LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Four years ago, Miley Cyrus was a young unknown making her debut on a Disney Channel comedy series, "Hannah Montana," with her real-life father, country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, playing her dad on the show.
The premise, an average teenager named Miley Stewart who moonlights as a rock star in a blonde wig named Hannah Montana, became an instant sensation. In no time at all, Cyrus was recording "Hannah Montana" soundtracks, embarking on a "Hannah Montana" singing tour, filming a concert movie and starring in a "Hannah Montana" feature film.
Now it's all about to come to an end. When season four, titled "Hannah Montana Forever," premieres on Sunday, July 11, on Disney Channel, it will be the final one as Cyrus has been eager to do her own thing. In fact, she has started already.
Cyrus, now 17, made her non- "Hannah" feature film debut earlier this year in "The Last Song," based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. She just released her third non-"Hannah" album, "Can't be Tamed," raising eyebrows with a music video of her in skimpy outfits being groped by back-up dancers.
"I can't base my career off of the six-year-olds," Cyrus told reporters recently. "It's the 16-year-olds, the 26-year-olds I'm trying to reach for now. I have to move on."
The independently wealthy teenager just purchased her own home and said she plans to move into it after she wraps her current project, the independent film feature "LOL (Laughing Out Loud)," opposite Demi Moore.
In the film, which is based on a French movie, Cyrus plays a teenager hanging out with the wrong crowd, dabbling in drugs and questionable boys. The actress said the project is "definitely not for the 'Hannah Montana' audience."
Her father Billy Ray, whose own music career experienced a resurgence thanks to the success of the show, has a new album coming out this summer and plans to tour.
"I'm very thankful for what we've been through (with the show,)" said Billy Ray. "But it's time to turn the page."
But for one more year, their 'tween audience gets to enjoy Cyrus as "Hannah Montana." Viewers see the Stewart family move to a ranch where a horse is now part of the cast. Miley Stewart must decide if she's going to continue her Hannah persona, or join her best friend Lily in going to college.
And there will be plenty of famous guest stars including singer Sheryl Crowe, hip hop star Iyaz, Ray Liotta, Christine Taylor, Dr. Phil McGraw, Jay Leno and Kelly Ripa.
Vicki Lawrence and Dolly Parton return, with Parton singing a duet with Billy Ray. Also, expect a tribute to the military.
Yet as much as Cyrus has already mentally moved on from the show, it was her decision to come back for one more go-around, despite already fulfilling her commitment to Disney at the end of season three.
Her father said his daughter felt fans deserved another season to take the series to a conclusion, rather than leaving things open-ended.
"This year didn't have to happen, but we did it because we thought it was the right thing to do," he said. "I left it up to Miley (to decide). I'm very proud of her that she made what I consider to be a very honorable choice."
Editing by Jill Serjeant