THE TISDALE BRAND OF MUSIC AND FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT
by Paul Fischer
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At a very youthful 26, Ashley Tisdale is one of the most popular entertainers of her generation. The pretty actress/singer rose to popularity as a result of the High School Musical franchise, and has since become a singer/songwriter and actress beyond that popular franchise. In the family adventure/comedy Aliens in the Attic, Tisdale co-stars as the older sibling who, along with her younger brother, discovers aliens have landed in their vacation home and are intent on conquering the world. The film was shot on location in New Zealand whose capital city, Auckland, doubles for parts of Michigan. Frank, funny and intelligent, the actress talks music and success to PAUL FISCHER.
ASHLEY TISDALE: Yeah. You know, I read the script, and I thought that obviously it was the same audience as the other movies that I’ve come from. You know, it’s a family movie, and I thought it was really great for my audience. I also – you know, I was hesitant at first on doing it. They asked me to do the movie, and I kind of just like – “I don’t know.” You know, I re wanted to know what the aliens were going to look like, and I wanted to know who was starring in the movie, just because if Carter’s character, my younger brother, was younger, it would just be a very young, young movie. Where when they told me Carter Jenkins signed on, I loved him in the show called Surface on NBC, and I was super-excited. I think he’s a great actor. And so I signed onto it. It was an honor. I mean, Barry Josephson, who’s produced Enchanted and Men in Black, I knew CGI would be a piece of cake with him, because he’s really good at that. But, you know, it’s different from the musical movies. It’s an action comedy. Had a great cast – Doris Roberts, Kevin Nealon, Andy Richter. I’ve learned so much from them. And yeah, I think all of that together made me want to do it.
QUESTION: What about reacting to all the special effects? How intimidating was that for you?
ASHLEY TISDALE: I’m never intimidated by that stuff. I’m always – you know, I think stuff that I’m attracted to is always challenging, just because I like to challenge myself, and see what I’ve accomplished. But yeah, you know, the CGI, I was just going to be like, “How is this going to work? Are we doing green screen?” And we didn’t really do green screen. It was all usually where we were filming, and we had a green screen — well, not green screen. But it’s like, a green duffy. Or, stuffy, I mean. [LAUGHTER] Stuffy. Like, a doll.
QUESTION: A what?
ASHLEY TISDALE: A stuffy. It’s like a bean bag kind of doll that was the alien, and they’d just move it around, and you’d react off of it. So, yeah, there were some times where I was nervous, just because I was only there for five weeks. I had to come back for High School Musical III, where they were there for six months. And because they’re all younger, at a certain time they were not allowed to work. And I would be at 2:00 in the morning reacting off of the Doris Roberts and Robert Hoffman fight, and I’d be looking at the crew members. [LAUGHTER] So. That kind of made me nervous. But I saw the movie, and I think it came together really well.
QUESTION: Your character actually tells off her boyfriend because he bad-mouths her family at one point. That’s one of the reasons. I wondered how important it is to you that your family likes somebody that you date. When you bring them home, do you want them to like them?
ASHLEY TISDALE: Oh, yeah. I can’t date anybody unless I bring them home to meet my Dad first. So. They’re very overprotective parents. But, yeah, I do like that part, obviously, in the movie, where Bethany kind of sees the true colors, and sticks up for her family. And I think that – you know, I’m someone who always wants my parents to be really proud of me. And so yeah, I tend to want them to approve of people I’m with.
QUESTION: Ashley, you were only in New Zeaqland for a short time. Did you get to see any of Auckland, or spend some time just exploring New Zealand at all?
ASHLEY TISDALE: Yeah. I mean, every weekend, we were going to a different island, and going to a different beach and hanging out. The whole cast would hang out all the time. So, it was definitely a lot of fun, and even though I worked in those five weeks every single day – you know, it was just like, “Whoa. I thought I was just co-starring in this movie.” Because I was working every day. But then obviously, it’s cool how it looks. Because it looks like I’m there the entire time, and I really wasn’t, which is awesome.
QUESTION: What was the most fun thing that you saw down there, in New Zealand?
