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'13 Going on 30' star Christa B. Allen looks back on playing young Jennifer Garner

Christa B. Allen, who played young Jenna Rink in "13 Going on 30," re-enacts some of her best lines and reveals what Jennifer Garner taught her.
/ Source: TODAY

It’s been 15 years since “13 Going on 30” made kids everywhere want to be “30, flirty and thriving” — and Christa B. Allen, who played the younger version of Jennifer Garner’s character, still gets recognized for the role.

“I think because it meant so much to so many people, and it was just such a beloved film, that people are all so excited to see a person that was part of that zeitgeisty moment in the flesh,” Allen, now 27, told TODAY.

“People always quote back ‘30 and flirty, and thriving,’” she said, referring to the phrase that (along with some magic wishing dust) sends teenage Jenna Rink into the future. “I can't wait for that to be the theme of my 30th birthday.”

Allen said she was “over the moon” when Ariana Grande recently paid tribute to the movie in her “Thank U, Next” video, later commenting that she watched it “every night before bed growing up.”

Christa B. Allen visits Jennifer Garner before filming "13 Going on 30."
Christa B. Allen visits Jennifer Garner before filming "13 Going on 30."Courtesy of Christa B. Allen

The actress recalls visiting Jennifer Garner at her home before they began filming, so that she could study her demeanor and mannerisms.

“She was the same then as she is now,” she said. “I think she has this persona of being very sweet, and kind, and welcoming, and she was that then, and she is that now.”

When Allen asked for career advice, she said Garner told her, “Always have a life outside of acting. Because if you're not living a real life, how can you play one on TV?"

Christa B. Allen poses with her young "13 Going on 30" co-stars, including Ashley Benson and Brie Larson.
Christa B. Allen poses with her young "13 Going on 30" co-stars, including Ashley Benson and Brie Larson.Courtesy of Christa B. Allen

Allen still remembers parts of the dance from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video, which her character performs and Jennifer Garner later re-creates in the movie.

“I was the least coordinated 13-year-old you've ever met,” she said. “And so, they actually hired a choreographer, a dance instructor, to work with me for two weeks to get that tiny little clip. And I'm pretty sure whoever that choreographer was, was just like, ‘Oh my God, this girl's hopeless. Like, her body just doesn't move.’ And that was the first scene we shot on my first day on set, on a big, major motion picture. Oh my God, it was so hard. I still feel a pang of anxiety.”

Allen reflected on the movie’s timeless message, which still resonates with fans.

“I think the movie teaches kids to appreciate their childhood, and to remember where you came from,” she said. “Jenna tries to ditch her past and her awkward phase, because she becomes this big-time magazine editor, but she's always going to be that sweet 13-year-old. And she rediscovers that through this magic thing that happens. But the lesson there is to just be yourself.”

Christa B. Allen and "13 Going on 30" co-star Ashley Benson
Christa B. Allen and "13 Going on 30" co-star Ashley BensonCourtesy of Christa B. Allen

As for where Jenna would be now, Allen has some ideas.

“I think Jenna and Matt (Mark Ruffalo’s character) are living in Jersey, and they probably have anywhere from two to four kids,” she said. “Jenna's probably long ditched her magazine editor position at Poise, and Matty sold some amazing photo, and they just live life off of that. Or, he's like a handyman, or something really sweet. But they're definitely living a sweet, suburban life, and she's driving an SUV, and they have a lot of kids.”

Allen most recently starred on Lifetime’s “When Vows Break.” Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for updates on her work.