The star of Julie and the Phantoms shares her incredible journey from New York to Netflix
Last June, Madison Reyes was finishing up her freshman year at a performing arts high school in Pennsylvania when a teacher shared an audition notice for a new Netflix series called Julie and the Phantoms. “I remember sitting down and reading Julie’s character bio and then finding out she was the lead of the show and also Latin American,” says Madison. “The feeling that came over me was something I’ve never experienced before.”
Fearing rejection, the 16-year-old almost didn’t audition for the role. “I was at a very good moment in my life where I was back into music, learning how to play piano, doing well in school, and really focused on self-love,” she says. “I didn’t want this to be what knocked me down.” Fortunately, a few of Madison’s peers and people she looked up to persuaded her to go for it. “They were like, ‘Why not? You never know what could come out of it. Either you don’t do it and nothing happens, or you do it, and you either get it or you don’t.’ So I took a chance.”
And just days later, she was glad she did. After watching her audition tape, the Julie and the Phantoms casting team reached out via email and connected with her dad on the phone. “They said, ‘Kenny really wants to meet you.’ And I was like, ‘Kenny Ortega, the director of High School Musical?!’” Madison had no idea that the man behind the same movie that inspired her to become a performer was spearheading Julie and the Phantoms – and he couldn’t wait to meet her.
Somehow, Madison managed to remain focused and finished up her school finals. The very next morning, she flew to Hollywood for three days of auditions. “Some people [in Pennsylvania] were telling me that the chances of me getting the part were really slim,” she remembers.
However, Madison stayed positive and kept her eye on the prize – not by envisioning herself walking the red carpet or seeing her face on a billboard, but by thinking about what Julie would mean for viewers around the world. “I kept thinking about my sister and all of the girls out there who are looking for a role model,” she says.
On the final day of auditions, Madison found out she got the part. “I knew in that moment that if you work hard and you’re a kind person, and you don’t give up, you’re gonna do it,” she says. “And no matter how many no’s you hear, no matter how many people tell you that you’re not gonna do it, if you believe in yourself and keep pushing, you’re gonna eventually get there.”
Season 1 of Julie and the Phantoms is streaming now on Netflix.
Photos by Joe Magnani, assisted by Ricardo Reyes
Styled by Amanda Lim
Makeup by Brenna Drury (Exclusive Artists) using Flesh Beauty and Amika Haircare