With 'HSM' Family To Share the Highs and Lows of Fame, Corbin Bleu Jumps Into Leading Man Status
With his Jan. 12-debuting "Jump In!" Disney Channel Original Movie, Corbin Bleu officially jumped into leading man status, following a string of movies and TV shows in which he's been an ensemble or supporting player.
The 17-year-old, Brooklyn-born performer with the wide, winning smile and crazy crop of springy hair makes the big move look like fun.
Not that "Jump In!" - or "High School Musical," or "Flight 29 Down" or any of his other parts -- hasn't been hard work. It's just that Corbin is having the time of his life. He says so, and his happy, high-energy demeanor offers supporting evidence.
"There's so much going on, I hardly know what day it is," he says at the beginning of an afternoon's chat between "High School Musical" live show tour engagements. "But that's what I want - to go from one project to the next. In February, I move into making 'High School Musical 2,' and then in April, my own album comes out."
He recorded the album, "Another Side," this past fall. "I was in the recording studio every day. It's mainly R&B/pop, but I go off into a lot of other genres as well - high energy stuff to get people up and dancing. 'Shake it Off' is an ode to Prince, with a really funky beat. Then there's another R&B song, 'I Get Lonely,' that actually Ne-Yo wrote," he reports.
How did that come about? "My people pretty much got in touch with his people. It was cool. Then I ended up meeting him at the Teen Choice Awards. I introduced myself and we all ended up talking. The lyrics are so great, I really get chills. When we met, he hadn't heard it yet. Then I saw him again at the Billboard Awards, and he was very complimentary."
In the year 2006, of course, "High School Musical" became a phenomenon, with Corbin definitely along for the ride. First there was the ratings-record-busting movie -- which racked up DVD and soundtrack sales that put it among last year's chart-toppers -- then the live stage tour.
"The first night was very nerve-wracking for all of us," he admits, speaking of the cross-country trek he's been making with fellow "HSM" stars Zac Efron, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale and Lucas Grabeel. "Once you get out there, though, you just can't help having a good time.
"You know, all of us have created such a bond together, from the original filming of the movie, then things like traveling to Australia and London together, experiencing the Emmys and the Teen Choice Awards. We did the Today show together, with us in the middle of Times Square. Through all this we are really close," he adds. "We feel like, when we go up there we're not on our own. We've got each other. We get to have this like, family group."
That family-of-sorts has been a haven for the young cast as they've been tossed about by the tsunami of fame.
Just one aspect: "Girls want to be with you mostly for your fame instead of who you are," Corbin admits. "You have to be more cautious about who you date. That makes us even more appreciative of each other;" he notes of his fellow "HSM" stars. "It's something we understand. It's cool, we can talk about that, because we're such good friends and because we're all experiencing it all at the same time. It's really cool, when you can talk to people who have the same experiences you're having and say, 'What do you do?'"
Corbin, whose mother is of Italian extraction and whose actor father, David Reivers ("Poseidon"), is Jamaican, shares the small screen with his dad in "Jump In!" Reivers plays his father in the movie. He's the owner of a gym, and Corbin's character is a talented aspiring boxer who gets lured into the world of Double Dutch jump rope competition by a pretty neighbor, Keke Palmer of "Akeelah and the Bee" fame. The Disney Channel's talking up the film as its biggest foray into hip-hop to date, with music described as "pop-hop" - that is, Disney Channel style teen pop with a hip-hop influence. Viewers who watch carefully will get to see Corbin's three younger sisters Hunter, Phoenix, and Jag onscreen as well.
Prepping for the boxing action was his biggest challenge in the picture, he says.
"I had two months of training. You're so sore. You work every part of your body - pushups, weight training, running, speed bags, heavy bags. And on top of that, you go in and you spar," he notes. "You have someone swinging at your head and you have to stay calm."
For Corbin, performing has been a way of life since the age of two. That big smile of his worked its charms in commercials and print ads even when he was a tot, and he became a busy Ford model, tyke division. As he and his credit list grew, he added dance to his repertoire, studying with renowned performer/choreographer Debbie Allen, with whom he went on to perform onstage in "Brothers of the Knight."
By his early teens, his resume ran the gamut from off-Broadway, as in "Tiny Tim is Dead" to features. He was memorable in the junior heist flick "Catch that Kid," and also had parts in such films as "Galaxy Quest." And he became a familiar presence on television. He guested on shows from "ER" to "Malcolm & Eddie" to "The Amanda Show."
How does this accomplished show business veteran, an alumnus of the L.A. County High School for Arts, envision his future? More films? Recording? Broadway?
"It's funny you mention Broadway because I've always wanted to go and do that . I'd love to do musical theater, live theater on Broadway. And I do want to do more feature films. I like being rounded," says Corbin. "That's why I liked doing the training for 'Jump In!' - both the boxing and the Double Dutch. And the training I took for 'High School Musical.' It all connects. It's all something that makes you a better, more rounded performer and a better person."