Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus fans are used to getting the best of both worlds, as the theme song goes, after watching the 17-year-old songstress juggle her TV and music career for four years. But soon viewers will be singing a very different tune as the show prepares to premiere its fourth, and final, season.
Hannah Montana Forever, premiering on Sunday, July 11 at 8/7c, follows student-by-day, pop-star-by-night Miley Stewart as she and her dad and brother relocate from their Malibu beach house to their new ranch. In addition to the Stewart's family new digs, the upcoming season will welcome new guest stars including Sheryl Crow, Jay Leno, Kelly Ripa, Ray Liotta and Christine Taylor.
However, the biggest change in the series' final episodes will be Miley's graduation from high school, and her struggle to figure out her next move.
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"[It's about] her graduating, and seeing what college is all about and seeing whether she wants to pursue her career or go to school and try to live a normal life," Cyrus told reporters at a news conference for the show's last episodes.
"As the character has grown up, we've grown up. As we've moved on to new things, they're moving on to new things, and going to colleges," she says. "I think we've all graduated this year, as well, along with our characters. So I think it is a lot of art imitating life."
That close link between the Miley's fictional double life and her real-world star power is something her on-screen and off-screen dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, believes is part of what has made the show so special.
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"Before we started rolling film, there was a moment that the writers and producers said every line that refers to Miley as Kiley, change it to Miley," he says. "I think that that would have taken away a realism of the combination of Miley being Hannah and Hannah being Miley. It just wouldn't have been the same, if she would have been Kiley."
Reflecting back to those first days on the set back in 2006, Miley says she expected the show to be a hit, but nothing like the phenomenon it became.
"It kind of has opened so many doors for other artists on Disney, too, to be able to involve music and acting and all that," she says. "I definitely didn't expect it to take off the way that it did, especially so soon. And I can't believe it's already coming to an end, either. I mean, it just feels like we kind of just started."
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Besides leading the way for fellow Disney stars and singers such as Selena Gomez (Wizards of Waverly Place) and the Jonas Brothers (Jonas LA), Cyrus has found success beyond the Hannah Montana name with her 2009 EP The Time of Our Lives, films such as The Last Song, and even her own clothing line. Despite her busy schedule, Billy Ray says he's proud of his daughter for deciding to don Hannah's wig for one last season.
"Honestly, it was supposed to end last year. Miley and I both could have walked away from it. ... But, she and I both looked at it and said you know what, it's a shame to put this much of our lives into this moment, and this many fans around the world, and just leave it open ended with no conclusion," he says. "We did it because we thought it was the right thing to do."
But as Miley Stewart graduates from high school, will Miley Cyrus also graduate from her Disney channel audience once and for all? Although the singer-actress has moved onto more mature fare in everything from music videos to her wardrobe (to the criticism of Perez Hilton), she remains dedicated to her longtime fans.
"That's why I did this last season, something for them to look forward to. But I can't only base my career off of the 6-year-olds. It's the 16-year-olds, the 26-year-olds, that's I'm trying to reach for now," she says. "That's not letting the younger kids down. I will continue to do things that will be good for them, too. But, I also have to move on."