Thursday, July 24, 2008

Nick Lachey gets in the picture

Nick Lachey jumped at the chance to help mentor aspiring actors and singers on High School Musical: Get in the Picture. (ABC)

Kat Angus, Dose

Published: Monday, July 21

It's pretty much impossible to avoid High School Musical these days - although who would want to? Combine Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens with impossibly catchy musical numbers and suddenly, you find you've spent your entire weekend in your living room, learning the steps to "We're All in This Together!"

ABC is doing its part to support High School Musical's ubiquity with this Sunday's premiere of High School Musical: Get in the Picture, a competitive reality show in which recruiters scour America for the best undiscovered singers and dancers. Twelve finalists will compete for a chance to star in a music video that will air in the highly anticipated High School Musical 3: Senior Year, due out in October.

We had the chance to talk to host Nick Lachey about his background in theatre, how the young contestants dealt with the pressure and what he thinks about the High School Musical phenomenon.

How did you get involved with High School Musical: Get in the Picture to begin with?
ABC were apparently looking for a host - they reached out to me to see if I was interested in doing it. Once I heard what the premise of it was, having to do with the performing arts, it really appealed to me, for the reason that I went to a performing arts high school. I felt that I had really gone through a lot of these experiences that they're going to go through. It was a good show for me to be a part of because I could bring something different to the table, so I jumped at it.

You're trying to recruit people who otherwise may not be involved in acting, like the football star or a member of the chess club. Did you find a lot of hidden talents that you weren't expecting?
Well, we weren't excluding people who were used to performing, but yeah, we encouraged anyone to come out and do this. I think it's illustrated in the theme of High School Musical as well - Troy wasn't necessarily into performing and was a basketball jock and he found his love for performing and found out something about himself. So we try to carry that theme over to our show a little bit. There were a couple of great examples of people who weren't necessarily polished performers. They knew they loved to sing and were interested in doing it, but up until this point, they were playing football or doing other things, but we encouraged everyone to come out and be themselves - just go for it, see what happens. I think they were surprised in themselves with what they were capable of as performers.

How many people auditioned?
Oh, man. We had two open calls, one in Southern California and one in Florida and then we had six scouts who went around the country and found some talent in more obscure places. All told, we had thousands of kids come out and audition.

What specifically were you looking for?
I think it was a combination of a lot of things, talent, obviously, being one of them. Singing ability, dancing ability. Charisma was a big part of it. When I was there at the open calls and auditions and trying to talk to kids and encourage them and give them some advice, one of the things I continued to harp on was, "You're all here because you love to perform and you have talent but what's going to set you apart from the other 2,000 other kids here who have talent? There has to be something in you, in your personality and charisma, that's magnetic. So go in there and don't hold anything back; be yourself and see what happens."

Do you mentor the kids at all, or do you work in a strict capacity of a host?
A big part of me wanting to do the show was to act as a mentor and be a part of it in that capacity. Clearly, as host, you kind of navigate the audience through the show they're watching, but the most exciting part of my role for me was the mentoring, just trying to be, in some small part, an inspiration to them. Having been where they are and gone through those things at their age and having gone on to be in this business for 11 years, hopefully I was at least somewhat inspiration to some of them. Some of them had even heard of me before! Even more than that, though, it was just to give them advice. I've been through quite a bit and experienced quite a bit, so I was there to give them guidance and support them, encourage them.

And the winner of the show gets to appear in a music video for High School Musical 3?
They get a recording contract with Disney Records and a talent holding deal with Disney in addition to starring in the music video that will air during the end credits of High School Musical 3.

Why wasn't the prize an actual role in the movie?
I think timing was the biggest thing. I mean, we still don't know who the winner is now; we're still working on the show, and -

And they're already filming the movie.

Was there any reason they didn't start the show earlier, then?
Not that I know of, but maybe the idea just didn't come to them soon enough. I don't know - timing-wise, it just didn't sync up well enough [to give the winner a role in the film]. Clearly, that would have been great, though.

Once you've narrowed the field down to 12 contestants, how are they eliminated?
They're not exactly eliminated, either, which is another thing that appealed to me. There's only one grand prize winner at the end and they get their holding deal and recording contract and all that, but the other 11, as we go through the process, move into the chorus. So they're still a part of the performing arts school and they're still a part of the music video, just as a supporting chorus. I think it's a great attitude to have with this kind of thing, because these kids are obviously putting a lot of themselves on the line and they're there because they love to perform. I'm a big fan of trying to uplift and support that instead of tearing it down and getting a cheap laugh at some poor kid's expense. And for them, they're continuing to learn as the process goes on - they're all going to come away from this as better performers and much better people, for that matter. It's an exciting scenario.

Were there any clashes between the finalists?
You know what? I was surprised by how well they got along, after being thrown into this situation and being immersed in this environment for five weeks. I think they really learned to support each other. Obviously, they understand that there can only be one winner but I think they handled the failure and supporting the people who moved to the chorus - they handled all that really well as a group. It was impressive.

What do you think of the whole High School Musical phenomenon? Were you into it from the beginning or had you completely missed it?
I certainly was aware of it prior to being involved with the show but once I agreed to do the show I went back and watched the movies. I became much more immersed in the whole thing and I think they deserve all the credit in the world. I think the shows and the movies have done a great job of capturing a teen spirit, which is why they've been so successful. There's a real joy that they've done a great job of harnessing.

Will any of the cast members from High School Musical make any appearances on the show?
Oh... maybe. I'd say that there's a pretty strong likelihood that that happens.

High School Musical: Get in the Picture debuts Sunday, July 20 at 8 p.m. ET on CTV and ABC.