Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, and Monique Coleman talk about the Disney Channel hit movie
We've been watching Ashley Tisdale grow up from 7th Heaven, Charmed, Malcolm in the Middle, and Still Standing. And now, on The Suite Life of Zach and Cody, Ashley plays the innocent and sweet Maddie Fitzpatrick.
Her latest movie is a complete opposite from Maddie - the conniving and sneaky Sharpay in the Disney Channel Original Movie, High School Musical. As the queen of the drama club, Sharpay and her twin brother, Ryan (Lucas Grabeel) team up to get the leads of the school play.
But Ryan and Sharpay run into a little competition from the captain of the basketball team, Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) and the newcomer, Gabrielle Montez (Vanessa Anne Hudgens). The two siblings try to make it impossible for Troy and Gabrielle to make the drama auditions by making them the same time as the big basketball game, but thanks to some help from whiz kid, Taylor (Monique Coleman), it all works out in the end.
We spoke with Zac and Vanessa before, so check out what Ashley, Lucas, and Monique had to say:
When did you find out both of you were in this movie?
Ashley Tisdale: We kind of actually didn't know that one another auditioned for this. It wasn't until she was walking in the hallway and I saw her in Utah.
Monique Coleman: It was crazy
What was it like off the set, hanging out?
Ashley Tisdale: It was so much fun.
Lucas Grabeel: There was so much down time on sets anyway, "hurry up and wait," so there was a lot. We had two weeks of basically hang out time and bonding time while we were doing our dance rehearsals - rigorous rehearsals all day long, and you're kind of taking a water break or whatever and just hanging out, which was a great chance to connect and gel with everybody before we actually had a camera on us starting to film things. So by the time we started to shoot, we knew each other pretty well.
Monique Coleman: It was a great group of people, the dancers as well. There were some of the dancers that would show us the serious dance moves.
Lucas Grabeel: There were 600 dancers at the auditions to get down to 28.
Monique Coleman: Yeah, it was fantastic, and they were really exceptional, so that's what we'd do.
Ashley Tisdale: I think for the hanging out, you know, it was not the norm that our producer would actually take us out to the planetariums and the movies and Kenny Ortega would put together Teen Club Night where we all got to dance and stuff, having a little club scene just for us and the dancers. That was really cool and I think that's why the experience was so amazing and maybe why this movie has become so successful because they saw how much fun we were having.
Were there cliques on set and could you relate to that?
Ashley Tisdale: It was kind of funny because when we would eat lunch, there were certain tables where people would sit at. It was hysterical because like "stick to status quo." We'd never know where to sit at which table, but everybody was really great. There were some people who were kind of really close. I mean, for me, I relate to it from my high school experience. In high school, there definitely were tons of cliques; I was at the point where I had just moved here, so I didn't really fit in, and I'd mingle with everybody. But that's where I totally relate to this movie.
Monique Coleman: I think we were pretty good about being ourselves, honestly, which is sort of the opposite of what a clique necessarily represents. When it was the appropriate time to hang out with, to be professional, we were always professional. But on days there would be times that I didn't even see them. They'd be spending so much time together shooting and things would go on, so I think we did a decent job of being where we were supposed to be when we were supposed to be there. And when it came time to get together, we did do group things.
Ashley Tisdale: Because in movies, you do everything separate. Where on a show, we see each other all the time because it's -
Monique Coleman: Dinner with your friends. I think cliques are sort of negative to me because it sounds like there's sort of a rivalry or 'this versus that.' Yes, we hung out in separate groups; yes, we hung out with specific individuals among ourselves, but overall there was not any sort of animosity between the groups. We all liked each other and respected one another.
Who was the best dancer?
Monique Coleman: Corbin (Blue).
Ashley Tisdale: I think Corbin; he's not here, but Corbin, yes.
So he's done more with dancing in it?
Ashley Tisdale: He grew up with dancing.
Monique Coleman: He danced with Debbie Allen when he was a kid.
Did he help you guys out?
Ashley Tisdale: We all worked with one another. We all danced and goofed off together and stuff.
Monique Coleman: But yeah, he's amazing and he's just fun to watch. And next would be Lucas.
Lucas Grabeel: Yeah.
Ashley Tisdale: I have to say the one who most improved was Zac Efron, though.
Monique Coleman: Oh yeah, he was definitely the most improved. No, he wasn't that bad. But he wasn't the suavest thing on two feet.
