Kirsten Storms, Phillip Rhys and Gregory Smith discuss the making of the 1999 TV movie, exclusively with PEOPLE

By Michele Corriston
June 25, 2020 12:00 PM
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Cetus-lupeedus! Can you believe it's been 21 years since Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century premiered?

The fifth-ever Disney Channel Original Movie aired on Jan. 23, 1999, and followed a precocious 13-year-old who lived in a space station in the year 2049 — until she was "grounded" and sent to Earth. In honor of the futuristic film's anniversary, PEOPLE reunited stars Kirsten Storms (Zenon Kar), Gregory Smith (her crush on this planet) and Phillip Rhys (rock star Proto Zoa) to share memories from the set, discuss the project's legacy and reveal how their lives have changed since.

The first Zenon flick was Storms' first leading role. She went on to helm Zenon: The Zequel and Zenon: Z3. (All three are streaming now on Disney+.)

"I get recognized more for Zenon than I do from General Hospital, still," said Storms, 36, who has starred on the soap opera since 2005. "But I think it's funny, I get asked to say 'cetus-lupeedus' all the time, and I just go with it. ... I love that this movie stuck around for so long. And now people are playing it for their kids, which I think is really cool."

The cast of Zenon in 1999
Courtesy Everett Collection

Her daughter Harper, 6, has also streamed Zenon — thought she was understandably puzzled by her mom's astronaut abilities.

"Obviously, she was a little young to understand the storyline, but she was really excited to see me on TV, because she'd not seen me in anything before," Storms said with a laugh. "We did clear up some confusion about the fact that I wasn't really Zenon in real life. She thought when I left her, I went to be Zenon. But I have to say, she's way more into Elena of Avalor than any other Disney program. So, I just need to get her away from that and back to the Zenon thing."

Storms and Smith were still kids themselves when they were working on set together, about 14 or 15 years old. During the reunion, the Everwood actor revealed that Zenon's Earth scenes were shot at the Vancouver high school he actually attended at the time.

"It was such a fun shoot. I remember we all kind of hung out together," recalled Smith, 36. "Because we shot it at my high school during the summer break, they let all a bunch of my friends be extras. So in all those scenes, that's all the kids that I palled around with growing up."

Gregory Smith and Kirsten Storms
Alamy Stock Photo

Of course, no Zoom (Zoom, Zoom) reunion would be complete without some behind-the-scenes scoop about the making of "Supernova Girl," the undeniably catchy bop Proto Zoa's band Microbe performed in the final scene.

"I think I got the song maybe the night before [shooting the scene]. The choreographer was, I think, Michael Jackson's choreographer," said Rhys, 48, who went on to star in shows like Nip/Tuck and 24. "I'm not much of a dancer. I had two left feet. So I was trying to remember the song that I had just been given, plus these dance moves."

"If you look at the video, you see the band are dancing, and I'm just really going to the left, to the right, doing a lot of pointing," he added with a laugh. "The choreography, for someone like me, was a bit tricky."

Phillip Rhys as Proto Zoa
Hal Roach Studios Inc.

Would he reprise his rocker role if Disney greenlit a fourth Zenon movie?

"Not in those leather pants, I can't," he joked. "Give me six months."

All kidding aside, "I would be down for something like that," Storms said. "I think they're rebooting a lot of the OG Disney stories, so I think that would be fun."

"There's definitely something there," Rhys added. "There's a reason why it connected with so many. It really is. The story, the sensibility, it was this universal tale. Ultimately, there's no place like home. It was almost like Wizard of Oz. She's been grounded, so she's a fish out of water, and then yet, she still gets to go back home, learning the lessons that she has done. So, everyone can identify with that."

Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century is streaming now on Disney+. Disney has been working with Feeding America to help raise awareness about the many resources available to people across America during these difficult times. You can learn more at FeedingAmerica.org/FeedTheLove and on social media using @FeedingAmerica and the hashtag #FeedTheLove.

Watch the full reunion of Disney Channel’s Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century now on PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.