–SO-M had the chance to chat with Corbin Bleu recently to promote his new movie. Corbin stars as “Cale Bryant” in the new movie Free Style, which opens today. The story is about a young man working to achieve his dream of being a professional motocross racer, but also dealing with the hardships of life, including love, money and friendship. The movie is full of action and also touches on several issues that every one can relate to. The movie co-stars Madison Pettis, Penelope Anne Miller & Sandra Echeverria. For a list of theaters playing the movie, go HERE.
Check out our interview below as Corbin talks about the movie, “The Beautiful Life,” music, transitioning from “High School Musical” and more.
After making this movie, do you have an interest in motocross?
Corbin: I have a bike. I got a bike. As long as I’m not under contract for something at the time, I definitely push my limits and try to go out there and ride and do as much as I can. I’ve become obsessed with the sport. I go out to all the races. I have a bike and I go out and ride all the time. I have a Kawasaki 250x.
Can you do any tricks?
Corbin: Actually yeah. I’m getting more into it. It takes a while. I’m jumping now. I can alteast make a single jump, which is a lot for me. It’s great and I love the sport. It’s really family oriented. You go to these races and the entire family is there. Really supported. It’s needed because it’s a such an expensive sport and really only the top 5 riders in the World really have a sufficient paycheck.
This story is amazing because it’s a guy who’s father left him as a kid. He’s caring for his mother and his sister. He works two jobs just to put food on the table and at the same time he’s trying to turn pro in the sport. It’s hard and there’s so many obstacles in the way. The fact that he actually gets it done and he makes it there is pretty powerful. It’s so rare and it’s a lot to break into the sport.
We hear you dropped snowballs and ice on people.
Corbin: We were dealing with the elements constantly. There was schizophrenic weather. I think mainly snowball fights were a constant. Especially with Madison. It’s so much fun having someone younger on set. It just brings such a pleasant vibe.
Your production company worked on ‘Free Style’. Were you part of casting?
Corbin: I was. I was part of all the casting, which was great. Madison [Pettis] was almost an automatic. I had met her a few times prior at events. We would go, we have to play brother and sister at some point because this is just ridiculous. [laughs] That was a definite. Then looking for the girl. We auditioned a lot of different girls. The whole Mexican culture of the film wasn’t originally in the script. We were looking at a bunch of different girls, then Sandra [Echeverria] walked in the room. At the very beginning she was too beautiful. She came in all dressed up. We called her for a callback we said come dressed down. You’re gorgeous, you’re stunning. We wanted her to play a little more edgy than she came in. We read, the chemistry was there and she had the accent, which was great.
That also propelled the movie to a whole other level. Obviously we had the racial thing. We definitely wanted to cast my mother and father as an interracial couple. Then a whole other culture was brought in with her being Mexican and him being thrown into this crazy world with a fiesta and her whole culture. It’s a very mixed world.
There are so many different layers in this movie, not just about the sport. What did you draw on for these emotional scenes.
Corbin: I’ve always gone back to friends. Friends in high school, in my life. I have several friends that have grown up with single parents, no parents, have struggled financially, that have dealt with everything. I’ve been very blessed my whole life. I have a very put together family. They’re very close and tight knit. When I was born we struggled financially but we’ve been very blessed now. You always pull from that. You pull from the synthetic. It’s not always from life experiences. That’s why everywhere you go as an actor, you’re always watching, always listening. You never know when you’ll have to experience that same thing in a role. It was definitely different but I enjoyed it. It gave me an appreciation as well for what I have.
What would you consider the lowest point in your life and how you overcame it, because that’s a big theme of this film.
Corbin: I’m very self critical, more so than most people. I can get very down on myself at some points. I think for me the lowest point is when, I’m so much a perfectionist, I make a big thing out of things that aren’t really such a big deal. Overcoming it has always been family and that’s one of the major themes in this film. The people around you are the ones who are going to bring you through.
How was it transitioning from High School Musical into a film like this?
Corbin: It’s still a family film, something for everyone. Cale is still a little more complex than Chad. Chad is happy with his basketball. I think the major transition for this film for me was working behind the scenes. My production company was behind the film. I got to work on the casting, finding the location. Every day we’d regroup and figure out how the next day would go. It was different. The battle between the business end and the creative side is also a challenge.
How has your experience with Disney helped your career?
Corbin: I started working when I was 2. I’ve been in this industry for a while. “High School Musical” was the first project that was obviously huge. That skyrocketed to another level. I was able to view it from a different perspective then. The major thing with working with Disney was obviously propelling me to that level that I’d never experienced before with fans. At this point there is just a lot more opportunities at hand.
Do you prefer to be seen as an “actor who sings” or a “singer who acts?”
Corbin: I prefer to be viewed as an entertainer. I think an entertainer who is someone who does it all. I mean, Gene Kelly never had to choose.
