Get To Know The Breakout Star of Netflix’s 13: The Musical: Frankie McNellis

Photographed by: Jules Kaye I Hair by: Mika I Styled by: Adeel Khan

16-year-old Filipina singer, dancer, and actress Frankie McNellis is the breakout STAR of Netflix’s upcoming musical feature film 13: THE MUSICAL, which was released globally on August 12, 2022, in over 190 countries to 220 MILLION subscribers. Starring opposite Emmy Award-winning actresses Debra Messing and Rhea Perlman, as well as Josh Peck of “Drake & Josh” fame, the film is the screen adaptation of the groundbreaking Broadway musical 13, which was Ariana Grande and Elizabeth Gillies (“Victorious”) big debut.

13: THE MUSICAL centers on ‘Evan Goldman’ (Eli Golden), who, after his parent’s divorce, moves from NYC to small-town Indiana and must master the complex social circles of his new school and win friends by turning his Bar Mitzvah into the coolest party of the year. McNellis plays ‘Lucy’, a popular and mischievous cheerleader who has a crush on the boy that her best friend ‘Kendra’ also likes. She plots an elaborate scheme to prevent them from kissing, roping in an unwitting ‘Evan’. The role, which originally starred Elizabeth Gillies on Broadway, also features one of the film’s most elaborate and impressive musical numbers (“Opportunity”), with Frankie leading the song and dance routine.

The breakthrough role comes at the heels of another momentous starring role for McNellis, who booked the job while filming the Sony Pictures and Build-A-Bear Entertainment film HONEY GIRLS, now streaming on Netflix. In the film, mega pop star ‘Fancy G’ (Ashanti) hosts a contest to find the next big solo artist. But the young contestants’ Alex’ (McNellis), ‘Charlie’ (Ava Grace), and ‘Maya’ (Aliyah Mastin) realize they are “better together” and secretly form a band called Honey Girls which become a huge hit cloaked in mystery.

Born in Gilbert, Arizona, McNellis, half Filipino and half English/Scottish, has been singing since she was born and began taking dancing classes and vocal and piano lessons at age 5. At about nine years old, she auditioned for ARIZONA’S GOT TALENT, where she was a finalist and met her manager. Soon after, she booked her first job and made a move to Los Angeles at the age of 11 to pursue her dreams of working in entertainment. In 2019, she joined the famed Pentatonix-formed kid’s acapella group AcaPops! KIDS, whose videos have over 6 MILLIONS of views on YouTube. In her free time, McNellis enjoys writing her own music and dancing at Millennium Dance studio, where hip hop and jazz funk are her favorite dance styles. She plays the guitar, piano, drums, and base and aspires to be a global pop star.

StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Frankie to discuss her journey in the industry, and here’s what went down:

Can you tell us more about yourself? How did you get started in the entertainment industry?

I have been training in music and dance since the age of 5. My dad is a musician, so I got my musical genes from him! When I was 8, I competed in a talent competition where I met my manager, Mattie from Mattie Management. She sent me my first audition, and the rest is history.

What do you like most about acting?

I love being able to transform into a completely different person. I get to break out of my shell and do things that I wouldn’t typically do in my everyday life. I also love being on camera.

Can you tell us about your role in 13: The Musical?

I play the popular mean girl Lucy Hallman in the film. Lucy is a popular cheerleader that is determined to kiss her best friend’s boyfriend. Although she makes horrible mistakes, she grows and becomes a better person.

What sort of person is going to relate to this character?

Anyone could find a unique way of relating to Lucy. She is a popular middle school girl who abuses the use of her popularity and threatens to ruin Evan Goldman’s life if he doesn’t do what she wants. She tends to think that she is always right, even though that might not always be the case.

How is this character like you? Different?

Lucy and I are both very determined girls. When we say we are going to do something, we truly mean it. I, however, would not stab my best friend in the back and make her cry on purpose.

Photographed by: Jules Kaye I Hair by: Mika I Styled by: Adeel Khan

Besides yourself, what celebrity would you like to see tackle this character?

I will always be a fan of Liz Gillies and how she played the role on Broadway back in 2008. She is iconic, and it would be cool to see her reprise the role.

Besides yourself, which actor/s in this musical is going to blow people away?

All of the kids are so insanely talented. I am so excited for everyone to get to know each and every character because we all bring different elements to the film. Gabriella Uhl, Lindsey Blackwell, JD McCrary, Eli Golden, Jonathan Lengel, Ramon Reed, and Nolen Dubuc are absolute stars in the film and the songs they all sing are definitely showstoppers.

What’s the biggest challenge to taking on this role?

The biggest challenge to taking on this role would probably be the amount of stamina needed to perform the song “Opportunity.” Lucy Hallman is a cheerleader, so singing live and dancing at 6 in the morning was fun but a lot of hard work.

If you could play any other character in this series, who would it be?

Fun fact! I was actually first asked to audition for the role of Kendra. It would’ve been very interesting to see me in that role, but Lindsey Blackwell was definitely made to play Kendra.

What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?

Filming 13: The Musical is definitely the most memorable experience for me. Working on this project was so fun, and being in Canada for six months with my best friends was a dream.

Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?

It was so cool meeting Jason Robert Brown. He is such an iconic Broadway legend, and working with him was the coolest thing ever. He is such a kind, talented, and genuinely funny person.

How active are you on social media?

I am always on my phone! I love posting on TikTok and Instagram. (NOTE: You can follow Frankie on Social Media via Instagram: @FrankieMcNellis and TikTok: @FrankieMcNellis)

What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.

I dream of being a successful popstar like Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, etc. Although many little girls say that, I truly mean it, and I know it will happen one day!