Since its 2006 debut, the series “Hannah Montana” has become a pop culture phenomenon, garnering Emmy® nominations, No. 1 ratings and an ever-expanding, loyal fan base. The idea of a young pop star who wants to live an ordinary life unaffected by her stardom found wide appeal with family audiences and placed the series at the No. 1 spot for series among children 6-14 on U.S. cable television during its first two years on the air.
“With ‘Hannah Montana,’ the character is the concept, so it easily translates to film,” says producer Gough. “It’s basically a superhero movie for girls. She’s a normal high school student by day and pop star by night. So, she’s dealing with identity issues, family issues, relationship issues. Most kids and adolescents who deal with the same issues feel as if they don’t have any power, so the idea of putting on a wig and a costume and being a powerful superhero is teen wish fulfillment.”
The Disney Channel and “Hannah Montana” series creators and executive producers, Michael Poryes and Steve Peterman, structured a strong ensemble cast around the charismatic star and lead character, played by a then-13-year-old unknown named Miley Cyrus, grounding her character in family and friendships while exploring the adventures of her secret double life. This included an easy-going but wise widower father (Billy Ray Cyrus), an older, but not exactly wiser brother, Jackson (Jason Earles), and a trusted and true best friend, Lilly (Emily Osment).
Once Miley and Billy Ray were cast, Poryes and Peterman took the basic premise and tweaked it to fit the realities of the Cyrus father-daughter relationship. So the father and daughter now come from a small town in Tennessee and have recently moved to Los Angeles. The characters are both singer-songwriters, and their homespun conversations are filled with southern sayings and recollections. With their exceptional chemistry, the father-daughter dynamic easily translated into an accessible blend of music and comedy. Miley and Billy Ray and Miley and Robby Ray had become inspiredly intertwined.
“It’s pretty much art imitating life imitating art,” says Billy Ray Cyrus about their onscreen counterparts. “We never planned it, but once it happened, Miley and I worked hard to make it and keep it real.”