ASHLEY TISDALE: There’s a band called Good Night Nurse out there, that I fell in love with. And they were with my record label, Warner Brothers, as well. And so it was just re lucky that they were performing the weekend before I was leaving. So the whole cast, we all went down there, and we got to see them perform, and we got to meet them. It was an outside concert. It was really cool.
QUESTION: How are you able to balance your music with your acting? Are you finding that a challenge?
ASHLEY TISDALE: I don’t – balancing it’s not a challenge. I think the challenge is people taking me seriously for my music, and making it – obviously, you know, there are two separate things to me. I grew up on Broadway and did musical theatre my whole life, so music’s always been something that’s part of my life. And I’m very creative, and – you know, I co-write my music. The second album, Guilty Pleasure, which comes out July 28, is who I am.
QUESTION: How so? What are the themes?
ASHLEY TISDALE: Well, a lot of break-up songs. [LAUGHTER] –
QUESTION: Is it one break-up song per relationship?
ASHLEY TISDALE: Yeah, exactly. No, they’re usually about one guy. But. [LAUGHTER] I think – you know, the first one, I was just getting to know, as an artist, what it was like. Obviously, you know, recording. Where the second one – Warner Brothers Records lets me be very creative. So I got to take control over it. It’s very personal to me. I was not trying to make it personal, but it turned out to be personal. And everything behind the album is all my idea. So that’s what – you know, it makes you a little bit vulnerable, obviously. But I’m excited.
QUESTION: You’ve written most of the songs on this album?
ASHLEY TISDALE: I co-wrote four of the songs on the album.
QUESTION: Why Guilty Pleasure?
ASHLEY TISDALE: Because I’m hoping to be your guilty pleasure. [LAUGHTER]
QUESTION: What does that mean, exactly?
ASHLEY TISDALE: You don’t know what that means? [LAUGHTER]
QUESTION: What are your guilty pleasures?
ASHLEY TISDALE: My guilty pleasure would probably be alien movies. [LAUGHTER] And – coffee. [LAUGHTER] I like – I do like designer handbags. That’s a guilty pleasure of mine. And shoes.
QUESTION: One of your bags right now?
ASHLEY TISDALE: Probably my Givenchy bag, my new favorite.
QUESTION: So, Ashley, did you have any fears about what was up in the attic when you were a kid? I imagine you have a pretty active imagination, being in a creative field.
ASHLEY TISDALE: Yeah.
QUESTION: But, what did you think about stuff like that?
ASHLEY TISDALE: I didn’t have an attic, I had a basement. Because I grew up in New Jersey when I was younger. This is going to be – this is really scary. I thought Chucky was down there. Because my friend, at eight or seven years old, told me, like, “Let’s watch Child’s Play.” And I thought it was, like, a doll movie. Like, a good movie. So after watching that, I was scared. So scared. So I wouldn’t go down in the basement, because I thought maybe he was roaming around down there. And a girl who had many dolls, it really freaked me out. So, yeah. [LAUGHTER]
QUESTION: Do you think that we’ve seen the last of the High School Musical franchise, or do you think that that’s – what’s going on with that?
ASHLEY TISDALE: Oh, no. I think there’s a High School Musical IV. I think they’re continuing the franchise. We’re just not a part of it. They’re just doing a whole new cast. So, I think that it’s something that – the movie’s bring a lot of positive excitement to kids, and I think that it’s really great, and to keep going with it, for sure. You know, obviously we had a great time doing it.
QUESTION: Are you doing another family movie? Do you like this kind of genre, or do you want to break out and do something a bit more adult now?
ASHLEY TISDALE: You know, I think that I’m not trying to run away from the audience, but I am getting older. You know, I’m 24.
QUESTION: Really? You’re 24?
ASHLEY TISDALE: I know. I know! Yeah. I’m not 16.
QUESTION: You look so much younger than that.
ASHLEY TISDALE: I know. See, I will play young in movies for a long time. That’s the thing.
QUESTION: Are you going to do Teen Witch?
ASHLEY TISDALE: No, I think that I – they still have to write it. So, I mean, they’re in the writing process.
