High school is hard enough for teenagers — now picture enrolling before you've hit puberty.
In new Disney Channel series A.N.T. Farm, 11-year-old Chyna Parks, played by China Anne McClain, attends high school as part of its Advanced Natural Talents program for gifted students. Chyna, along with best friends Olive (Sierra McCormick) and Fletcher (Jake Short), struggles to fit in with the older teens who aren't too fond of the grade-skipping kids. And Chyna doesn't exactly rub the upper-classmen the right way at first.
"Chyna really doesn't care what the high schoolers say or what they think about her," McClain, who is 12, says. "She says, 'Move out of my way I'm going to make my big entrance.'" Chyna demonstrated that outlook in the show's preview episode last month where she invites herself to a high school party. After her classmates do their best to cause trouble for her, Chyna shines — and also saves the day.
"It turns out to be a big musical party and that's the big reveal of her voice," she says. (China shows off her pipes in the clip below.)
In Friday's premiere, Chyna makes an effort to be more involved in the school's activities and joins the cheerleading squad. Of course, Chyna gets more than she bargained for when the popular girl in school Lexi (Stefanie Scott) puts her skills to the test. McClain says it's her favorite episode.
McClain, whose previous roles include the TV show Tyler Perry's House of Payne, calls her new series very realistic.
"The feeling of not fitting in and [thinking], 'Are people going to like me?' Kids are going to like that," she says. "I always had that experience of being nervous."
A.N.T. Farm premieres Friday at 8:30/7:30c on Disney.