Friday, January 13, 2012

Let's Groove: Michelle Obama Celebrates Acting Debut With iCarly Screening For Joining Forces

First Lady "random dances," talks healthy school lunch efforts at special event for military

By Marian Burros

Alexandria, VA: First Lady Michelle Obama
shimmied and shook and pumped her fist as she did some "random dancing" with the iCarly cast members who joined her on Friday morning in the auditorium at the Hayfield Secondary School. The 1,500 students in the audience shouted and screamed and applauded just as loud as they did when the stars of the popular kids show came on stage. Mrs. Obama’s visit to the school, which has many children from military families enrolled, was to promote "iMeet The First Lady," an episode that premieres Monday on Nickelodeon. It's Mrs. Obama's debut as a sitcom actor. (Above: Mrs. Obama dancing with co-stars Miranda Cosgrove and Jennette McCurdy)

"Got to dance on stage with Mrs. Obama #awesome," tweeted Miranda Cosgrove, who plays lead character "Carly Shay." She also "randomly dances" with Mrs. Obama on the show; the fun interlude is a regular feature.

The audience received the highest accolade from Jerry Trainor, who plays Carly's elder brother "Spencer" on the show. He said it was the loudest crowd the cast had ever had.

"It was piercing. It hurt my head. It even hurt my stomach."

Mrs. Oba
ma is no stranger to Nickelodeon: The network has been a major supporter of her Let's Move! efforts, and located its "Worldwide Day of Play" in the backyard of the White House last year, where the First Lady announced a milestone for her campaign. She filmed iCarly last summer in Los Angeles, and onscreen she thanks military families, especially children, for the sacrifices they make. It is part of the Joining Forces initiative that she and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the Vice President, launched last April, to encourage Americans to support military families.

"We did this episode because we want the whole country to know how proud we are of all of you, and much we appreciate you as our little heroes," Mrs. Obama told the kids.

As an actor, the First Lady turns out to be a pro, though she previously said she was "terrified" during filming. The director of communications for Nickelodeon gives Mrs. Obama marks for her acting.

"She learned her lines like every other actor," said Dan Martinsen. "There weren't too many takes."

Jeanette McCurdy (l), who plays Carly's best friend “Sam Puckett," said Mrs. Obama was a calming presence on the set, and called the experience "one of the best days of our lives."

“We were all kind of hyperventilating and our internal organs were shutting down because we were so nervous," Puckett said. "And then she came to the set and called each of us by our first names and gave us a big hug and was just so nice and so professional and I think we all had a blast and I mean, it was just unforgettable."

On the show, Mrs. Obama talks about the importance of friendship and support for military kids, who find themselves in new schools every few years. She also tells Carly how proud she is of her. Her father, an Air Force Colonel, had to cancel a trip home and missed the birthday Carly had arranged for him. “It’s really tough when your Dad is away,” Mrs. Obama says onscreen.

First Lady talks school lunch during Q & A...
The First Lady and the cast sat in orange director chairs on stage, matching the many orange jackets and sneakers and hats in the audience, the Nickleodeon color, and took questions from the kids. Asked what she would like to do if she could do anything, Mrs. Obama said: “I’ve always wanted to fly. You just float over everywhere. You could go anywhere. You could go on a dime and you feel so free.” (Above, Mrs. Obama with the cast, from left Nathan Kress, McCurdy, Trainor, Cosgrove, and Noah Munck).

One child asked her about her work with school lunches, adding “Could you change ours?”

Whether it was a set up or not, Mrs. Obama plunged right in, telling the kids about the legislation that had been passed to put more nutritious food in the schools.

“So you should be seeing more vegetables, more fruits, more healthy foods,” she said.

There were a few boos. But Mrs. Obama persisted, telling them about the importance of eating healthy food “because we want you to be the next leaders out there.”

And she added “Thanks for asking. And eat your vegetables.” The boos turned to laughter.

Mrs. Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha are fans of iCarly, she said.

"I even get upset when I'm watching a re-run, so I'll be glad when the new episode comes out."

The Alexandria stop was the last of four made by the cast this week to preview the episode; they visited three military bases this week. The cast thought their next stop on Friday was the airport for a trip home, but they were in for a surprise. They got to tour the White House first.

The random dancing:

"iMeet The First Lady" premieres on Nickelodeon on Monday, January 16th at 7:30/6:30PM C.

*Photos by by AP/pool