Nostalgia is king in the entertainment industry these days. With countless reboots and revamps in and out of the box office and on our television screens, there is something both comforting and whimsical about returning to a past time in our lives. For those of us who came of age in the new millennium, Life Size was a distinct pop culture moment. The film followed an angsty young tween, Casey (Lindsay Lohan), who while mourning her mother, inadvertently brings her Eve fashion doll (Tyra Banks) to life. The plucky Disney tale was supposed to be just another Disney Channel flick at the time, but instead, it became a phenomenon. Now, almost two decades later, Banks has stepped back into Eve’s stilettos for Freeform’s Life Size 2: A Christmas Eve. This time around, Eve is inadvertently awakened by Grace Manning (grown-ish actress Francia Raisa) — a spoiled twenty-something socialite turned CEO, who has been tasked with taking over her mother’s company Marathon Toys —the same organization that established the Eve dolls. The sequel to Life Size didn’t come together quickly. Though Banks first announced the film was in development in 2012, the movie was not greenlit until April 2017. Nearly six years after she first began discussing a sequel to Life Size, Shadow and Act sat down to chat with Banks about becoming Eve again, why the sequel is so much sexier than the original, and why she knew Raisa was the right choice to push this film forward. "It was so exciting to step into the high heeled shoes — the very painful high heeled shoes of Eve after eighteen years," Banks told Shadow and Act. Knowing how much fans loved the original, and now that the iconic supermodel was on board as an executive producer, she wanted to be confident that she gave Eve and Life Size the reverence that they deserved. "I wanted to make sure as an executive producer of the sequel to give you all that stuff that you loved about it the first time but switch it up. I wanted to twist it up and also mature it up a little bit so that people who watched Life Size when they were little and are now adults could have something that they could relate to." Tyra Banks | Photo Credit: Guy D'Alema/Freeform Though the original film was for a Disney audience, Freeform allowed Banks, her co-producers and the writers to spice up the material, taking it up a few notches. "One of our writers Stacey Harman — I told her, 'Go for it! Don't censor yourself when you write, just go crazy.' And she did," Banks laughed. "She went there, and I was like, 'Ooooh chile! This is R-rated.' I love the fact that she felt so free, and then we were like, 'Ok now let’s just clean it up just a little bit.' What Stacey ended up doing was pretty genius because it became like a Pixar-type of comedy with sexual innuendo and cool things where it was not super obvious to kids, but adults will be like, 'Oh my God! They said that?!'" With Banks’ original co-star Lindsay Lohan focused on other ventures, the America's Got Talent host, and her team wanted to make sure that they found the right actress to carry the story forward. They found the perfect match in the bubbly and hilarious, Francia Raisa, "Everybody loves Lindsay so much," Banks emphasized. "I love Lindsay; I love what she did in Life Size; I bonded with her so much. For the sequel, we needed to find somebody that people could really connect to. We needed to find an actress that just by looking into her eyes, you could see this beautiful range. Francia can make you laugh, and she can make you cry within the span of minutes, so we knew we had our girl." Nevertheless, if you’re a fan of the original flick, you should know that Life Size 2 certainly pays homage to Lohan’s football-playing Casey in more than one way. This past year has been a hallmark year for women and girls in the entertainment industry and popular culture, in the way that we are treated and how we see ourselves. The America’s Next Top Model alum wanted to be sure that the 2018 Eve dolls reflected as such. Therefore, in Life Size 2 we see a slew of new Eve dolls from CEO Boss Eve to Curvy Eve and even a cameo from the OG Eve from the first film. Despite all of these new versions of the beloved toy, Banks was still sad that not all of the new renditions of Eve made it into the movie. "There were so many scripts that we wrote for this project over the course of five years," she revealed. "There were between five to seven scripts —it was a lot. In one of the versions, I had lots of different accents. There was a Swedish Eve, and a French Eve, I was like, 'I’m going to need a dialect coach!' So, I do miss that part that did not make it into this." Francia Raisa and Tyra Banks | Photo Credit: Guy D'Alema/ Freeform Looking back now at the success of the first Life Size and all of the enthusiasm surrounding its sequel, Banks is still taking it all end. After all, Eve was a role that she was never supposed to play. "When Life Size premiered back in the day, I had no idea it was going to be as big as it was," she reflected. "It was supposed to be for a different actress, a very big actress at the time -- a household name. But, my manager some kind of way got me into this audition, and they stopped negotiating with this other woman and signed me. That was a huge deal because I didn't even think I had a chance. I thought, 'I’m a Black girl, this other actress isn’t Black.' At the last minute, they had to find all of these dolls off of a shelf and paint their eyes green to try and get them to look kind of close to me because they didn’t even have time to make a doll from scratch." With all of the anticipation surrounding this Life Size 2, Banks is just thrilled that audiences finally get a chance to see what she’s been working on. She’s also thrilled about Eve’s new updated wardrobe. "My favorite dress that Eve wears in Life Size 2 is her gold dress designed by Christian Cowan," she revealed. "The bow is bigger than the entire dress, and he custom made that for Eve." Somehow, we don’t think Life Size 2 is the last time Eve will be telling us to, “Shine Bright.” In the film, Grace’s bubbly young neighbor Lex (Alison Fernandez), could certainly call on her own Eve doll in the future. Life Size 2: A Christmas Eve premieres Sunday, December 2, 2018 at 9 p.m. ET on Freeform.
Aramide A. Tinubu is a film critic and entertainment writer. As a journalist, her work has been published in EBONY, JET, ESSENCE, Bustle, The Daily Mail, IndieWire and Blavity. She wrote her master’s thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can find her reviews on Rotten Tomatoes or A Word With Aramide or tweet her @wordwitharamide