Ana Golja talks Zoe and Grace on “Degrassi” and working with Jennifer Beals

Ana Golja may be new on AfterEllen’s radar, but she’s more than making up for lost time. The 19-year-old came to our attention this summer after her character Zoe Rivas fell for schoolmate Grace Cardinal (Nikki Gould) on Degrassi: Don’t Look Back. But she’s also been busy with other projects–most notably starring in the TV movie Full Out opposite Jennifer Beals.

Based on a true story, Ana plays Ariana Berlin, an athlete who suffered an accident that nearly ended her gymnastics career. Ariana fought her way back to the sport through a combination of incredible determination, UCLA Coach Valorie Kondos Field, and an amazing hip hop dance crew. The real Ariana and Coach Val each had parts in the movie, and it was Ariana who performed the Olympic-level moves in Ana’s place. But Ana did hit every single landing! She also has a song (“Feel So Good”) on the movie’s soundtrack because she’s just that good.

We recently sat down with Ana to discuss everything from how she got the part in Full Out, to what working with Jennifer Beals was like, and, of course, the Zoe and Grace storyline on Degrassi.

 10303737_1514915565423220_1437227905990117668_n I read that you really, really wanted this role in Full Out. That you put your all into getting it. What was it about the role that made you just have to have it?

Ana Golja: For two reasons: I saw a lot of myself in Ariana. We’re very similar in the way that we’re both fighters. We have that drive and that passion, and that go, go, go attitude. And very similar upbringings–like really loving, supportive families. So I connected to her in that way. And then I just thought it was a really incredible inspirational story that I really wanted to tell. That I wanted to be a part of. It was a real passion project for everyone involved.


AE: What was the audition process like?

AG: The audition process was very simple actually. Yeah, way simpler than one would imagine. I received the script, I read it, I said I was very interested, I went into the audition, I did the few scenes, I gave a little speech as to why I wanted the part–which usually you never do because auditions are usually very formal. And that was it.


AE: So it wasn’t like in Bring It On where Eliza Dushku pulls that little stunt during tryouts?

AG: No. Oh no!


AE: Besides gymnastics, you also did a lot of hip-hop dancing in the movie. Was that all you?

AG: That was me.


AE: Do you have a background in dancing?

AG: I started dancing when I was five and a half–almost six-years-old. And I did the works: ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, Latin, ballroom. And then competed and everything. So thankfully I had about 10 years of dance experience under my belt prior to the film.  

Actually the executive producers, they didn’t want me to do any of the dancing or the stunts. Just because they’re like, “You’re the star! Don’t hurt yourself!” And I insisted. I was like, “No, no, no. There’s no way you’re going to get a double to do all the dancing when I myself am a dancer. No.” So I insisted, and thankfully they let me do it.


AE: So, you got to hug Jennifer Beals. Was that one take? Several?

AG: Several!


AE: Do you realize how lucky you are?

AG: I do, I do. Because I’m a huge fan of hers. Like Flashdance, it’s one of those iconic films. So getting to work with her, she’s just such a humble and incredibly–she just has such a vast knowledge of the industry. I learned so much from being on set with her. It was absolutely amazing.


AE: She drop some knowledge?

AG: Absolutely. Absolutely. A lot of wisdom.


AE: Like, “Hang in there kid,”?

AG: Yeah. She’s like, “Just stay true to who you are, stay focused, and do you.”


AE: Watching the movie, it looks like you had a blast. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much fun did you have?

AG: 100. Off the charts! When you’re working with such incredible, talented, passionate people, I mean it honestly, it wasn’t–I didn’t feel like I was going to work. I was going to hang out with friends everyday, and do what I love, which I’m so blessed to do.