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'Of course I was nervous'

Her ukulele is the same size, but Grace VanderWaal has grown up plenty since she first appeared on TV as a 12-year-old “America’s Got Talent” champion in 2016.

Now, after releasing music, touring the nation and modeling, the singer/songwriter has a new role as the titular star of the Disney movie “Stargirl” (streaming Friday on Disney+).

You’ll probably recognize her, even though she’s grown nearly a foot in four years.

“I don’t really know exactly how tall. I think I’m 5-foot-8 or something like that,” says VanderWaal, 16.

We caught up with VanderWaal right after she performed on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” to talk about her new movie, forthcoming music and why memorizing a monologue was easier than playing her uke on the set.

Grace VanderWaal's Stargirl plays a song to inspire the football team in

Q: You just played your moody new single, “Today and Tomorrow,” accompanying yourself on ukulele. Sticking to your roots with your signature instrument?

Grace VanderWaal:I actually didn’t (write the song with the ukulele in mind). I was just singing in the studio and the producer pulled out a ukulele and started kind of like jamming to it and then we were just like, “That sounds really good.” The whole song just kind of happened. I wrote it while I was filming “Stargirl,” and I showed director Julia Hart and I guess she liked it. So it’s in the (end credits).

Q: In “Stargirl,” you play a teenager who was home-schooled but becomes a good-luck charm for a high school and serenades classmates with her ukulele. How is playing as Stargirl different from performing as yourself?

Stargirl (Grace VanderWaal) serenades Leo (Graham Verchere) on his birthday in

VanderWaal: It’s so different! Just because I’m not telling my own story. You know what I mean? (At my shows), I know exactly what I want people to feel. But when you’re telling someone else’s story, it’s more difficult to try to figure out what they would have wanted people to feel.

Q: At least you had plenty of experience playing music before you did it as Stargirl. But what was it like to memorize and perform a monologue? There’s a big speech for your character in the movie.

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