LOS ANGELES -- Getcha head in the game? When he was a teenager, Nick Lachey wasn't quite sure what the game was.
He attended a performing arts high school in Ohio, but didn't get the kind of career advice that could make 98 Degrees instantly hot.
"We didn't get it right out of the box," he says of the group he formed with brother Drew. "We had to work hard."
Today, Lachey says, the rules have changed. There are many opportunities for a talented teen it's possible to get an acting or recording deal the first time he or she tries.
Case in point: "High School Musical: Get in the Picture," a performing competition he hosts this summer. Like a boot camp for triple threats, the show is designed to find one teen who will star in a music video slated to air during the credits of "High School Musical 3," the first big-screen venture in the series. Additionally, the winner will get a recording contract and talent holding deal. "More than that," Lachey says, "they get their foot in the door and an opportunity to step into the most successful franchise out now."
Two open calls -- one in California, one in Florida -- and several scouting sessions netted 12 finalists.
"They learned how to face challenges, to push and to go above and beyond," Lachey says. "In the end, it made them better performers and, honestly, better people, too."
Held in Salt Lake City, the "camp" brought out the best in Lachey, as well. "It inspired me and made me a big brother figure in their lives. I offered advice whenever I could."
Those early days of competition were taped in the spring at Murray High School, the school "American Idol's" David Archuleta attends. "I saw a banner or two for him," Lachey says with a smile. The final, however, has yet to be shot. The show airs Sundays and Mondays through Aug. 4, then it will be seen at 7 p.m. Mondays through the end of summer.
"I was blown away by how talented these kids are and how hard they worked," Lachey says. "We took them out of their element and immersed them in this environment where they were performing and rehearsing and learning every day. It wasn't always easy for them but they had a great attitude and, in the end, they inspired me on some level.
"As a teenager who loved performing, I would have jumped at the opportunity. I don't remember things like this happening. That's why you see so many talented kids out there now. The opportunities to pursue this are much greater."
Lachey, oddly enough, hadn't seen the "High School Musical" movies before agreeing to host. When he immersed himself in the culture, he realized why it was so successful. "They do such a great job of capturing a moment in life that none of us will ever see again -- the joy and innocence that comes with being a teenager."
When the contestants asked his advice, Lachey was blunt: Be yourself. "Part of what makes 'High School Musical' so great is it's not about one kind of performer, one kind of person. What's going to set you apart from the others is your personality. Be true to that and make it part of your performance."
Saturday, August 2, 2008