Ashley Tisdale: It's cool to see how much everybody accomplished when you do all the process together and see, "Wow, look how well he's done," like Zac with basketball and dance and stuff. But I was kind of uncoordinated too, so I wasn't really the best dancer.
Lucas Grabeel: We helped her.
Ashley Tisdale: Actually Lucas helped me look good.
Monique Coleman: And Corbin made me look good.
What bands and groups you listening to?
Ashley Tisdale: Billy Joel, the Beach Boys to musical theater to pop, Backstreet Boys. It goes everywhere. Yeah I do, I like Backstreet Boys.
Monique Coleman: It changes every day: old school music, Donny Hathaway, Al Green
Lucas Grabeel (to Monique): Bill Withers.
Monique Coleman: Ooh, back down, Bill Withers. At the same time I listen to that, I also listen to OutKast, Black Eyed Peas, Beyonce.
Ashley Tisdale: Black Eyed Peas, love them.
Lucas Grabeel: I do like people who are popular across the years and stuff like that, but I'm not a big pop music fan. I don't listen to the radio unless it's KCRW, like Booka Shade. Yeah, like weird music is what I'm really into right now. But I like anything really. There's just so much. I buy new music almost every day, so there's so much coming in that I don't even have time to listen to something more that twice.
Do you have any college plans?
Ashley Tisdale: Right now, I think that we're doing what - we went to regular school and had that experience and seeing what we love to do. Acting is everything to me; it's what I've always wanted to do. I may never have this chance to do what I'm doing right now. So I guess right now I'm going to do as much as I can with it. Maybe one day down the road I'll maybe go to college for writing because I love to write. But this is all I want to do.
Lucas Grabeel: I graduated high school three years ago, packed up my car and drove out. I always had the intention actually to go to college, but once I was a junior in high school, I made the decision that I wasn't going to go. And then I never really thought about going then; I just don't fit into the schooling thing. But my school is over the break; I took a trip to Europe and it wasn't a touristy trip that you might take in college. It was a cultural experience extravaganza where we just traveled around. And that's what I like to do more than anything, just soak up, rather than be taught.
What's the best reaction you've had for somebody who's recognized you?
Monique Coleman (to Lucas): Can I tell it this time?
Lucas Grabeel: You tell it.
Monique Coleman: Okay, it involves both of us. Lucas and I were standing on the street corner in New York. I was buying earrings and he was doing an interview (on the phone) and a couple girls walked by and started screaming. The girl proceeded to say that she gave up High School Musical for Lent. Lucas was like, "You what? Wait, how did you -"
Lucas Grabeel: She watched it every day, and she had to stop.
Monique Coleman: She wasn't doing her homework.
Lucas Grabeel: But the funniest part about it was I was on the phone doing an interview, and the woman asked me, "So do you get recognized often?" I'm like, "Not really." And that second, the girl was like, "Oh, that's him; he's in High School Musical!" I was like, 'Yes.' And the girl (on the phone) was like, "Are you being recognized right now?" "Yeah."
Monique Coleman: Depends on what you mean by recognize.
What about you, Ashley?
Ashley Tisdale: There are so many different stories. The ones that are the funniest are when they're really young, like the three-year-olds. Because, first of all, three years old, I was amazed that this little girl actually could talk very well and do some of the dance moves. So when she said to me - and she was performing for me - when she said, "Where's Ryan?" It was three-year-old. I couldn't believe a three-year-old was going, "Where's Ryan?" I was like, "Well, he's coming down" because we were at Disney building. But the fact that she knew the character's name at three-years-old was amazing to me.
What next besides the High School Musical sequel?
Ashley Tisdale: Suite Life second season and meeting with record labels. I'm going to be doing my own album.
Lucas Grabeel: I'm doing Halloweentown 4 for Disney Channel; I did Number 3 two years ago, a year before High School Musical, so doing Number 4.
Monique Coleman: I'm not sure yet; I'm probably going to continue recurring on The Suite Life of Zach and Cody with Ashley and just looking for other projects.
What do you want next for High School Musical character?
Ashley Tisdale: Sharpay will get revenge.
But she was friendly at the end?
Ashley Tisdale: Oh yeah, she's like on the borderline. She's ready to; I think she needs some revenge.
Lucas Grabeel: I told Kenny while doing the first one that Ryan would break away from Sharpay and leave a little note saying, "I'm leaving you, good luck" or whatever and go to Broadway and try and make it.
