WE LOVE SOAPS TV recently had the chance to talk with Lucas Grabeel--the versatile young actor who is probably best known as Ryan from the three Disney High School Musical movies--about his art, his career, and Lea Thompson!
Grabeel's latest project, ABC Family’s new one-hour scripted drama, SWITCH AT BIRTH, tells the story of two teenage girls who discover they were accidentally switched as newborns in the hospital. Grabeel plays their brother, Toby.
Grabeel has made television guest appearances on series such as CSI, FAMILY GUY, BOSTON LEGAL, TIL DEATH, VERONICA MARS and SMALLVILLE. He's also had roles in The Adventures of Food Boy, Alice Upside Down and College Road Trip.
In 2008, he appeared in the movie Milk, directed by Gus Van Sant, starring Sean Penn and James Franco. He co-starred in the upcoming film What’s Wrong with Virginia, directed by Dustin Lance Black.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Do you have a favorite “guilty pleasure” sort of TV show?
Lucas Grabeel: You know, I did catch myself watching a ton of RIVER MONSTERS, which is a really crazy show about this guy who goes around the world and fishes, finds these crazy fish in natural rivers and streams. It’s pretty crazy.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You’ve been in a lot of different roles. What would you say is the most challenging role and how does that compare to Toby?
Lucas Grabeel: I would say the most challenging role I’ve had was on Milk simply because I felt like I was kind of in a room full of amazing talent. Many of them kind of stepped up and made sure that I deserved to be there. And also, playing a real person who is alive and I could talk to and ask questions was a completely different acting experience for me that I never had before. But, you know, Toby’s a little bit more of a normal teenage guy. So, I kind of think a lot about how I was when I was sixteen and seventeen back in high school.
Did you grow up watching Back to the Future?
Lucas Grabeel: Totally.
Yeah, who wouldn’t, right?
Lucas Grabeel: Right. Exactly. I love that movie. Or, all of them.
Are you a big fan of Lea Thompson and how is it working with her?
Lucas Grabeel: I am a huge, huge fan. I watch CAROLINE IN THE CITY as well, and it was pretty crazy when I got the news that she was going to be my mom. She’s amazing. She’s just so kind and laid back and, she gave me a pillow for my trailer the first week of shooting and it’s in the shape of a whale. I just opened up my trailer door and there’s this pillow there and I find out later that she had given everybody little pillows for their trailer and I thought that was really sweet.
Can you talk a little bit about how you got involved with the new series and why you wanted to do it?
Lucas Grabeel: I auditioned for the pilot last fall and it’s just another one of those things that you hope that you get and all this kind of came together. I was really excited to work in LA and I was really excited the actual concept of the show and we came together and it seems like we’ve been doing it for a very long time. It was awesome. We were just kind of an instant family and when we got the news that it got picked up, it was doubly awesome.
I think a lot of people are looking forward to this show. What do you think it is about the show that’s going to draw so many people in?
Lucas Grabeel: I think it’s got a lot of heart. It’s kind of an interesting concept because its not something that we think about on a day to day basis. We woke up one day and found out that the people who raised us our whole lives were not our real biological parents and that we had been switched at birth. Kind of a crazy thing to be put in as that position, but also coming from the parent’s point of view, raising this child that you think is your kid. You call this love and you think you’re doing everything that you can to be right and everything flips upside down and you kind of have to deal with the madness. So, it’s a very interesting concept. I think that’s really drawing me to loving the project even more.
You play the brother of the switched at birth girls—will we be getting to see much of your character in the spotlight, or are you going to be taking on more of a supporting role?
Lucas Grabeel: Yeah! I would say I’m a good supporting role. It’s interesting being the brother of both of the girls in such a way because at the same time, I’m very brotherly and kind of joking back and forth with each of the girls, but also I’m kind of an outside perspective to the whole situation that’s going on so I can kind of be a good listener at times, or a shoulder to lean on.
