In Disney’s latest remake, Cheaper By The Dozen, which drops on Disney+ this Friday (March 18), Journee Brown is giving carefree Black girl vibes as 17-year-old high school basketball star Deja, the oldest sibling in the Baker fam.
“I like Deja’s spirit. I like how she’s a truth-teller. And you know, at the end of the day, she’s going to speak her mind … she has to speak her truth,” Journee says. “I think that will inspire a lot of girls, especially Black girls seeing this film, and that’s part of the reason why I was really excited to do this reboot.”
More diverse than any other Cheaper By The Dozen version — there’ve been two more since 1950 — this update reps a blended family of multi cultures, including a mix of bio, adopted, and extended siblings. And the plot? It goes like this: When Paul and Zoey Baker (played by Zach Braff and Gabrielle Union, respectively) marry each other after their own divorces, they combine their families. At first, it’s Paul’s two daughters and Zoey’s daughter (Deja) and son. But over the years, the group grows larger than originally planned when the couple adopts a son, gives birth to two sets of twins, and then, takes in Paul’s sister’s son all Fresh Prince style. Along the way, the fam moves to the other side of town into a larger house — and a neighborhood in which they’re the only POC.
For Journee, the chance to help give voice to this type of blended family that isn’t shown as much on TV and in movies means a lot. “It really [felt] like a privilege when I was on set … especially with a story like this. I think it’s really important,” she says. “I thought [the film also handled issues of race] well because it was very realistic, especially seeing it play out when you’re on set.”
There’s one moment when a security guard rolls up on the squad as the movers are unloading the truck in front of their new home. “It was like, you know, art mimics life, life mimics art,” Journee says. “I definitely have seen that before, you know; I’ve experienced that before, especially being in predominantly white areas, like that’s a thing that happens.”
A whole lotta fun also went down on set, which tracks, as the cast got super close during filming. “There was a night shoot that we had for, I don’t really remember exactly which scene, but we just made the best [of it] … and we had a little picnic. It was nighttime, we’re looking up the stars, and we’re taking silly photos,” Journee recalls. “There’s so many things, so many behind-the-scenes moments that I’ll never forget.”
Her first feature film role, 20-year-old Journee has been preparing for this moment since she started acting classes as a 7-year-old at the Hartford Children’s Theatre in her hometown of Hartford, Connecticut. “I think people should watch this movie because of what it offers to the world,” she says. “I think it helps you have a deeper appreciation for a different family, people that don’t look like you. And it’s also just a heartwarming family story … Cheaper By The Dozen is also a film that I grew up watching. So it’s really cool to see their new spin on this and then be a part of it.”
Cheaper By The Dozen premieres March 18 on Disney+. In the meantime, peep the trailer below:
Main Image: Courtesy of Journee Brown