Have you ever babysat? While being a paid babysitter is not a common thing about teenagers in Singapore, some of us would probably have experience taking care of a younger sibling or cousin. Those who have done so would know that being responsible for their well-being and safety is a tough task, and Netflix’s The Baby-Sitters Club encapsulates those struggles and more.
Showcasing the life of a group of girlfriends, the series is a modern take on Ann M. Martin’s beloved books, where the girls open up their own homegrown babysitting business and conquer the problems they face together. It’s a series battling many topics – friends, family, heartbreak – all of it.
We scored the opportunity to speak to Sophie Grace (who plays Kristy Thomas), Malia Baker (who plays Mary Anne Spier), Momona Tamada (who plays Claudia Kishi), Shay Rudolph (who plays Stacey McGill), Xochitl Gomez (who plays Dawn Schafer) about their experiences with The Baby-Sitters Club.
What was it like to such an iconic story and playing it on screen?
Sophie: What I love most about bringing this iconic series to life is, being part of five strong yet wildly different young women growing up together. They all come from different families, with different backgrounds, and different interests, but they’re always there to support and help one another, through thick and thin. Kristy and I are very similar and we’ve both been called bossy many times, but Kristy and the rest of the girls taught me that it doesn’t have to be an insult. Being a leader is such a good quality and it’s silly to use a word with a negative connotation. The girls taught me that I don’t have to pipe down and that I can speak my mind, on and off the screen. It’s so inspiring and exciting that we can teach young kids watching us on TV how important it is to love ourselves and one another, and to set our insecurities aside.
Malia: I love it when you can read about your experiences through a character you love and relate to. My favorite thing about the show is the girls’ friendship! It is so awesome seeing these young feminists being so empowering and sticking with each other through thick and thin!
Momona: I read some of the original books when I was in elementary school and loved them. Claudia was special to me from the get-go because she was Japanese American, and as a Japanese Canadian myself, I thought it was so cool that someone like me was in the book! In the series, Claudia learns about her family history through an unexpected incident. I think that episode was so important! Portraying this scene as Claudia, I felt the importance of knowing about yourself, your family, and history, because those pieces of knowledge build your own identity. I hope the audience feels the same way after watching it.
Xochitl: I am especially proud to be the new and updated version of Dawn Schafer for the Netflix series adaptation. I can’t tell you how important it is that a Latina character and her family are represented on the show. I grew up never really seeing anyone who looks like me in a TV show, so its great to be in this series where a Latina character is valued for her abilities and friendship.
Have you ever been a babysitter?
Sophie: I’ve babysat for every kid in my neighborhood. One of the funniest babysitting experiences I ever had was when I was acting as a lifeguard to some of my favorite kids to watch. They told me they had a secret to tell me. I walked over so they could whisper it to me and guess what? They pulled me in with all my clothes on!
Malia: I babysit my little sister the most and have definitely been in similar situations from the BSC books. This one time I was babysitting my sister and her two friends, and it totally reminded me of Dawn and The Impossible Three haha!
Momona: My mom and I often took care of a little girl with beautiful blonde hair and blue eyes. She spent quite a bit of time at our house and she insisted that she was Japanese and that I was her big sister [laughs]! She even asked for miso soup and rice balls for lunch!
Shay: I used to have a babysitter when I was younger and I absolutely loved when they would have dance parties with me! When you’re babysitting, it’s really important to remember that these kids just really want someone to play with, not someone to watch tv with. The best memories were when they would paint my nails, dance with me, play with my dolls, and play so many other fun games.
When you first heard that you got cast for this series, how did you feel?
Momona: When I first got the script for the audition, I was so excited to see that they were making a reboot. Shortly after I found out I got the role of Claudia, my mom and I went out and tracked down as many books as possible, so I could start re-reading them to prep. It was so exciting to see a Japanese-American character depicted in the books, and I loved to imagine that I was in the story as Claudia! This moment feels full-circle now, to say the least.
Shay: When I met the other girls at the screen test, we ALL felt that something incredible was happening. It was while we were in the screentest room together when we found out we got the roles. We started freaking out and hugging and I started crying out of happiness. It was truly a magical moment which I will always hold close to my heart.
The show got a modern update, and it discusses a bunch of real-world issues. Do you think the audience would be able to relate?
Sophie: No matter what you look like, what your interests/hobbies are, or even what your family situation is, there’s someone on screen that has that same or a similar quality. Hopefully, it will make people feel less alone in life in general or whatever battles they’re fighting.
Malia: It is an amazing family show to watch, especially for the adults who grew up with the book series to hand down to watch with their kids. The Baby-Sitters Club has timeless themes, and now with this contemporary reboot, it will have situations that make the show even more relatable. That is one of the amazing things about The Baby-Sitters Club…you can always relate to one of these strong young feminists and look up to their unbreakable friendships!
