The 1980’s classic, Steel Magnolias, is a bittersweet drama about a group of friends facing life's obstacles together. This witty and emotional film caught the eye of a young Shelby Simmons, sparking her interest in not just movies, but the unique world of acting. After this realization, she dove headfirst into the entertainment industry and made her first TV debut as a guest in Nickelodeon’s Game Shakers. Since then, she has furthered her dreams by starring in multiple-hit Nickelodeon and Disney shows such as Andi Mack, School Of Rock, Henry Danger, and popular spinoff, Bunk’d. Now, progressing her budding career onto the big screen, Shelby stars in Disney's+ film Stargirl, playing the role of highschooler Hillari Kimble. We sat down with Shelby and discussed her rise to stardom, a look into her newest character, Hillari, and future projects to look out for.
Khayla Biscoe: Did anything/anyone, in particular, inspire you to pursue acting?
Shelby Simmons: Well, it all started when I saw Steel Magnolias for the first time and realizing that acting was even a career choice. Shortly after, I joined this tribe of amazing, dedicated, passionate actors who inspire me every day.
KB: Can you give an overview of your past in the entertainment industry and how it led you to where you are now?
SS: My first role was a guest star appearance on a Nickelodeon show called, Game Shakers. From there, I was blessed with the opportunity to work for multiple Disney and Nickelodeon shows such as Andi Mack, School of Rock, and Henry Danger. My first job as a series regular was on a fun Netflix original series called, Prince of Peoria. It helped me build my knowledge and experience on set, especially with comedy. Eventually, this helped me be more prepared for my role on Bunk’d. When my first movie came along I was stoked! Selfie Dad was such a wonderful project and a perfect beginning to what I hope will be a long career in film. I went on to be in Star Girl on Disney+, which furthered my emotional depth and gave me a chance to be a part of a film with a beautiful, universal message told in a sweet and creative way. God has given me so many opportunities to learn and expand as a human being and every lesson I’ve learned will stick with me forever.
KB: Do you have any hobbies you enjoy partaking in when you’re not acting?
SS: I absolutely love art of all kinds! I’ve started to paint clothing and cups and I’m thinking about possibly selling them in the future! Along with that, I enjoy hiking in the mountains, writing poetry, and one day a novel. I’m also working on sewing a few stuffed animals for some friends of mine who are expecting!
KB: You play Hillari Kimble in the new Disney+ movie, Stargirl. What was your experience like filming this movie and working with the cast?
SS: Hillari was a challenge and an absolute joy to play. I loved being a character whose whole life revolved around keeping up appearances and really taking the saying, “be your best self” to an extreme. It was my first time traveling out of state for a project as well, which made me extremely excited! But, working with the cast and director, Julia Hart, is what made my experience there so profound. I made some great friendships on that set and Julia’s creativity and her graciousness with the process were what brought out the best in everyone.
KB: Was there anything, in particular, your character, Hillari, taught you throughout the storyline?
SS: Hillari let me see what life is like through the eyes of someone who desperately wants her life to mean something but is completely misguided in her quest for purpose. She gave me a better understanding of the so-called, “bully” and what can really lie beneath the surface of another person.
KB: Now, what about your role in the Disney spinoff series, Bunk’d. What can we expect to see in the upcoming season?
SS: Your guess is as good as mine as to what we can expect! Our writers are so much fun and come up with new and creative ways to teach fundamental lessons in life that astound me every time I get a new script. What can we expect from season 5? Heartfelt moments, hilariously genuine mistakes, and inspiring growth from all of our characters.
KB: Is there anything, in particular, you look for when reading new scripts?
SS: The stakes and the relationships! They are absolutely everything and they can make or break a scene. The answers to, “…why am I doing this, how do I feel about the other person, and what do I have to lose,” are vital.
KB: Do you have any new or upcoming projects that you’re particularly excited about?
SS: I’ve always got my sights set on something, however, I’m a big fan of surprises, so I can’t wait for you guys to find out what I’m up to!
KB: Have you ever experienced any notable challenges throughout your career?
SS: All the time. However, very few of my challenges are external, thank God. Most of my struggles involve self-doubt, fear of the future, and general uncertainty; but I find my stability ultimately in God and knowing he’s got me, and then in my tribe and my team, who have been my rock since day one.
KB: What is your biggest accomplishment thus far?
SS: Well, my biggest accomplishment happened off-screen in my acting class with my tribe. But, on-screen I am most proud of the effort I put into my role in Stargirl and the wonderful messages in each Bunk’d episode that I get to be a part of.
KB: Who is Shelby Simmons, to you?
SS: Shelby Simmons is a girl who dreams of living a purposeful life. She is someone who tries her best to live fully in every moment, to give 100% to the people that she loves and cares for. She’s someone who tries every day not to be weighed down by things that scare her, though sometimes she fails. And above all else, she’s someone who yearns to love God and people with her whole heart.
KB: What would you say your personal style is like?
SS: At the moment, I’ve really gotten into a boho, 70’s aesthetic. I am crazy about bell-bottoms and layered necklaces, and putting scarves in my hair has become a regular thing for me.
KB: Who is your ultimate style icon?
SS: I don’t have just one. I’m inspired by anyone who loves what they wear and wears it with confidence.
Photographed by Bjoern Kommerell
Written by Khayla Biscoe
Makeup by Erin Guth & Teresa Ammons
Hairstyling by Kitty Wedie