That would definitely affect your character. How much do you think we’re going to see of that?
Lucas Grabeel: I think a lot. Eventually this is going to affect everyone. So, the show is definitely going to see the impact on trends and family and everyone involved.
How does this show differ from other projects that you’ve done in the past?
Lucas Grabeel: This is my first experience working on a TV show on a regular basis. I’ve done guest spots before on television series, but I’ve never been a series regular, so it’s really different in a sense that I kind of have a normal job. You know—Monday through Friday. That’s really cool. I’ve been doing a lot of traveling with shooting other projects and things. So, it’s nice to be home and kind of sleep in my bed at the end of every day.
Your days are probably really crazy, so what is a typical day like when you’re shooting a show?
Lucas Grabeel: I probably wake up at 5:30 and get there by 6:30—go through hair and makeup and go rehearse the scenes, then shoot them and come home around seven. It’s a pretty great thing. We move very quickly in television so days fly by.
Being an actor, you change styles and hairstyles a lot. Is it weird or no big deal?
Lucas Grabeel: Yeah, you know, I’m getting used to it. You know, just in life with being an actor getting your hair changed all of the time. So, yeah, I love it. I love to change and see what I look like in different colors.
Fun to experiment, right?
Lucas Grabeel: Yeah, exactly.
How would you describe yourself as an artist?
Lucas Grabeel: I like to do a lot of different art stuff - I paint and write music and I play music. I dance and all that kind of stuff so—I guess, I would say I’m adventurous because I like to try everything. I don’t like to say no. I like constructing things and building things and seeing things come to fruition and you know—telling stories.
If you could record a song with any artist, who is it?
Lucas Grabeel: Oh wow! That’s a good one. Maybe, Jason Mraz. That would be kind of a cool mash up.
What can you tell us about Toby? What can we expect to see from him?
Lucas Grabeel: Toby is the biological brother of Daphne who was deaf at the age of three and he is the switched brother of Bay who is a tortured soul. So, he is just like everyone else in the family. He’s kind of caught up in the craziness at the beginning when it all happens. But, since he’s not a parent or the actual child, I think he’s got a kind of objective point of view of the whole thing and is slowly taking it in and getting to know his new sister and getting to know this new situation. But, yeah, he’s a pretty normal teenage guy with exemplified problems because he’s rich.
What is the one thing that you are most excited for people to see in the premiere?
Lucas Grabeel: I’ve only seen the pilot myself and watching it, I was surprised at how everything was—the feeling of the whole show is not fantasy. It’s just real and when you watch it, you kind of get taken on this journey and you get to know these people and you want to know more. So, hopefully, that’s what other people take from it. Because, I loved it. So, I’m excited for people to see it.
How did you get started in the business?
Lucas Grabeel: I started doing theater when I was a kid and so I knew that I really wanted to perform. I didn’t know exactly in what way I wanted to do it, but before my senior year of high school, I came out to Los Angeles to check it out to see if I wanted to do that instead of go to New York or go to college and I ran into this guy. He came up and asked me how old I was and I said I was eighteen and he was like, “Ah, you look you’re fourteen.” I get that a lot. He’s like well, you got a look - I’ve been in the industry for thirty-five years and I know what people are looking for. Have you ever thought about being an actor?” I’m like, “Yeah, that’s why I’m here, isn’t everybody?” So, yeah, he’s my manager—Bob Thompson. That kind of started things. I went back to school to finish high school and then came back out a year later and you know, started auditioning and got really lucky, started booking things right away and High School Musical changed everything in 2006.
On the current show, are there any pranksters?
Lucas Grabeel: I don’t know yet. We’re still kind of like settling into the groove and getting used to things. I haven’t seen any pranks yet, but—you know—I’m keeping my eye out for it.
Kevin Mulcahy Jr. is a staff contributor at welovesoaps.com writing theater and web series reviews as well as other in-depth features and interviews. To contact Kevin, email firstname.lastname@example.org.