Wizards of Waverly Place
8:30 p.m. Sundays, Disney Channel
She's a wizard, but 15-year-old Selena Gomez knows that just waving her wand isn't going to turn her into the next Miley Cyrus.
Since word got out that the breakout star of the Disney Channel TV show “Wizards of Waverly Place” is planning on recording an album later this year, the “Future Miley” predictions have started to fly.
“I think it's an honor, it's a good compliment,” says Gomez, looking somewhat embarrassed by the comparison.
“But I think I might want to take a different route when it comes to that,” she continues, smiling shyly. “I love acting and that's my passion. So I would love to do more movies and some serious things like that. So maybe a different road with me.” Plus, she says, she plans on being part of a band later this year, not a solo singer.
But in the meantime, the teen star says she's having the time of her life sliding through pools of chocolate, riding on magic carpets, swinging from chandeliers and getting into every other outrageous predicament that her character, teenage tomboy wizard Alex Russo, can manage.
“Selena asks how we come up with this stuff, who would do these things. And I tell her, `If I were a 15-year-old girl, I would.' I was always the class clown,” says the show's executive producer, Peter Murrieta.
As for Gomez, her parents keep a fairly tight rein on her, she says, leaving little room to act like Alex when she is dividing her time between homes in Los Angeles and her native Texas.
“I'm nothing like her,” the alternately self-assured actress and giggly teen says, laughing. “She's kind of mean and a little bit sassy and I think I'd get in trouble for that.”
In the show, she's the middle child, sandwiched between two brothers – 13-year-old Jake T. Austin's mischievous Max and 18-year-old David Henrie's serious, oft-times put-upon Justin.
All three are wizards, having inherited their magical powers from their father (David DeLuise), who had to give up his when he married a mortal, played by Maria Canals-Barrera.
An only child, Gomez says Henrie and Austin “have become like my real brothers.”
“By that I mean we fight and argue, too,” she says, sitting at a table in what the show's viewers would instantly recognize as the Russos' family kitchen. “We do the whole, like, picking on each other brotherly-sister thing.”
As if to prove it, shortly before she sits down, Austin has Gomez momentarily frightened – and then cracking up – as he pretends to lose control of a motorbike the three are about to ride through a magic scene in which a giant teddy bear has come to life.
“There's no competitiveness between us. We all love each other. We all hang out together,” says Henrie who, like Austin, hopes to eventually move into writing and directing while Gomez pursues acting and music.
“Selena, David and Jake, they're all going to be doing other things,” predicts DeLuise, the veteran character actor and son of Dom DeLuise. “I'd be very surprised if they're not writing and producing their own stuff in a few years.”
Heading into its second season, “Wizards of Waverly Place” often fights a seesaw ratings battle with Cyrus' “Hannah Montana” and Nickelodeon's “iCarly” for most popular show among the tween demographic.
That has led to more Miley-Selena comparisons, although a third actress, Demi Lovato, is also being talked up lately as the next Miley after having starred in the Disney movie “Camp Rock,” which premieres Friday.
If there is any rivalry among the actresses, however, you wouldn't know it from talking to Gomez.
“That's my best friend!” she shouts excitedly when Lovato's name is mentioned. “She's been my best friend since I was 7 years old and we did ‘Barney' together.”
Indeed, the co-starring roles opposite a big, purple dinosaur afforded Gomez and Lovato, both from Texas where the show was filmed, their first show-business breaks.
“It's so bizarre how it worked out,” Gomez reminisces. “You have no idea how lucky we really are. I had to move away from her when I started the series and then Disney Channel picked her up and now she's doing ‘Camp Rock' and I'm doing ‘Wizards' so we got to go through all of this together.”
But while Cyrus' public appearances in recent months have generated mob scenes, Gomez and Lovato have both said they still manage to stay pretty much under the paparazzi and fan radar.
Part of the reason for her, Gomez speculates, is her penchant for dressing in sweats and T-shirts and not the more fashionable things Alex the wizard might wear.
“I remember one time I went to the store and this girl goes – I heard her behind me – she says, ‘Oh my gosh! Is that Selena Gomez?“' she recalls with a laugh. “And then a girl next to her goes, ‘No, trust me. That's not her. She wouldn't dress like that.'”