Staying true to form by continuing to throw the audience for a curve, even well established characters like Troy haven’t exactly got everything all figured out.

“For Troy, he’s always been this very average kid going through high school, but now his hidden talents are really starting to emerge,” shares Efron. “Troy’s got a lot to balance now: his basketball career, a newfound love of singing and acting, and then of course his girl, Gabriella. Now more than ever before, he’s wondering what will happen to everyone after high school. And you just don’t know.”

Yet even with all the questioning, there’s still optimism. “Taylor isn’t a conflicted character,” says HSM writer Peter Barsocchini. “She sees no boundaries to what she can achieve, and she’s willing to do the work. We’ve had thousands of letters from parents who say ‘thank you’ for having a character who does her homework. She’s got her eye on the prize.”

Realism and Old-Fashioned Values

Unlike popular teen programming like the recent update of TV’s Beverly Hills 90210 or the CW’s Gossip Girl, these high school students’ experiences aren’t heavy on the sex or innuendo, something of which the cast is particularly proud.

“Even their prom has an old-fashioned feel with a waltz being the centerpiece,” Hudgens shares. “No one is wearing revealing clothes or trying to be all sexy. There’s an innocence there that’s a good example for our audience. And being role models, that’s really important to us.”

And for Hudgens, the HSM experience also gave the home-school graduate an opportunity to experience the defining events of high school. “I’ve never been to a prom, so through a movie I got to experience my prom. I also never went to graduation, but I got to wear a cap and gown.”

Also making the long hours well worth it, was a pervasive sense of family-like closeness with the cast. While “everyone getting along” is the stuff of positive promotion for a film, especially one targeted toward the tween and teen audience, it’s difficult to be cynical about the cast’s camaraderie when each and every one of them describes the others as “family.”

“You can’t beat a job where you get to work with your best friends every single day,” says Tisdale. “I love each and every one of the people in the movie, and when we were shooting the last scene, that definitely showed because we were all in tears and needed a couple of hours to gain our composure and get our makeup redone. It was a really emotional moment.”

Life After High School

Yet with such career-defining experiences under the belts, the principal actors are still eager to venture into new, uncharted territory with more adult roles.

“Like many of the characters in HSM, I struggled to find my place. For a long time, I had no idea I wanted to be an actor,” says Efron. “But once I found the thing I love to do so much, I’m excited about what the future holds.”

Efron recently wrapped production on two movies. His most recent work was in Richard Linklater film Me and Orson Welles, a fitting role, given that it’s an adaptation of the coming-of-age novel by Robert Kaplow. Then in a flick where he gets to flex his comedic chops, Efron plays a 36-year-old in need of a major life change who in Big fashion, wakes up in the body of a high school senior. And if that wasn’t enough to keep his day-planner jam-packed, he’s also rumored to be starring in a remake of Footloose.

But for those wondering if Efron and Co. will ever return for more of the dancing movies that made them all famous in the first place, well, never say never. According to HSM director Kenny Ortega, more movies are in the works, although the details are yet to be confirmed.

“We just finished this one, so nothing has been finalized yet. There’s no script,” Ortega shares. “All I know for sure is that it definitely won’t be College Musical.”

And so the reign of the Wildcats continues. …


Starring Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Corbin Bleu and Monique Colman, Walt Disney Pictures' High School Musical 3:  Senior Year opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, October 24, 2008.