IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.
TODAY Illustration / Getty Images

Kira Kosarin was hesitant to return to 'The Thundermans,' but the experience made her regain her passion for acting

In a personal essay, the 26-year-old actor and singer reflects on growing up in front of the cameras, leaving and returning to acting.

Kira Kosarin is an actor, musician and producer, known for her breakout role as Phoebe Thunderman in Nickelodeon’s hit show “The Thundermans.” The teen show aired from 2013 to 2018, and followed a family with superpowers who attempted to live normal lives.

Following various roles in shows and films thereafter, Kosarin took a break from acting to focus on her singing career and content creation.

Now, the entertainer returns to the role that changed her life, executive producing and starring in "The Thundermans Return" for Nickelodeon and Paramount+, out March 7. The film reunites the original cast for another crime-fighting adventure.

Eleven years later, after spending her formative teenage years on the show, Kosarin opens up in this exclusive essay — as told to’s Liz Calvario — about becoming a woman in the spotlight, the struggles she faced when the show ended, initially turning down the reunion film, and what she required to reprise her role as superhero Phoebe, AKA Thunder Girl.

I was 14 years old when I was offered the part of Phoebe Thunderman on “The Thundermans.”

When this role came in, I remember seeing it and going, “This is me! If there were ever a role that I really, really want, it’s this one.” I just felt connected to Phoebe from the very start, so getting it was just a complete and total dream come true.

A young Kira when she got the role of Phoebe on "The Thundermans."
A young Kira when she got the role of Phoebe on "The Thundermans."Danny Kosarin

It was just a pilot at the very beginning, and then we got to do 13 episodes and see what happened next. At the end of those episodes, we got another season and then a Season Two and then a Season Three and then a Season Four — and now we’re here 11 years later making a movie. I never could have guessed where it was going to go but it’s been amazing.

I turned 15 on the set of the original pilot, October 2012. I was 19 turning 20 when we wrapped the show, 21 when it stopped airing, and I’m 26 now.

In a lot of ways, it was a wonderful way to spend my teenage years, but it was also a very unusual way to spend them. I definitely felt, when the show ended, that I was behind on a lot of personal development. When you spend those crucial, formative years playing a character, when the writers build the character inspired by you and you are inspired by the character, those lines can really start to blur. You don’t really have any personal time when you’re working so many hours to learn who you are and how to be an adult.

So when the show ended, I spent a few years becoming an adult and developing who I am now. To get to come back to the series as an actual adult human being was very special.

Thanks for the memories and the lessons

The best memories I have, outside of filming the show and live audiences, are the times that we got to travel to promote the series. We really got to see a lot more of the world than a lot of 15-year-olds in America get to see.

But there were definitely hard times. Going through puberty on camera in front of millions of people is a thing that is hard to describe unless you’ve been through it. I was the kind of kid who had no awareness of my body or what I looked like. I had been a ballerina, had been an athlete, and that all stopped when the show happened. My body changed very quickly and I changed very quickly. I wasn’t even aware of that until fans started commenting on it and that’s a really weird way to suddenly become aware that you are a woman. But everyone goes through some version of that nowadays with social media. It was just really amplified being in front of such a huge audience of people at such an interesting age.

Kira as a teen on "The Thundermans."
Kira as a teen on "The Thundermans."Danny Kosarin

The Super Suits that we wore when we become superheroes were definitely a big part of it. It was really nice to come back to the suits with a little bit more self-acceptance. One of my favorite things that I got to do as an executive producer on “The Thundermans Return” was be part of the process of developing the new versions of the Super Suits. I really wanted to make sure that everybody’s physical and emotional comfort in those were considered.

I was in an interesting position when the show ended. As an academic kid, I skipped grades and got into Stanford University but had to defer a couple of times. By the time the show ended, it had been four years since I graduated high school. I had a full-time job for almost six years and I really just wanted to go be a person. I made the really hard decision to not go to college, which was shocking if you knew me as a kid.

I loved music and had written a lot of songs in my dressing room over the course of the series, so I decided to pursue that full force. I auditioned for a little while longer too, but I eventually decided I wanted to take a break. I paused all of the acting stuff and I was doing music and social media when the opportunity to do “The Thundermans” movie came along.

Reuniting with Phoebe and the Thundermans

Kira returning to the set of "The Thundermans" for their reunion film.
Kira returning to the set of "The Thundermans" for their reunion film.Courtesy Kira Kosarin

It was fall of 2021 when I got the call saying there'd been talks of doing something with “The Thundermans.” I was hesitant at first for a few reasons, one of them being I was so proud of what we did in the original series. We tied it up neatly. If we were going to do it again, it had to be done in a certain way — the right way.

The original iterations of the reunion film were very different that the final version. I wasn’t comfortable with it, and I didn’t think would be what the fans wanted.

One earlier version, for example, didn’t have any of the other characters from the show, aside from Phoebe and Max (Jack Griffo). I felt it was important that everybody from the original series be involved. I thought, if we have the opportunity to get the whole main cast and almost every guest star we’ve ever had, we would be so silly not to. It was also really important to me that it was filmed multi-camera, had a laugh track, a live audience feel, and that it felt silly and fun like the original series. I was really opposed to the idea of turning it into a dark, gritty, intense, dramatic, single-camera movie.

I turned down the project unless we could make some pretty substantial changes. I’m lucky and grateful that the people in charge were willing to hear me out, liked my ideas, took me on as an executive producer and let me make changes to get it to where it is now.

Reuniting the Thunderman family

When the original series ended, we all went our separate ways. Jack and I took some space to grow up away from each other after working together for a really long time. We had little reunions here and there, but we never were all in a room together in those six years until the very first day on set.

We got to reunite in the rebuilt living room set and sit down on the family couch together. It was emotional, surreal and special. I’m really glad we captured that on camera.

It took us all a couple of days of going, “Whoa, what’s happening?” until it clicked and we went, “Oh, it’s like we never left. Let’s do six more years of this!”

When reprising the role of Phoebe, I was surprised at how at home I felt. After the original “Thundermans” series ended, I didn't have a chance to do that kind of work again.

The multi-cam sitcom is somewhat of a dying genre outside of kids and family television. I'd been away from that kind of set for so long I think I convinced myself that I just didn’t want to be on TV anymore. Being on “The Thundermans Return” set reminded me that I do. I just want to do this kind of TV. I love this kind of TV. This is so much fun. It was a really nice reminder. It brought that passion back to life and I am excited to keep moving back into that.

Jack Griffo and Kira Kosarin in "The Thundermans Return."
Jack Griffo and Kira Kosarin in "The Thundermans Return."Courtesy of Kira Kosarin

A hopeful goodbye and message to the fans

I don’t know if I’ve processed wrapping the movie. A lot of us ended the project and went, “OK, we all needed to go our separate ways when the original show ended but now we’re back with our family. Let’s not lose those relationships again.”

We’ve all stayed a lot closer this time around since when we finished filming. Saying goodbye at the end of the movie was less heartbreaking than the first time around, especially because we’re still hopeful and would love to do more “Thundermans.”

Phoebe means a lot to me. I was proud to have been her for many years, but I also needed space from her in order to really learn who Kira was. Now, to get to be Kira and bring Phoebe back into my life, is everything I could ever ask for. Phoebe makes a lot of kids laugh and smile. If I can do one thing in this world and have it be make kids a little happier, what a wonderful job to be able to have.

It’s been a crazy 11 years and I never could have seen it coming, but I’m very grateful. 

This essay has been edited and condensed for clarity.