Nia Vardalos Talks McKenna Shoots for the Stars

Nia Vardalos Talks McKenna Shoots for the Stars, an American Girl Blu-ray in stores July 3rd

First released in 1986, the American Girl doll collection has taken the world by storm, launching specialized shops across the country that allow young girls and their families to take part in the American Girl experience. The franchise has also launched its own branded magazine, and the well-received 2008 feature film Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. Now, the popular phenomenon comes home with the first ever direct-to-video full-length feature McKenna Shoots for the Stars, An American Girl Blu-ray and DVD that arrives in stores this Tuesday, July 3rd.

In the tradition of The American Girl storylines that have enchanted parents and children alike, McKenna Shoots for the Stars follows doll of the year McKenna (Jade Pettyjohn) and her real-life adventures in becoming a world-renowned gymnast. To celebrate this release, we have clips, featurettes, and an exclusive chat with McKenna's on-screen mother Nia Vardalos.

Watch and read on for your American Girl buffet of riches in honor of McKenna Shoots for the Stars' release!

What brought you to this franchise? Are you a fan? Do you have the dolls?

Nia Vardalos: Yes! I am a mom of a seven-year-old girl, so I flat out wanted this job! I told my lawyer, "Don't even ask for anything. I'll do it for free." Simply because I wanted to be a hero to my daughter.

Were you hoping to get a couple of dolls instead of a paycheck?

Nia Vardalos: I would have done it for that. If the Screen Actors Guild had a provision for that? I would have done it!

When Kit Kitridge came out in theaters, I remember the cast was the same way. They were just working to keep their daughters happy. Just to get an in with these dolls...

Nia Vardalos: That's it! You're the first person who knows this truth. That is exactly it. There are people who've won Academy Awards in these movies, because we want our kids to go, "My mom, my dad...They are in the new American Girl movie." That's it. That's the only reason to do one of these.

How often do you and your daughter take the dolls down to the store for tea time?

Nia Vardalos: Actually, as hokey as this sounds, it's really close to us. The American Girl store is at our mall. So we went for Mother's Day. We did have a tea there with her doll. She has a Rebecca doll. When I signed on for this movie, they sent us another doll and a crib. I never ever wanted my daughter to see there are benefits from my job for her...Except for this.

That is so sweet.

Nia Vardalos: It is really cool. My daughter's friends...They've seen some of my movies. But they have no interest in seeing any of them. Even My Life in Ruins, my daughter knows Alexis Georgoulis, my co-star, and she knows that we play boyfriend and girlfriend in the movie. I ask her, "Do you want to see that one?" She says, "Ick! Is there kissing in it?" (Laughs) This one is so for her. It has gymnastics, which she loves. It has a message that doesn't hit kids over the head. Its subtle, and I think parents can relate to it. Its about finding balance...Hey, I just realized...Finding balance...Balance beam...Oh!

You are too much of a genius for me!

Nia Vardalos: My head just exploded.

Are they setting this up to be a running home video franchise starring McKenna, until she gets too old to be an American Girl?

Nia Vardalos: Jade Pettyjohn is terrific, isn't she? No...I think they are setting this up to be one movie per doll, and McKenna is the doll of the year. She is the American Girl doll of 2012, and then that's it for her. No, I don't think there will be more McKenna movies...

So you don't get to come back...Or maybe you do! Maybe you and Ian Ziering have another American Doll baby in the years to come...

Nia Vardalos: Well, you know, this is a good point. Vince Marcello, who directed this, is directing the next movie. I would put on a mustache to play another role. He was too great. In lesser hands, this movie could have been a little heavy handed. Or sickly sweet. He has such a nice, even hand in directing. Believe me, I will shave my head and play a circus clown in the next one.

What was it like being married to Ian Ziering? You must have been a big fan of his from way back...

Nia Vardalos: Oh, yeah! By the way, he pronounces his name "Eye-an", but my husband pronounces his name Ee-N, but it's spelled the same way. So constantly, Eye-an Ziering would be on the set, and I would be calling him Ee-N. He'd turn around and go, "It's Eye-an!" Ahhh, my god, I forgot! But seriously, we did have women lined up knee deep to see the guy from Beverly Hills, 90210.

I didn't know he pronounced it like that...

Nia Vardalos: Maybe he was punking me. That would be great.

I've seen him on talk shows. I've never heard him introduced as that...

Nia Vardalos: I know. Maybe he just changed it in the last five years.

Maybe he did. Who knows. Maybe he was tired of all these other Ians running around. Your husband was causing a problem for him.

Nia Vardalos: I think he was over it. He was like, "That Ian Gomez? I'll show him!"

What do you hope the young girls will take from this movie?

Nia Vardalos: I think young girls will relate to this movie because it doesn't talk down to them. It also shows a very real, and relatable situation, and what happens when things start to spin out of control. I like that the solution is obtainable and relatable for them as well.

McKenna Shoots for the Stars: An American Girl Blu-ray and DVD is available this Tuesday, July 3rd, just in time for the big holiday weekend.