Airing on the Disney Channel in the early 2010s, “Good Luck Charlie” was a grand success. Kids, teens and parents of all ages admired the show, specifically due to its tactful approach to debated social topics across multiple generations. Its depictions of the Duncan family in abnormal situations never seemed dull, and each member of the group felt genuine in their interactions. One such character that stands out is Teddy Duncan, played by Bridgit Mendler.
Each episode of the show begins with Teddy recording a future message of advice for the Duncan family’s fourth child, Charlie Duncan. Teddy — along with her siblings PJ and Gabe — assist their parents in raising Charlie while dealing with the numerous challenges of school and their social lives. Through the video diary, Teddy shares what Charlie may experience in her future, concluding each episode with the eponymous phrase, “Good luck, Charlie.”
“Good Luck Charlie” was a massive hit for the channel, yet it didn’t launch anyone’s career into the mainstream. It’s especially strange considering that Mendler was promoted as the channel’s next big star. If you watched Disney Channel when “Good Luck Charlie” aired, you would know how prevalent she was in its programming. Once the show ended, she never reached for a higher podium, and it might have been for good reason. Nevertheless, her journey to success reveals the resilience of Mendler’s character, onscreen and off.
Mendler was born on Dec. 18, 1992. Her career began in 2004 by performing voice-over work for multiple projects. She premiered on Disney Channel in 2009 with a guest role for the first episode of “Jonas.” Before “Good Luck Charlie,” she was previously known for her performance as a recurring character on “Wizards of Waverly Place.”
She auditioned to be Sonny in “Sonny with a Chance,” but lost the role to Demi Lovato. Despite this, some Disney personnel wanted Mendler to work for the company and encouraged her to audition for “Good Luck Charlie.” After multiple rounds of auditions, Mendler was finally offered the role of Teddy, which she gladly accepted.
During the show’s run, she would pursue other projects both inside and outside of Disney Channel. Mendler starred as Olivia White in the most underrated film of the channel’s history: “Lemonade Mouth.” She did voice-over work for “The Secret World of Arrietty” as the titular character as well as Appoline in “Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2.”
In 2011, Mendler played Teddy in the Disney Channel original movie, “Good Luck Charlie, It’s Christmas!” The holiday special follows Teddy and her mom, Amy, as they hitchhike across Utah and Nevada in an attempt to reunite with the remainder of the Duncan family in Palm Springs. The film became the most-watched live-action cable movie of 2011.
Throughout most of her career, Mendler had been involved with music. For Disney Channel, she performed numerous songs for the soundtrack of “Lemonade Mouth.” She also helped write and perform a single for “Good Luck Charlie, It’s Christmas!” as well as the anthem for “Disney’s Friends for Change Games.”
After signing with Hollywood Records, she released her debut studio album, “Hello My Name Is…” in 2012. Mendler’s album received positive reviews, with songs such as “Ready or Not,” “Hurricane” and “Top of the World” performing remarkably well on the charts. The album peaked at no. 30 on the Billboard 200 list, and the feature track “Ready or Not” peaked at no. 49 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Good Luck Charlie” ended in 2014, and Mendler pursued music until 2015 when she joined the cast of the NBC sitcom “Undateable” in its second season. She played Candace, a bartender who later becomes the fiancé of the bar owner who hired her. She would play this role until the show was canceled after its third season. In 2018 and 2019, she appeared on two Netflix projects, “Father of the Year” and “Merry Happy Whatever,” the latter being her last acting role.
Mendler had multiple strokes of success in music and television, so why did she give it up? She could have garnered fame akin to previous Disney Channel stars such as Miley Cyrus and Vanessa Hudgens, yet this stardom never materialized. What caused one of the biggest stars of Disney Channel to slowly move away from the industry? There could only be one answer to justify the choice: academia.
In 2020, fans were shocked to learn that Mendler completed a graduate degree at MIT and was currently pursuing a PhD as a research assistant at the MIT Media Lab. However, to long-time followers of Mendler, this would come as little surprise. In 2012, she announced her intent to attend the University of Southern California (USC) in the following spring. The next year, Mendler discovered a love for anthropology, and in 2014 she began taking courses in medical anthropology.
Mendler graduated as an anthropology major at USC, and continued her research throughout her time at MIT. Currently, she’s a director’s fellow working with MIT’s Center for Constructive Communications and Social Machines, and is simultaneously enrolled at Harvard Law School.
So, has Mendler retired from music and acting? There are limited reports on the true answer, but it’s evident that she is pursuing school over the arts. The most recent statement regarding the state of Mendler’s career comes from the “Techsetters” podcast in June 2021, in which she stated, “I’ve written scripts, I’ve written music, but I also feel like I’m really building upon something with my research [at MIT] and so that’s something that I want to continue to build upon.”
While short-lived, Mendler’s influence on Disney Channel should not go unnoticed. “Good Luck Charlie” became a great success for the channel, and it could not have been as impactful without Mendler’s performance as Teddy. She had an impressive career with all the ambitions of garnering further recognition. However, she chose to abandon it for scholarly progression. 2000s babies who grew up with Disney Channel will never forget “Good Luck Charlie,” and they will never lose hope for Mendler and her promising future.
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