Monique Coleman: But then you wouldn't be in the movie.
Lucas Grabeel: I'm kidding.
Monique Coleman: I just want to dance; I would love to, I don't know why I would.
Ashley Tisdale: It's a musical.
Monique Coleman: So it doesn't really have to make sense. Maybe I can dance with some chemistry, like the basketball number Get'cha Head in the Game. Like Don't Burn Up the Lab; I would like to have a big dance number.
Do you have any advice for kids?
Monique Coleman: Do your own thing; always follow your dreams and don't feel limited by what someone prescribes to you as to what you should do. Expand your horizons, try new things, be adventurous.
Lucas Grabeel: Really believe in yourself and believe in your product or whatever you're product is, whatever makes you happy and believe that whatever you think about is going to happen. Thinking and believing are two different things, so believe it, and it will come true.
Ashley Tisdale: I have to say, "Follow your dreams," too. Just keep going, no matter what. You're going to have some bad days and some good days, but whatever you want to do, you will eventually get there if you just work really hard at it.
Lucas Grabeel: The audition rate is horrible in the industry; auditioning thousands of times before you get something. I mean, I've been down to $3 to my name and eating Ramen noodles, living out of my car basically, so -
Monique Coleman: And work really hard; it seems like this is all an overnight success, which it is, in a sense attached to this one project. But each of us has been acting for over ten years, and it can be seen in a number of projects. And there's some teacher that can tell us what we were like when you're eight and ten, and this is something we've worked really hard to do. So when you figure out what it is, study it. Don't think that you can just rely on natural talent because there are going to be times when you get a little tired and that's when your skills come into play to help you make it look easy.
Lucas Grabeel: And don't just learn one thing; learn everything about whatever you're going into. If you want to be an actor, if you want to be on Broadway, hang lights, sweep floors, sell tickets, be an usher, do everything that you can because that's where you learn your character and your craft.
Monique Coleman: You understand what goes into it, which is part of the reason why we appreciate this so much is that we don't really take credit for it. I think it's exciting that we get to be on the cover of a book! But at the same time we understand the role that everyone played in doing this with the director and producers and down to the designing and the costuming. I mean, everyone is commenting on Lucas' hats, but Tom McKinley is the phenomenal wardrobe designer who, together they came up with that concept.
What's your favorite musical?
Monique Coleman: Big River.
Lucas Grabeel: Sweeney Todd.
Ashley Tisdale: Phantom of the Opera.
Ashley, do you enjoy being good in The Suite Life of Zach and Cody or the villain in this?
Ashley Tisdale: Yeah, for someone that I play every week, I definitely like being the girl next door. But it's just fun to redeem yourself and wear tons of cute clothes and get out of the uniform. That's fun, and when we were actually done with the movie, I was kind of sad about it. We didn't know if there was going to be a sequel, but before the movie came out, they actually had talked about it. So I was like, "I'm going to miss Sharpay," but now that I'm going to get to do it again, I'm very excited.
What was your first reaction when you saw the completed movie?
Ashley Tisdale: I think I started crying. It was just so like, I don't know; you had this feeling. It was just like so exciting. For me, this is my first movie; I'm so used to doing TV, so I saw it and I was like, "Oh my gosh, it looks like a movie." Well, it is.
But your first was Donnie Darko.
Ashley Tisdale: Yeah, but that was a day player, so I shot it for a day, and I had two lines. So it was like when I watched movies, I was like, "I wonder if I can take on a role that's that big and be able to kind of accomplish something like that." So that was really cool.
But did you have a clue that it was going to be this big?
Lucas Grabeel: No.
Monique Coleman: Even at this moment I think that these things just kind of happen. You learn by experiencing it. There's nothing that anybody could have told us to prepare you for anything like this.
Lucas Grabeel: Definitely.
Do you act the same way with your siblings, like Ryan and Sharpay do?
Ashley Tisdale: I actually think that they got along really well in this movie.
Lucas Grabeel: My sister bossed me around a lot, so I know how that feels.
Ashely Tisdale: My dad was watching, and he was like, "You guys look like you're having way too much fun as brother and sister; is that weird?" I was like I think it's because we're twins in the movie - they never really say that, but we are twins. So they are kind of inseparable and that's why it came across as we were having fun. However, me and my sister, I don't have a brother, so Lucas is the brother I never had.
You can check out all the singing and dancing in High School Musical - anytime you want; it hits store shelves May 23rd.