'It's about time travel': Kristen Bell's 'Encore!' the reality show we all need

Kristen Bell

Share Adjust Comment Print

Say the words high school, and people start to squirm.

“Everyone gets a little bit pukey, immediately — am I right?,” Kristen Bell says with a laugh. “It’s very interesting that high school is the one thing that unites us all. There’s really nothing else on the planet where you say those words and there’s a bit of a cringe.”

But with Encore!, Bell is hoping that a trip back to the hallowed halls of their youth will be a good thing for former castmates of a high school musical.

“There’s nothing about this show that requires extraordinary talent or a desire to do this professionally,” she says. “They get back up on stage together just for the love of it.”

The new 12-episode Disney+ reality series, which had its beginning as a one-off ABC TV special in 2017, is executive produced by Bell and series creator Jason Cohen. The show finds people decades removed from their teenage years reuniting to reprise their roles in such classic musicals as Annie, Grease, The Sound of Music,  Beauty and the Beast and more. They have six days to bury the hatchet and hit the high notes.

“We have casts that are millennials, who have seen each other recently, and we have episodes that feature baby boomers, made up of people who haven’t seen each other in 45 years,” Bell, 39, tells the Sun in a midday interview at a downtown Toronto hotel. “This is about real people discovering how to have fun again and there’s something electric about watching people reintroduce themselves to someone they once knew.”

Bell, who also stars on NBC’s The Good Place and voices Princess Anna of Arendelle in the

But Encore! isn’t about the performers charting a new career path headed towards professional theatre. It’s a weekly show about fusing past dreams with present circumstance, and it’s also about people getting a chance to rewrite their past.

“It’s about time travel,” Bell says. “It’s about going back in time without the labels that were given to you in high school. We have characters that make amends, who say, ‘I’m sorry.’ We have characters that rekindle love after all these years, others who come out of the closet, and some who are able to be who they were” before real life took over.

Unlike other reality series, Encore! isn’t looking to shine the spotlight on people who maybe can’t hit the high notes anymore.

“Throughout the show there’s nothing negative about it,” she says. “It’s unscripted, but I would not be a part of it if it wasn’t wholeheartedly positive.”

Instead, it’s about former friends and rivals coming back together and reigniting a passion for something they thought had been left in the past.

“It’s funny because everyone’s wearing Spanx and no one can fit into their costume or remember their lines,” she chuckles. “But they’re all rekindling this love they had for one another because they shared the traumatic experience that is high school. At its core the show is about having the courage to be seen, having the courage to be vulnerable and the courage to forget. But it’s also about being able to remember.”

Bell hopes viewers are encouraged to step outside the boxes life has put them in and use the show as fuel to push themselves in new directions.

“When we do things that scare us we grow,” she says. “I think people underestimate how a community goal infuses passion and purpose into your life and that’s exactly what this show does.”

Encore! begins streaming Tuesday, Nov. 12, on Disney+