Portrayed by: Madison Reyes
Show: Netflix’s Julie and The Phantoms
Netflix’s Julie and The Phantoms was a breath of fresh air in every way, primarily because of its brightest star—Julie Molina. As a character, Julie’s journey was one too relatable and too heartbreaking, and though the series was unfortunately canceled too early, Julie’s impact is still profoundly inspirational.
At its crux, the series is about grief and healing. It’s about what happens when human beings lose their voice and how the people standing beside them act as lights guiding them toward their strength. Grief changes people—it stays with us for the rest of our lives no matter where we go or what we become, and for people who are like those they’ve lost, the loss is even more colossal. It’s never easy to lose a parent, but it’s especially not easy for a teenage girl in the prime of her adolescent years to lose a mother. In all her pain and suffering, Julie Molina was the feeling of warmth personified. She was funny, brave, and so very gifted in all that she stood for, and in the show’s final few moments, we see her selflessness in a beautifully captivating manner.
Julie Molina: The Bright Brilliant Light
There’s a reason why “Wake Up” is the perfect song for Julie to sing for the first time. As viewers, it’s not only our introduction to her indescribable voice but also the kickstart to her musical journey and the showcase of her losses. There’s an undeniable fire in Julie, and the first glimpses we get of it are from the conversations others like her father, Ray (Carlos Ponce), and her brother, Carlos (Sonny Bustamante), have about her as well as her best friend Flynn (Jadah Marie). These moments tell us that the loss dimmed something profoundly explosive in Julie, and “Wake Up” shows them in a cathartic form that allows us to see every glimmer of who she is in a single frame.
Julie Molina is a beautiful, bright young woman with a heart full of light and the sunshine behind her metaphorically shows us everything that’s bursting within her. Thus, as we watch her finally navigate through finding her voice and dealing with ghostly figures, we watch her try. We watch her grow and evolve and try to mold alongside her grief, keeping her mother’s memory alive as much as she can here on earth. The thing about being an adult and watching someone like Julie in High School is that it’s almost inevitable not to wonder how you would’ve seen her if you were still her age. (The high school version of me would’ve not only adored her, but she’d be one of my biggest inspirations, I’m sure of it.)
Related Content: Scene Breakdown: Julie Sings “Wake Up” for the First Time on ‘Julie and the Phantoms’
People like Julie are always willing to show up for others, even when they’re breaking inside. While their hearts are in shambles, and even when they’re physically unable to move forward, they still carry themselves so that others won’t worry about them. She acted as though she was fine without music so her family wouldn’t be concerned, and like her mother, it was always about those in front of her—the people she cared for—the ones she felt she needed to protect. But at some point, grief demands that you be selfish in order to learn to live with it. Sometimes you have to take steps back and run around in circles until you find the means to carry forward toward somewhat of a linear path.
Julie and The Phantoms had a riveting premise, but it worked because it allowed its characters to be innately human. Julie, as a high school girl, got to have crushes, argue with her best friend, and then go on to perform at the Orpheum. Despite the obscurities of her surroundings, her story felt real because she was written to represent a plethora of girls. Julie’s determined, so very firm in her opinions (as most kids her age are), and brilliantly loyal. And her loyalty is the trait that’s most admirable about her because it becomes clear from that first episode that having someone like her in your corner is the best thing imaginable. Julie’s giving heart is enormous, and once you’re in, it’s permanent. On a show like Julie and The Phantoms and with a leading character like Julie Molina, it’s evident by the end of the season that someday, she would’ve even opened her heart back to Carrie (Savannah Lee May). And that journey could’ve been a beautiful thing for us to witness.
In the season finale, Julie’s willingness to do everything she can to ensure the boys stop hurting is something that’s stayed with me for a while. There’s so much dedication in her to set them free, even if it’s at the expense of losing people again. The choice explicitly shows how much she’s willing to give to make life easier for those she loves, even if she suffers over and over. Telling the boys that she’d rather they join Caleb’s club than deal with the electrocuting shocks or, worse, not existing is something she’d be more willing to give to them.
But the thing is, when it comes to a character like Julie Molina, there’s only so much we can say about how she’s written because so much of what we see comes from Madison Reyes as an actress. (I’ll never not be amazed that this was her first role. It still makes me so weepy.) Reyes conveyed warmth and heart in a way that’s so acutely organic that it cut you deep when she exhibited any sort of pain or agony. Because in every way where it matters, you believed her—you believe how much Julie cares about her friends, you see the love deep inside her, and you understand that there’s so much she wants to give. Reyes gives with just as much passion as is bursting inside the character, and when she sings, far more is brought to the surface.
Related Content: Relationship Deep Dive: Julie and The Phantoms
We understood a great deal about Julie in a single season because Reyes chose to layer her with tremendous heart and zeal. She showed us all sides of joy through her lively performances and the passion in every obstacle she tackled. Reyes cared deeply about the character, and watching her bring Julie to our screens was so perfectly rewarding, it made her a memorable character for years to come.