maria canals nia vardalos 'Larry Crowne's' Maria Canals Barrera hearts Tom HanksMaria Canals-Barrera is a seasoned actress with a regular gig on one of Disney’s biggest shows (“The Wizards of Waverly Place”), but she still got a little nervous when she found herself in front of a camera with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts on the set of “Larry Crowne.” It didn’t help that Hanks was also behind the camera, but Canals-Barrera soon got over her jitters.

“He’s so down to earth and makes everybody feel comfortable,” Canals-Barrera tells Zap2it. “I mean, I’m aware that it’s Tom Hanks! — but you don’t stay in that place.”

Still the actress — who plays another student in the public speaking class Hanks’ character is taking at community college — calls the experience surreal.

“It was like a master class in acting for all the other actors in the class room,” said Canals-Barrera of working with Hanks and Roberts.

larry crowne2 'Larry Crowne's' Maria Canals Barrera hearts Tom Hanks

“These are two of the biggest stars in the world — and that’s not lost on me,” she says. “But the fact that they are so about the work is why they are so successful.”

After she auditioned for the role, the actress says she was worried that her day job as a “Disney mom” would be held against her.

“My husband David said, ‘Maria, this is Tom Hanks, he was in ‘Bosom Buddies.’ He’s not going to hold that against you. You’re talking to a real actor who knows that you can play all kinds of roles.'”

“And I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re right.’ He was terrific in drag in ‘Bosom Buddies.’ And he gives everything that kind of passion and that kind of all. It’s wonderful to see you can be that successful and still be that much of a risk taker. He’s a very special person.”

Posted by:Liz Kelly Nelson