Nia Vardalos to Star in New 'American Girl' Movie (Exclusive)

Nia Vardalos Headshot 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 14:  Actress Nia Vardalos arrives at Los Angeles premiere of 'Biutiful' held at DGA Theater on December 14, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.

Newcomer Jade Pettyjohn will play the lead character in the film, being produced by Debra Martin Chase.

Nia Vardalos, who co-wrote Universal’s upcoming romantic comedy Larry Crowne with Tom Hanks, has signed on to star in a new American Girl movie.

Newcomer Jade Pettyjohn, who’s appeared in TV shows such as United States of Tara, will play the lead character in the movie, which is being produced by Debra Martin Chase. Production is scheduled to begin July 11 in Winnipeg, which also happens to be Vardalos’ hometown.

American Girl is a line of dolls and accessories extremely popular with the tween girl set that in the mid-2000s were tapped for screen adaptations. Most movies were made for the direct-to-home market although 2008’s Kit Kittredge: An American Girl was made for a theatrical release. The conceit is a focus on stories of young heroines in various time periods.

“Not only is this is free trip home but most importantly, it’ll make me cool to my daughter,” Vardalos told THR of her decision to jump into the part.

The storyline for the new movie isn’t being revealed, although it is known that Vardalos will play Pettyjohn’s mother. The pic, written by Jessica O’Toole and Amy Rardin, writer-producers on ABC Family’s Greek, is still

Vince Marcello, a USC grad whose thesis was a short exec produced by Wes Craven titled Zombie Prom, is helming the family movie, with Universal Home Video on board to distribute.

Vardalos, repped by Paradigm and Untitled, is still keeping herself in the writing world and is working with comedian Rob Riggle on a feature script set in the world of motivational speakers with the aim of making it a starring vehicle for the two of them.