“High School Musical” fans have known Corbin Bleu for years now as Chad Danforth: Athlete, best friend, good boy. But tonight, audiences will see Bleu in a whole new light as a struggling model and musician — with a sugar mama of sorts — on The CW’s freshman series, “The Beautiful Life.”
We spoke with Bleu about the role earlier this week…
Hey, thanks for taking the time to talk. Are we pulling you away from set today?
CB: No, today is an off day, which is pretty nice. My father was in town for the weekend and I just saw him off. I’m out in New York and [my family is] still back in LA. and we’re all pretty close, so it was really good to see somebody.
Is this the longest you’ve been away from your family?
CB: Yeah, we filmed “High School Musical” in Salt Lake City, but when we first started, I was 16 and since we were minors, we had to have parents on set. I’ve always been with one of my parents. So this is a [first for me], I’m out here in New York on my own. I have an apartment.
The situation is sort of similar to your “Beautiful Life” character in that Isaac is also transitioning from a successful childhood career to working as an adult, no?
CB: This is true. He was a very successful child model. But when it comes to high fashion, he’s struggling with work right now. He’s also trying to balance his music career, as well as being a DJ. And then of course, just being a person living in New York, it takes a lot. It takes a lot of money to come to New York. So for him, he’s trying to get his cash any way he can and he ends up falling in with this very powerful, prominent woman in the industry, who offers him, you know, help, in return for him helping her out… if you catch my drift [laughs].
Ha, yes, so that’s the major drama for him in the beginning of the season.
CB: Yes. That’s most of the drama that surrounds him in the beginning.
How do you like the older woman storyline? Is it fun to play?
CB: I have said, since I’ve started working with Jaime [Murray], I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to date anyone my own age! She is incredible. We’ve had a wonderful, wonderful time with each other on set. She’s a brilliant actress. When we work opposite each other, it’s funny, just seeing people’s first reactions to it. People have seen pictures taken of us and go, I don’t know how the chemistry will be between those two. But, I mean, it’s turned out, it’s beyond. It’s really, really wonderful.
She’s fantastic. I don’t know if you saw any of her work on “Dexter”…
CB: Yes, I know she was very good, she had a great role on “Dexter.” She always plays the psychos! [Laughs] Even this character has a bit of a psychotic edge to her.
Are we going to hate her and be protective of you?
CB: You know, you’re going to go on a roller coaster ride with both of them. Every episode, the tables turn a bit and you’re never quite sure who to believe. But when the time comes, you’ll see what the real intentions are.
Is your character naïve or does he know what he’s doing?
CB: I think he’s been around for a long time and he very much knows what’s up. He doesn’t like being [emasculated] though. He definitely would like to be able to wear the pants in the situation. And it bugs him that he’s being controlled by this woman.
Now, I know that when you originally signed on to “The Beautiful Life,” you were being billed as a guest star, but a couple months later, you were announced as a series regular. What happened there?
CB: I came on as a guest star originally, because they were still developing the character. They had contacted me and showed me the script and they had an idea for this character, a sort of “Lenny Kravitz type” is how they described it. But there wasn’t much of a back story for him. So we talked it over a lot more and I had a couple of ideas, for instance with the music, and once we built him up, there was a lot more [to work with]. And once we filmed the pilot, I fell in love with this cast and the stories really came together and I ended up becoming a regular on the show, which was the right choice.
So you got to brainstorm with the producers and put your own stamp on the role.
CB: Absolutely. I think it was a collaborative thing. They really wanted to work it out together and figure out where we could go with him. And once they found out that I do music as well, we [decided we] could mix that into the show as well.
Does the character prefer modeling or music?
CB: You know, I think he really wants to do music, he really does love his music. It’s just
getting his foot through the door [is challenging]. I think when it comes to modeling, it’s always come very natural to him. And, you know, he never really had to quite work at it, and now he just feels like he’s trying, but it’s too hard. He definitely works both though.
Will we be seeing you sing on the show?
CB: I think we’re still kind of developing that with him. I see him more as a producer, hit maker. I don’t necessarily know that he’ll be singing much. But as far as what he does, what we’ve shown thus far in music, I really see him creating beats and a lot of mashups. Even instrumental, I definitely see him playing instruments. At some point, we could definitely start to play around with vocals, but right now, his main thing is a DJ gig at the club they all hang out at.
Which is something you like to do in real life?
CB: No, I’ve never DJed before. [Laughs] So that’s a whole new thing. I started to do research, watching the movements and of course they had somebody come by to show me how to work the tables, because you walk up to one of those things at first and it’s like buttons galore. It was nuts, and I’m like, I don’t know what the hell to do. So they taught me everything and showed me how to work it. Even though, during the scene there’s dialogue going on and there’s no actual music being played, I didn’t want to be sitting there pretending that I’m just kind of scratching. Most of the time, when you’re watching somebody DJing in film or television and you see them constantly moving the turntables and you don’t hear the music changing, you pretty much know that they don’t really know how to work the table. The second you start moving the actual discs, that’s scratching the music and you should be hearing that over the top of the sounds. That was one thing I wanted to make sure I had down. I wanted to make sure it looked like I knew what I was doing.
Anything else we should know about Isaac? Who’s he hanging out with?
CB: His storyline mainly revolves around Jaime’s character, but around the 4th episode, we introduce another character who of course brings a little bit of a triangle to the relationship. And he starts to develop a friendship with Ben Hollingsworth‘s character, Chris, too. Our friendship is really cool, it’s not so buddy-buddy. Isaac, I feel, can put on many hats and he can be very sweet and endearing when it comes to being in an intimate relationship, but at the same time, he can be an a–hole if he needs to be. His relationship with Chris, they’re competitive. They’re in the same industry and Isaac’s been around long enough to know that you keep your friends close, your enemies closer. And even though he likes Chris and thinks he’s a good guy, he jabs at him and he has a bit of a love-hate thing with some people.
CB: It is. It’s very complicated. But that’s what’s wonderful about the show. The characters are very complex and they have a lot going on. There are many layers to work with.
“The Beautiful Life” premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on The CW