QUESTION: That’s not the next thing for you.
ASHLEY TISDALE: No. I’m looking at other projects right now. I haven’t made my decision yet. But a lot of the scripts are more teenager, teen audience movies, compared to just family movies. I definitely want to grow with my career as well. But I’m not going to run away and do something completely different, and scare my audience. [LAUGHTER] So.
QUESTION: You’re so constant in so many areas. If you had to choose, and you’re directing yourself – I mean, there’s music, there’s comedy, there’s acting, there’s producing. Do you just want to do it all? Find a project first? And writing. I think you also –
ASHLEY TISDALE: I’m not writing anything yet. I mean, I co-write my music.
QUESTION: What about creative writing?
ASHLEY TISDALE: Well, that’s one of my favorite subjects, yeah. I think that I’m a very creative person, and I’m a workaholic, so I like to do a lot of things. I like to keep busy. I think I want to have a really long career, so I definitely – I love acting. It’s one of my – you know, that’s one of my passions, and so is music. But producing is – you know, different, for me. But I do come up with ideas that I’d like to each watch, or do movies. And not just even stuff that I would be in. But I come up with these ideas, and I have a producing partner and we get together, and we get to create it. And it’s a different experience for me than I’ve ever had before. But it’s a lot of fun. And I hope to be producing TV shows and movies one day. Right now, I have a reality show that E! is looking at.
QUESTION: About what?
ASHLEY TISDALE: Well, I can’t really talk about it yet, because it’s not picked up. But it’s definitely something that is – it’s fun. It’s not with me in it, though. It’s not a reality show with me in it. It’s a dating show.
QUESTION: Your song, “Switch,” appears on a soundtrack for this film. Is it something that you wrote specifically for this film, or do they just ask you to contribute a song, and that’s the one that you decide to go with?
ASHLEY TISDALE: Yeah. I didn’t write “Switch.” But usually, when I was recording my album, even though I don’t write a song doesn’t mean that I didn’t – you know, talk to the producers about what I wanted, or picked out the song because – you know, there’s a reason behind it. And so “Switch”, I just felt, was obviously perfect for the movie. And I think – I switched up a couple of words. It was “Robot” at one point, in the lyrics, and I was like, “Well, he’s not really a robot.” But we switched it up.
ASHLEY TISDALE: Switched, yeah. [LAUGHTER] It’s exactly what I pictured for the movie. And they really wanted me to do a song for it. So it was kind of perfect.
QUESTION: You were talking about alien movies, that you liked them. What are some of your favorites?
ASHLEY TISDALE: Oh, my gosh. Close Encounters. I love Close Encounters. I love E.T. One of my favorite movies. Signs. That’s a scary one. Yeah, that freaked me out. Yeah, I’m a big fan of alien movies.
QUESTION: You get scared easily in movies, do you?
ASHLEY TISDALE: I do. You know, I can’t go watch scary movies right now, because living on your own, it kind of freaks you out. So, I tend to just watch comedies. I know, I’m an actress. You’d think I would understand that it’s just a movie. [LAUGHTER] But I’m like – I have a big imagination. So.
QUESTION: You still think Chucky’s in the basement.
ASHLEY TISDALE: Yeah, exactly.
QUESTION: Do you think we underestimate kids? Or at what age should we start taking everybody seriously?
ASHLEY TISDALE: I don’t take myself seriously, actually. [LAUGHTER] I laugh at myself all the time.
QUESTION: Is it kind of unbelievable what keeps happening?
ASHLEY TISDALE: Yeah. I think that I’m very driven. And I’ve always been very driven. At a young age, my Mom kind of taught me that. And I looked up to my Mom, actually. I’ve never really had a role model that was a celebrity. I always looked up to my Mom. Just because she’s a very confident person, and she always taught me to believe. And – you know, don’t quit, and keep going for your dreams. And at a young age, I did not know I’d be, like – you know, where I am today. I was doing commercials and modeling. But I always dreamt of doing movies and TV shows. And so I think that with hard work and drive, that you’ll definitely get there. Obviously I think that for me, even though I’ve been in the business for so long, and I had a lot of success with the High School Musical movies, I still feel that my career’s just begun. Because for me, there’s a lot more that I want to – you know, I want to keep learning about my craft, and keep going.
