Ashley Tisdale: Keeps getting better

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Videographed by Brad Bucksky Photographed by Derek Wood Styled by Lyndzi Trang Hair by Noogie Thai Makeup by Sharon Tabb Produced by Amanda Elkins


Ashley Tisdale has a few things in common with her best-known role, Sharpay Evans. Both are talented performers with the desire to make it in show business and now, both are embarking on their own fabulous adventures—Sharpay is heading to Broadway in a new High School Musical spin-off, appropriately titled Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure. Tisdale is also wrapping up the first season of her hit CW television show based on college cheerleading, Hellcats.

Tisdale, 25, has always been the type of actress who dedicates herself to her work, giving more than 100% of herself to her work. But when she signed on to do Hellcats, a weekly drama about the ultra-competitive cheerleading squad at the fictional Lancer University in Memphis, she had no idea how much work she was getting herself into. For starters, Tisdale works out with a trainer six days a week. “We’re wearing such little outfits!”

“It’s so crazy,” she says of the hectic filming schedule. “It’s definitely hard.” Not only does the cast have the difficult, if enviable, job of filming the dramatic scenes, but they also need to learn complex new cheerleading routines every week. “When we did the pilot, we had two weeks to rehearse the three cheer sequences we filmed. Then, once we were picked up for the season, we started filming and had only one week to learn everything for the next episode. Now, it’s to the point where sometimes I’ll only have an hour and a half to learn the routine.”

Still, Tisdale is dedicated to her craft, and it shows. She recently filmed a sequence in which her character, Savannah Monroe, had to perform a Liberty, which is an advanced cheerleading move—and Tisdale had only fifteen minutes to learn how to do it. Her teammates lifted her into the air, catching her by her feet; then, Tisdale had to bend and raise one leg, leaving her standing up in the air on just one foot, with her arms raised in a triumphant V.

“You’re really high up there. You can’t look down, or you’ll freak out!” Tisdale laughs, recalling the stunt. “If you had told me seven or eight months ago… I would have been, like, there’s no way I can do that! But it’s cool to see how much we’ve accomplished from when we started. I love that.”

One might think that playing a cheerleader would be a natural progression for Tisdale. After all, not only were her mother and sister cheerleaders themselves, but Tisdale is also more than familiar with learning extensive dance sequences. For her role as Sharpay in the High School Musical movies, Tisdale worked with choreographer-turned-director Kenny Ortega to perfect Sharpay’s over-the-top diva performance style. “I wasn’t exactly the most coordinated person in the cast,” Tisdale says. “Kenny and everyone could tell you that. But like with anything, if you just keep at it, and keep pushing yourself, you’re going to get better.”

Tisdale obviously nailed it with her performance as Sharpay in the first High School Musical movie, taking what some thought might be a predictable character and turning in a scene-stealing performance. “Sharpay was ‘The Villain,’ and nobody thought she was going to stand out,” recalls Tisdale. “But I wanted her to be a character that fans would really enjoy watching. I decided that she should always have a smile on her face when she’s stirring up trouble. She’s the one you love to hate.”

In fact, for many fans, it was just the opposite. Tisdale received critical acclaim for her comedic skills and timing, and viewers everywhere were entranced by her spoiled brat antics. “Disney actually couldn’t believe that all the fans loved the character so much,” says Tisdale. She explains that the executives were particularly surprised that children seemed to relate to the character so well. When asked why, the kids told them, “She knows what she wants, and she goes and gets it.” Clamor for Sharpay’s character continued throughout the filming of the sequels, and ardent fans began to ask Tisdale when Sharpay was going to get her own movie. - Sean McMahill

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