How is it working with your dad?
Corbin: Great. So awesome. This is the 3rd time we’ve played father and son so it’s become this run on joke. Every role that we’ve played with each other has been very different. He’s a dead beat dad in this one [Free Style] and I’m supposed to look in his eyes and act like I haven’t seen him in years. That was definitely a little stranger. We’re father and son though, we’re business partners, we’re friends. It’s wonderful.
Do you have any siblings?
Corbin: I have 3 younger sisters. When you see Madison [Pettis] with us, you’d have no idea she wasn’t part of our family. It’s like a big blur or hair.
Your HSM co-stars like Zac & Vanessa have made it clear they don’t want to be on facebook, twitter, etc. How would you describe your fans and how much personal obligation do you feel to be in direct contact with them?
Corbin: Your fans are the people who support you. As a person in our industry, that’s what we thrive on. We thrive on the response. That’s the whole theater thing. You’re up on the stage and you get that automatic response and that’s what you live for. You live for that applause and praise. Otherwise, why do you make the work if there’s no one else to see it. Who are you making it for? Yuu’re making it to be able to connect with people. We’re very lucky to have fans and have people that connect to our work. For me, I love having my fans. I do what I can to reach out to them. I do have a twitter account. For me, it’s not necessarily to tell everyone that “I’m going to take a p***,” but it’s to keep them updated on what’s going on. Every once in a while I do get the chance to have a specific connection with one single fan and have a conversation back and forth with them. I also have a Saynow and you get to talk to fans and leave messages. You get feedback and you know how they’re feeling and you know that you’re atleast talking to someone.
The feedback has been mixed. My real fans they get it. They’re along for the ride and they know I just want to do it all. I want to have an array of different characters and continue in my music as well. And of course there are the skeptics that know me in the light of HSM and don’t really know if they can see anything different.
That’s what was wonderful about the show I did, “The Beautiful Life.” Obviously it was a very different character, much more mature and the content was a little bit more racy. A few people were a little more in shock. All in all, I’m 20 years old and even though HSM is in a very wholesome light, and I’m very much a family oriented guy, I like things to be positive, but at the same time there is certain content that, it’s not like it exists. I go through it myself.
When did you get the call about TBL being cancelled?
Corbin: Last night [Sept 25] on the set. It was a surprising moment. I was lucky enough to have the last scene of the day. I was lucky enough to have the last scene of the show actually. It was with Natalie and we finished our scene. I was literally packing up to go home and have a weekend. They all came out screaming “It’s been cancelled.” I’m a person, it was a wonderful experience, I got to work with great people. I got to show my audience and other people that I can do something different. But overall I just got up and went, “I need to go take off my makeup.” I went and took off my makeup and went “What are we doing? Let’s go home. Let’s go have some fun.” I invest whatever I have can into whatever project I’m working on at the time. I’ve always been raised to move on. You can’t linger on that. Even from auditioning, you go into an audition and you forget about it. You can only do your best work.
What was it like performing for the First Lady and her daughters?
Corbin: I never would have imagined. It was definitely a great moment but at the same time a whirlwind. When I’m on stage, adrenaline just takes over and I just go. Then I look back at the video and I’m like, I really went down there and shook Michelle Obama’s hand. Wow. I think that’s the best part about this job. It’s given me some wonderful experiences. I’ve toured all over the year, gotten to play in stadiums in Brazil to over 70,000 people. It’s been an experience.
Do you prefer acting or singing?
Corbin: I grew up doing all of it. They’re so different. They’re connected at the same time, but I feel whenever I’m working on an album in a studio, it’s very introverted in a way. You only work with 2 or 3 people. With a film, there’s the crew, the cast, there’s a whole thing. The production, there’s a lot more going on.
Corbin: There’s a couple films we’re working on right now [with my production company]. There’s a couple of other projects in the work. Nothing quite set in stone yet, I don’t want to give away too much.
Are you looking for more dramatic roles?
Corbin: Definitely. That’s actually the films that are coming up, there’s a few very dark stories.
Would you ever want to rejoin the cast of HSM?
Corbin: I’m sure down the road, we’ll end up doing, not necessarily HSM, but just being able to work with the actors again. We’ve all grown up with each other for 3 or 4 years. It was a huge turning point in our lives. We all went through it together. I’m sure we will.
We all still talk. We’re all working on different things and in different places. I caught up with Monique just last week.
How will your next album sound?
Corbin: The sound is going to be different for sure. More rock. I’m a huge rock fan. Rock and roll is timeless to me. I feel like the rock gods of the world. My favorite artist has always been Michael Jackson. I’ve always been a huge fan. Even though he was considered the King of Pop, there is so much rock influence. When you have Slash playing guitar on your song, c’mon. At this point in my music career, I don’t want to do music if it’s not going to be right. I’m not rushed to make an album. I just want to take my time and make music.