QUESTION: At some point, someone says, “Ashley has an idea. Sshhh, everyone.” You know, and an executive – at some point, there’s that child to professional jump. You know, is what I’m saying. Somebody starts saying, “Here.” Now you’re not just auditioning, and it’s not just the role any more. Now you’ve made that leap, at some point. What was that time?
ASHLEY TISDALE: Yeah. I think probably when somebody decided to give me a production company, they kind of took me – you know, really seriously. I think that for all of us, the cast of High School Musical, because we’ve been through so much, I think that – and that we’re young, too, as well – we understand what kids like. And, you know, I think – especially Disney. Coming from Disney – they definitely know their audience. And they definitely know what they like to do. Disney actually came to me to do a TV show, to produce a TV show for them. That’s still early, too, as well. But I think that I just kind of go with my instincts on stuff, you know? I feel like, nobody tells you what’s going to work. Nobody knows what movies are going to work and be successful. High School Musical, nobody even thought was going to be as huge as it was. But I think that you definitely have feelings, and you can feel it. I think in High School Musical I, when we were doing, “We’re All In This Together,” there was something in the air that we just kind of felt, in a way. And the same with the second and third one. And so I’ve just kind of always followed my heart and my instincts, and I just go with that, you know?
QUESTION: Is it important for you not to take yourself so seriously, given the business you’re in?
ASHLEY TISDALE: Yeah, I don’t know. I think that – I mean – but there’s a lot of people, a lot of actors that do take themselves seriously. So.
QUESTION: Really? [LAUGHTER]
ASHLEY TISDALE: I think, yeah. I think that – I’m just someone who is, like, really – I would hope to be very grounded, because my parents have kept me grounded. And I’ve had a very normal life, even though I’ve been in the business since I was three. I went to regular high school my whole life, and I worked in clothing stores growing up, besides being in this business. So, I just – you know, I think, don’t sweat the small stuff. I’m someone who just likes to laugh at things. If something – you know, if I look weird in an interview, I’m just laughing at myself. Instead of like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this.” Like, I’m just like – whatever. You know, it’s funny to me.
QUESTION: Are you going to be touring with your album?
ASHLEY TISDALE: Yeah, I hope to. It just depends on scheduling with other movies and stuff.
QUESTION: Do you just travel around the country, or do you hope to go overseas?
ASHLEY TISDALE: I probably would go to Europe first, just because the album released there first. And then probably do something around the US.
QUESTION: In the movie you’re blonde, but you have dark hair now. Was that for a role, or you just wanted a change? What was behind the hair color change?
ASHLEY TISDALE: You know – she was actually kind of – Bethany was a little bit more middle. Like – yeah, in a weird different color. It wasn’t – because I went right back to platinum blonde after this movie for Sharpay. I just think for every other – you know, for every character, I visualize them a different way, and it depends on their hair color. But this is my original hair color. And so now that I’m not at Disney any more, I just kind of wanted to go back to the dark hair for a while.
QUESTION: Do people react differently to you as a different color, a brunette or a blonde?
ASHLEY TISDALE: No. No, I think that – I still feel the same. People still recognize me the same.
QUESTION: You don’t have more fun as one or the other.
ASHLEY TISDALE: Yeah, I knew that was the question you were asking. [LAUGHTER] I think it’s fun – you know, both ways, for sure.
QUESTION: So, short of an alien invasion, what bonds your family when you go on vacations, and brings you guys together?
ASHLEY TISDALE: I mean, we like to laugh a lot, my family, and joke around and stuff. You know, I think that me and my Dad are a lot alike. My Dad loves to – I’m a very outdoors – you know, I like to be at the beach, tropical areas, and I like to fish. And my Dad likes to fish. And so usually my sister and my Mom will go shopping while we’re fishing. So, you’d think I would go shopping with them. But I do like – it’s relaxing for me. But, yeah. I mean, I think that my family’s really close, and so anything that we do, we’re always having a fun time.
Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.
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