What started as a made for TV movie added to the Disney Channel’s armory of kids’ films has turned into a global phenomenon. That musical sensation is none other than Disney’s High School Musical (HSM). HSM has ignited the careers of young Black actors such as Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman and Indianapolis native Chris Warren Jr.
The 18-year-old has appeared in numerous films prior to all installments of HSM including the third sequel that hits theatres Oct. 24. The hype of the popular movie is predicted to catapult Warren into super stardom.
Warren recently sat down with the Recorder to discuss his Indianapolis roots, experience with fame and what’s next for the budding star.
Tell me about your Indianapolis roots?
Chris Warren Jr.: My parents and I are from Indiana. They lived there until their early 20s. They had me and took care of me there until I was about 6-years-old. We all started acting there until we moved to California to pursue the dream.
How’d you become interested in acting, was it your parents?
It was definitely because of my parents. I saw them doing it and was like ‘I want to try to do this too; it would be fun.’ As I became older I realized it was something I wanted to do by myself anyway.
When I was younger, when I was acting I got to get craft services. Then when I got older, I developed a love for playing different characters and being in a different world. I just grew a love for it.
Tell me about your character Zeke in Disney’s High School Musical?
My character is a jock who plays basketball. It turns out he likes to bake crème brulee and different things; that’s like his big story line and a big surprise to everyone. And he’s in love with Sharpay, Ashley Tisdale’s character.
How did you react when you found out you got the role?
Initially when I auditioned it was just a Disney channel movie. You know, how they have movies all the time. I thought this was cool and the character seemed funny. As time went on it turned into this huge thing and more of a phenomenon. All of a sudden everybody knows us, it’s international and now in the movie theatre. Over time it definitely became a blessing, for sure.
What’s it like working for Disney and the other cast members?
It’s really fun. When I did the first one I was just 15 so they really catered to young people. It’s part of my childhood now; I kind of grew up doing this because now I’m 18. It’s definitely fun and they definitely try to take care of you. It’s been an experience doing these movies.
My relationship with the other cast members are good. We’re all about the same age so since the first movie, we’ve really bonded and became like a family. It just got stronger over all the movies. Doing three movies with the same people brings you close together. A lot of us live in L.A. so we get to see each other. I’ve made a lot of friends.
Your film credits include “Men Of Honor” with Cuba Gooding Jr., “Love and Basketball” with Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan, and “Blue Streak” with Martin Lawrence. What’s been your favorite role thus far?
I did a movie called “American Gun” with Forest Whitaker. I got to do a scene with him and he’s just a phenomenal actor. The scene and the movie itself was a great experience.
Any other films in the works?
I’ve got a new movie that doesn’t shoot until next year. Right now I’m just taking meetings trying to decide what I’m going to do next. I just want to make sure I’m making the right choices in what I want to do next in my career.
How do you balance your newfound celebrity with normalcy?
I think ever since I was young I wanted to do dramatic stuff. Up until High School Musical it was very dramatic. I didn’t have a problem with it but it turned into this phenomenon. I have parents who are actors. They keep me grounded and don’t let me stray from what I’m supposed to be doing. Also having a strong belief in God keeps me grounded and not becoming sidetracked from other things. It’s a mix of all those things.
I understand you have a passion for music?
I always had a thing for rap and I used to write raps. After this High School Musical thing happened a lot of people came out with albums and they’re singing. I figured ‘I should do something with rap because it’s different and no one else is doing that.’ It’s something different and fresh. I love rap music; it’s all I listen to. It’s kind of ingrained in me and a part of who I am. People can expect an album sometime next year. I’m working on that and the acting thing.
When it’s all said and done, what do you want people to remember you for?
I definitely want to be remembered as an actor who’s a real person just trying to do his thing. I just want to be real and be able to affect people’s lives with characters. That’s what I want to accomplish.
For more information, visit www.chriswarrenjr.com.