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October 2008
HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3: SENIOR YEAR | An Exclusive Interview with Monique Coleman

An Exclusive Interview with Monique Coleman
by Wilson Morales

October 20, 2008

Having played Tessie McKessie in the previous two ‘High School Musical’ films had already given Monique Coleman a large exposure, but when she made it to the top four on ABC’s hit reality series “Dancing With The Stars,” and participated in the show’s live tour was a different experience. It gave her the chance to explore her talent and take her career to parts unknown. As she comes to back to the high school fold for the third and possibly last time, Coleman has seen her character and her friends (Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, and Corbin Bleu) grow, as well as the setting and music.

In speaking exclusively with blackfilm.com, Coleman talks about the third film, her character, and the franchise in general.

How does it feel to work with this cast again?

Monique Coleman: It’s awesome. It’s like, you do the film and that’s where the magic happens, but it’s when you talk about it, you can step away and have a perspective on it and remember how great it really was. We’ve had several months since we shot the film and we hadn’t spent that much time together as we had in the past, and now with the third installment, we are graduating and it really feels that it’s over. To do promotions about the film and talking about the message, it reminds me of the impact that we made and it’s been really special.

What’s in store for Taylor McKessie this time?

MC: Taylor McKessie is just running things. She’s the head of the yearbook committee and she’s also the student-body president, which I think is awesome. This is so great, especially as an African American girl to be in that position in school. This movie for me you get to see Taylor as a leader. You also get to see her relationship with Chad develop so much more and he’s asked her to the prom. She’s just a girl like anyone else is.

When you did the first film, did you ever think it would go this far?

MC: Of course not. This movie just literally started out as an audition. You show up, you do the job, and part way through as you are doing it and walk around, you see that there’s something special here. From the cafeteria scene in the first film to the finale in there as well where we are all together, that’s where you can sense some magic happening. You can tell that people are going to like this. We never thought that it would turn into the phenomenon that it is.

How does this film compare to your senior year in high school?

MC: Well, in this film, this is the high school experience that anyone would like to have. It’s been so much fun. I hope that the prom in the movie doesn’t give people false hope. I have been to a prom that as anything like that, or had this kind of costuming. It’s just beautiful.

What was your prom like?

MC: I went to a private school and my prom was good, but not memorable.

How is the choreography in this film different from when you did ‘Dancing with the Stars?

MC: First of all, ‘Dancing with the Stars’ was a competition which is an entirely different experience. We had very limited time, whereas with ‘High School Musical 3’, we had plenty of time to prepare. We rehearsed for five to six weeks before we shot anything. That makes it more comfortable when the cameras start to roll. I was ready for it and excited to do it. With ‘Dancing with the Stars’, when the cameras started rolling, I was mortified. I was afraid I would step on my partner’s toes and wouldn’t remember the steps and our costumes would fall off. It was live, which was scary.

Part of doing the high school films is that which each film, there is a growth not only with the characters, but the setting and music. Did you sense that?

MC: Definitely. I think that the music is a lot smarter. It really parallels in a lot of ways the things that we were going through in our actual lives. The finale song has lyrics, that honestly, you think were written for us as individuals. There’s music that’s also radio friendly and even more diverse than before. From old school Broadway to techno to alternative.

When you know that you that the third film will be for the theaters, did it create a different on the set when you started to shoot?

MC: Yes, it was, but honestly, we were also relieved. I’ve always wanted to do a feature film, which is where I want my career to go. I would to be a film actress; but if it were a different movie, I would have been so scared coming into it, but it was ‘High School Musical 3’ and it was a character I have played twice before and I knew everybody there, it made it a lot easier to make that transition into a feature. Now I feel that ‘High School Musical 3’ has given me the confidence to go into another movie and be prepared.

Do you have anything lined up?

MC: No, not right now.

What’s life been like for you when you are not doing anything with ‘HSM’?

MC: Life is very, very, very normal for me, in a sense that I work out, I go to the gym, and I go to Whole Foods, and I do my shopping. I do my own laundry. I do what I can to constantly keep growing and learning. I just started taking Spanish lessons, and recently I got a Spanish tutor because I wanted to. I try to fill my week with as much learning that I possibly can. I also keep in mind in looking for that right perfect project that will take my career to the next level. But in the meantime, I’m just enjoying the success that ‘High School Musical’ has brought. I’m trying to be positive on any upcoming work. Two weeks ago, I watched the entire last season of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. I go to movies and I hang out with my friends.

Does it ever get tired to do promos for ‘HSM’ whether it it for the films, concert, and etc.

MC: What’s funny is that it has been spaced out. The last three years have been crazy, but it has slowed down tremendously. Two weeks from now, it probably will come to a complete stop. It’s such a blessing and exciting thing to be able to fulfill your dreams and aspirations. The concert tour was really cool. We support the other incarnations of ‘High School Musical’, even the ones that we are not a part of. We all went to see the Ice Tour together. I went to the first opening night of the Broadway Touring show that was in Chicago. We are very proud of the franchise even beyond our participation in it.

Would you be open to being in a ‘High School Musical: The College Years’ film?

MC: I’m not closing any doors. That’s all I can say. I’m grateful to the project for the visibility it has given me, but I just don’t know at this moment, but I’m also ready to move on as well.

If there was any scene that stood for you from any of the three films, which one is it?

MC: I really loved in this film ‘High School Musical 3’ that I got asked out for prom in a really special way.

What have you learned from Kenny Ortega in working with him over the years?

MC: Kenny has inspired me on every different level and has really shown us how important it is to pay attention to the details and to really come from an honest place and act from your heart, as well as sing and dance. He never encouraged us to be the best dancers and singers that we could be, but to be the best people that we could be. He wanted us to have real moments and connect with each other. I was grateful to him for his wisdom and his creativity and his vision, and I hope that when, if not already, he can see our appreciation for all that he has done for us.

What advice would you give young girls about peer pressure?

MC: For young girls, I would really advise them to be themselves and try to do things and try to find outlets where they can be creative in the arts. The more involved you are in the arts or sports, or anything that inspire you and makes you feel good, the less likely you will care about what other people think. That gives you a sense of empowerment, when you know that you are working towards a goal.

Why should anyone see ‘High School Musical 3: Senior Year’?

MC: Whether you know anything about the film at all, I think this is a movie that will really inspire a generation. It’s not meant just for kids, but for anyone who ever wanted to do something, but felt that they couldn’t. Or for anyone who would like to break out of a box or anyone who wants to step back and look at their past and their time in high school and just reflective of that. It’s a really feel good, positive, fun movie that has some dancing and choreography that will blow your socks off.



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