Shelby Simmons talks Bunk'd, acting inspo and more

On Disney Channel's Bunk'd (catch Season 5 premiering rn!), Shelby Simmons stars as Ava, the camp counselor who is tough, strong and seriously independent. But even when she's not performing, Shelby is a *total* star IRL (P.S. She loves classic flicks like Inception, the Fleetwood Mac Pandora station and watching anime on Netflix). We caught up with Shelby about her best advice, what makes Bunk'd such an iconic series and so much more...

Girls' Life: What do you love most about acting?

Shelby: I love the impact that movies and TV shows can have on people. That was a really big part of my life as a child, and so I love that something I'm part of can help influence someone in a positive way.

Girls' Life: What do you like about playing Ava on Bunk'd?

Shelby: It's really fun. I love that Ava is [always] growing as a person—it makes her more relatable. She's funny, cool, heartfelt. She's trying her best in life. And that's something kids and teens should know. It's OK to try and mess up and be goofy.

Girls' Life: What's your fave scene as Ava so far?

Shelby: I actually have two. There's one where I'm talking to my onscreen mom, because we find out that Ava actually ran away from home before coming to camp. They finally have that big mother-daughter confrontation where Ava explains how she felt invisible in her big family. Her mom feels really terrible about it. It's this big moment where you realize that they have more in common than it seemed and they're able to come together and start to mend that relationship.

There's another one with Destiny, Mallory's character, and it's the episode where her grandpa passes away. Even though it's an uncomfortable moment, Ava doesn't try to stop Destiny from crying or from feeling her feelings. I feel like my character really handled that situation well and it brought Ava and Destiny closer together.

Girls' Life: Why do you think people connect to the show?

Shelby: I think it's that mix of silliness and seriousness. It's not a dramatic show—we joke around and we have a great time—but with each episode we're talking about something important and showing kids how to overcome something in their lives and gain a new perspective. You're able to better understand people in real life through our characters and how they deal with things, especially with humor. 

Girls' Life: What do you do when you're not acting?

Shelby: I'm an artist. I love to draw and paint. I also love hiking. But, to be fair, my version of hiking isn't "Let's climb up a mountain!" It's more like wandering into nature for the day.

Girls' Life: Advice for other teens and tweens out there?

Shelby: Finding yourself takes a long time—don't rush it! You've always been yourself, but you'll discover more in time. Also, confidence isn't the same thing as being surface-level cool. The most confident (and cool) people are the ones who aren't afraid to try new things or to mess up. There are so many opportunities out there waiting for you, so don't be scared to go after them. But also, if you're not feeling so confident right now, just be patient with yourself. You'll get there.

Catch Bunk'd on Disney Channel now!

Image credit: Shelby Simmons/Instagram. Parts of this interview were edited and condensed for clarity.

by Katherine Hammer | 1/26/2021