Shay: The BSC got a nice upgrade for the series allowing it to be more diverse and inclusive and speak about problems that kids and teens face in our modern day society. The main girls on the show are so independent and powerful while still having a vulnerable and approachable side. Every kid, and honestly almost every teenager as well, should grow up seeing admirable characters on screen that make them feel celebrated and seen. I think that people watching at home will find comforting nostalgia in the series and it’ll be amazing to introduce these iconic stories to a new generation.
Xochitl: My favorite thing about the show is the way that it’s been updated for the series. Each sitter has a unique show arc and a season arc. The adults have long arcs that develop in small bits during the season, weaving in their lives with their kids. It’s beautifully done. You care for each character and feel part of their journey. I like that the show wasn’t simplified for a kid audience and they were able to tackle a lot of important social issues. I think that’s why so many people love it.
Have you read any of the original books? What were your thoughts on them?
Sophie: Yes, I was familiar with the books before I was in the show! My oldest sister had a whole collection of the books that my grandma had given her. She passed them down to my other sister and I and we couldn’t get enough of them. We have a pretty big age difference, so it was a great way for us to bond and I felt so cool being 6 and reading the same books as my 15-year-old sister.
Malia: I was very familiar with the BSC books by Ann M. Martin before being cast which made this whole experience even more special. I was introduced to the books when I was around eight and I have loved them ever since!!
Momona: Yes, I did! I read some of the original books when I was in elementary school and loved them. Claudia was special to me from the get-go because she was Japanese American, and as a Japanese Canadian myself, I thought it was so cool that someone like me was in the book!!
Shay: My Elementary School had a Scholastic Book Fair every year and the Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels were the most popular of all the books. I loved reading them so I definitely knew about the BSC from the 4th grade on.
Xochitl: I had read a couple of the graphic novels in elementary school, but I really got into the original novels 2 years ago when they first announced that a show was going to be made. I started reading them hoping that someday I would get the call for an audition– and then it happened! I fell in love with the stories and now I’ve collected about 80 books so far. I’m currently reading Dawn’s Family Feud.
What does your character bring to the story? Do you think your character showcases certain hardships? Or maybe it teaches viewers about family values, etc?
Sophie: Kristy is a girl boss. She’s passionate, intelligent, creative, and fiercely independent. Along with all that, she is thoughtful and has a heart of gold. Something I love about her is that she’s not perfect and doesn’t feel the need to be.
Malia: I have always related to Mary Anne reading the books growing up which I think makes playing her even more special. I love how relatable she is and how much confidence she gains over time…it’s something to look up to for sure!
Momona: The girls are just like me and you. They all have different backgrounds, good and bad days…their struggles are just like ours. But, at the same time, they inspire and teach us about entrepreneurship and friendship. I love how they all help each other and grow together!
Xochitl: She’s a passionate activist for the environment and social justice. In each episode our characters are given an obstacle to overcome and a lesson to learn during the process. So that provides a lot of drama and comedy as well.
How similar are you to your character?
Sophie: I relate to every character! Everyone jokes about how my personality is an exact copy of Kristy’s, but I love art like Claudia, nature and the environment like Dawn, fashion like Stacey, and lastly, I love the vulnerability Mary Anne portrays and how much she cares about the people and things she loves.
Malia: Mary Anne and I are similar in many ways. Deep down I am a shy person, although I am able to overcome that while I am doing my job. However, I definitely have come out of my shell like Mary Anne does in the book series. I’ve been told I’m funny, sometimes without even realizing that I am, and I’d like to think of myself as kind and caring as well!
Momona: I share a lot in common with Claudia, actually! I am also pretty creative and I love making art, just like she does.
Shay: I am similar to Stacey because my friendships are top priority for me. I also became very interested in fashion while I was playing her. It was really fun to be able to wear Stacey’s incredibly cool and sophisticated outfits. Wearing these more dressed up clothes made me realize how fun fashion was and how much I wanted to get out of wearing jeans and a t-shirt every day.
Xochitl: I have a lot in common with Dawn because I care about many of the same things she does and I have empathy for others. Like Dawn, I am a chill person but I also have a strong will and can sometimes try to “help” too much—even if no one asks.
What can viewers take away from this series?
Malia: I hope the BSC will inspire other girls to honestly believe you can make a change, because you can! I also hope it’ll inspire other girls to have their own “great idea” like Kristy, and to achieve your great idea with amazing young ladies by your side.
Momona: The creators and writers did such an amazing job of modernizing the books for this series. I think the main appeal is relatability. The BSC girls all face obstacles that many pre-teen and teenagers experience in their real lives. The great part is that the series remains nostalgic, even though the show is very relevant to today’s society!
Shay: I think the best part about the show is the girl empowerment! It’s really awesome to watch such strong female characters, let alone teenage characters, that are super independent. I hope that the show, just like the books did, will inspire other young teens to become entrepreneurs and create something of their own.
The Baby-Sitters Club is now available to watch on Netflix.
Featured image: Netflix