Lucas Grabeel may be best known for his role as Ryan Evans in the three High School Musical movies, but this actor proves there’s definitely life after high school. The 27-year-old currently stars in a hit series on ABC Family and is also busy nurturing his growing music career.
The Missouri native talked exclusively to Celebrity Teen Scoop about his run in the successful HSM franchise, but also why his current role – as musician Toby Kennish in Switched At Birth – is closest to his heart.
Celebrity Teen Scoop: You had a great run in all of the High School Musical movies and now in Switched At Birth. How did you get started in the business?
Lucas: Growing up, I participated in a lot of musical theatre; from an early age I knew that I wanted to perform. Once I graduated high school, I moved to Los Angeles and started auditioning for film and television. I was very lucky to be cast in HSM after being in LA for just two and a half years.
CTS: The HSM franchise is such a huge boost for a young actor’s career. Tell us how it came about.
Lucas: Being a part of the HSM franchise was definitely a life-changing event – both professionally and personally. I had worked for Disney a year before on Halloweentown High (another DCOM) so I was familiar with the Disney family, but I had no idea it was going to turn out to be such a huge success. I auditioned for Kenny Ortega, the director of all three films, and some how made it through the grueling casting process and got the part. Our final callback took seven hours in total: singing duets, learning and dancing a routine, and performing scenes with multiple possible “Sharpays”.
I remember Ashley Tisdale and I having an instant sibling chemistry. A month later, when I hadn’t heard back from them I thought that it was over, but I received a call while grabbing a coffee with some friends and was excited to find out that I booked the role of Ryan Evans.
CTS: And now Switched At Birth is a big hit on ABC Family. What do you see coming up for your character Toby Kennish?
Lucas: Playing Toby Kennish has been a wonderful experience for me. He’s gone through a struggling music career, a gambling problem, and now a heart-breaking time being cheated on by his girlfriend, Simone. I hope in the future Toby can find more success with his music, forgive Simone, maybe find some new love (hint, hint), and find what makes Toby…Toby.
CTS: You also have a growing music career. What projects are you working on?
Lucas: Music has always been a huge part of my life. Singing as a youngster got me interested in acting at a very early age. Now, I’m hoping to share my music with fans and friends to show that very important side of me and my life. I recently shot a music video entitled ‘135n8’ and plan on releasing the song and the video in the next few months. I’m really excited about the song and the video.
I collaborated with HSM choreographers Chucky Klapow and Bonnie Story to create an original dance move (The 135n8) and hopefully a great video that will give people the chance to get to know another side of me.
CTS: Your music was part of the HSM soundtracks. Where else have we heard your tunes?
Lucas: I was very lucky to have the chance to write a song for Switched at Birth titled ‘Sunshine’. I performed the song in the fourth episode and it recently was replayed in one of the latest episodes. Last summer, I released an EP on iTunes (Sunshine) that included the original track, a remix, and a few other original songs I’ve written. (Produced by Eric Baines) There are more music videos of mine on the 14341 Productions YouTube channel. I have many songs that I have yet to release so who knows where they might end up in the future?
CTS: What are the challenges of switching between your music and your acting jobs?
Lucas: Focus is the most important thing in keeping an artist’s career alive and this is something that I have struggled with bouncing back and forth between the two. My main focus has always been my acting career, but I can’t let go of my musical bug. I hope to always create music and share it with anyone who is willing to listen. I try to learn as much as I can everyday in hopes that one day I can be a great storyteller. I think that’s why I act, sing, play musical instruments, dance, paint, draw, take photographs, and anything else that helps tell a story.
CTS: Of all the characters you’ve played, which one have you most closely identified with, and why?
Lucas: Since Toby Kennish is a musician, I’ve tried to remember my 17-year-old self as much as I can to play him as natural as possible. Even though there are many differences between us, (I didn’t live in a mansion, have a gambling problem, or drive a BMW) the essential mid-western qualities are still there: my heart was broken by many girls, I had a strong bond with my sister and parents, and faced a lot of the same teenage problems that Toby has faced.
CTS: Do you still keep in touch with your ‘HSM’ castmates?
Lucas: The bond that we made during the HSM experience was truly unforgettable. We were a family that spent an enormous time together. Three movies, two international tours, press appearances and interviews, and everything in between made up for a lot of time to get to know one another, and also watch each other grow. We’re all still close and cherish the time we spend together, celebrating and reminiscing about our crazy HSM days together.
CTS: Who has most profoundly influenced your career?
Lucas: I have been inspired and influenced by so many people, I don’t think I could say one person has more than all of the others. I was very involved with my community theater growing up. (Springfield Little Theater, MO) There I learned so much more than just how to perform; working in a tight-knit community of thespians helped me learn a strong work ethic, courtesy, and passion for the arts.
My parents were always so supportive in my dreams which was imperative in me seeing them to fruition. I’ve always tried to surround myself with people I thought were much more experienced and talented than I so that I could always be learning how to become better at whatever I was doing.
CTS: What exciting challenge is coming up next for Lucas Grabeel?
Lucas: I’ve been working on a new Disney Jr. animated series called Sheriff Callie’s Wild West (It will debut in the fall of 2013). It’s been so much fun being a cartoon character and I hope to do a lot more of it. I’ve always made silly voices so getting to hone that skill in the studio has been a whole new world of acting for me. Releasing 135n8 will also be an exciting challenge for me – I’m a perfectionist and making sure that video is as good as it can be will be a tough, but rewarding task.
Season 2 of Switched at Birth will start filming at the end of the month, and I cannot wait to get back together with my SAB family and make more episodes.