformation, watch the trailer for Jem and the Holograms below.