THR: What qualities do you look for in kids to ensure they are fit for Disney Channel stardom?
Marsh: When you look at a Shia LaBeouf, Selena Gomez or Demi Lovato, there’s a quality of transparency, and you can connect with them across the room. It comes from a confidence and a certain kind of charisma. When Miley Cyrus came in the room at 12½, she was as green as the grass, but something was beaming through her eyes that made us feel like we have to take a shot. For Hannah Montana, it had come down to her and another girl, who was a skilled sitcom actress, and there was an absolute split vote. Many of the people who had to make the show wanted the sure thing — the girl who could hit the jokes, land the laugh. But I wrote an e-mail to everybody that said: “Our job is not to make shows, it’s to build franchises and stars. We may have a drink a few years from now and talk about whether we made the right choice, but I’m saying to you that we’re going to hire Miley.”
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