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August 13, 2007.
What a way to kick off
a career. From high school student to major motion picture lead, 17 year-old
Nikki Blonsky's star turn as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray, (the film
version of the Broadway musical), deserves all the accolades the film has
been garnering. In telling the tale of this plus-sized teenager's love for
dancing – especially with her friends from the other side of the tracks,
Baltimore's Negro community – audiences are entreated a mythical version of
the real fight to integrate an actual TV show that was broadcast in that
city during the racially charged '60s.
By matching Nikki up
with the burgeoning teen heart-throb Zac Efron (of High School Musical
fame) the film director, Adam Shankman, and producers (who accrued a
surprise hit with Chicago) scored an additional coup for this
caffeine-paced, faux-period musical – a sometimes-worthy successor to both
the Broadway show and the original film that inspired them both, John
Had you seen
Hairspray – the
play or John Waters' original – before you did this film?
Yeah, really funny story. I was in my third month of callbacks during this
five-and-a-half-month process, and the day after one of my callbacks I was
sitting watching the Disney channel with my brother. He was watching
High School Musical and he said, "I know they're doing a big Tracy
search, but do you know who they will get to play Link?" And I said, "Well,
why don't they just get that kid? He's good looking. He sings. He dances. He
acts." And wouldn't you know, a week after I got cast, I got a call saying,
“You know, we just cast your boy from High School Musical.” I said,
you guys could have asked me, I could have told you that three months ago."
You were working but
weren't quite on the radar, and then, all of a sudden,
Disney's High School Musical explodes.
It's funny. We do have similar stories. I felt like, coming into
Hairspray, I had slightly more experience. In the end, of course, I
learned more from this girl than I could ever share with her. But I’m very
blessed. I'm glad that I'm involved with musicals because I think with the
young audience that we are educating, I'm making them aware of [musicals],
and hopefully making them more mainstream. You know, it could be a popular
genre in the future and I would love to stay involved with them for as long
as I can.
And for you Nikki?
This has been a dream come true. I saw Hairspray on Broadway when I
was fifteen years old and fell in love with it. You know, unfortunately,
Broadway is just in New York, so unless you come to New York or live in New
York, you [won't] get the experience of Hairspray on Broadway. But
this is a movie that is going everywhere, so I'm so excited to bring Tracy
to life and bring her views to little kids, and show them different is ok
and uniqueness is beautiful.
The bottom line of
this film is that being different is okay and it's okay to accept that.
It's about being who you are, being proud of who you are and embracing it,
accepting others and accepting yourself, because you can't accept and love
others until you love and accept yourself.
What did you two you
relate to the most about your characters?
Oh gosh, I wish I could relate to Link. At the beginning, he's a fun
character to play. He's a little bit shallow and enjoying the limelight of
being a star on a local daytime TV show, so there wasn't much I could relate
to Link. I guess it was that he loved dancing and singing, and that was
always something I loved doing growing up. That was my outlet.
I was just a 17-year-old girl with a big dream, and Tracy is just a
17-year-old with a big dream. We both just wanted to be out there dancing
and singing and performing, and we just wanted people to believe in us. Adam
Shankman was my Corny Collins, he believed with me.
Their stories are so similar when you look at it. As far as I'm concerned,
Nikki is a real-life Tracy. It's great, such a pleasure.
What were you doing
before that prepared you for this?
I was doing my high school shows. Honestly, my high school was the only high
school in the country that does a fully worked, orchestrated opera every
year. We took on very large shows like Sweeney Todd and Carmen.
I got to play Carmen and Mrs. Lovett. These were roles that really required
a lot of time and dedication. I mean, we did a fully orchestrated three-hour
opera in French. Not a lot of high schools [do that].
Which high school?
I went to the Great Neck Village School, which is an alternative high
school. You can do your sports or your theater at either of the other two
high schools. So I went to Great Neck South High School to do my theater.
Where did you go to
I went to Arroyo Grande High School in central California.
No singing or dancing
Well, I did lots of community theater. That's how I got started, really.
That's why it was a pleasure to come back and do a musical, because it’s
really how I fell in love with performing, through musicals. I wasn't so
much involved in my high school. But there were various community theater
and very professional theater houses that I loved to perform at, and I was
blessed enough to get cast in plays there.
What was your high
school experience like? Was it comfortable because high school can be really
Mine was relatively average, because I was a good student. I tried to get
really good grades, and I did. I left my high school my junior year, with
like a 4.3. I was a great student. I was so focused on academics that I
really didn't have time to worry about the pressures of high school. It
really was not a tough time for me.
You played the
nicest guy in the film, basically.
The hip guy in school, who approached the girl who
didn't really fit in...
That's what I loved about the past few characters I got to play – like Troy
Bolton from High School Musical, but also Link. You enjoy their
characters because they are nice guys, and that's what you don't find in
high school. Most of the popular kids are jerks. That's the thing with Link.
When he meets Tracy, you see a real character come through and you see him
take control. I think that's magical, [that] she brings out the best in
My high school experience was a great one. That's when I got into theater
and I started performing. It was a great experience for me. Middle school
and elementary school, however… not so much. I was teased a lot. I had a lot
of Ambers in my life, so I know what it's like. When Tracy is made fun of by
Amber and Wilma, I know what it's like. It was easy for me to tap into those
Tracy if you could now turn around to Amber
You know, it's funny; I've gone home now and see a lot of those girls.
Everybody deserves a second chance, so I'm talking to them, and I know who
my real friends are.
Well, you'll be
moving out of Great Neck soon enough.
Don't tell my mother [laughs].
You probably already
have your agents in place.
I'm working with William Morris here in New York City, and I'm very excited.
New York City is one of the best places to be.
Where did you study
Nowhere. I learned I was not a dancer before Hairspray. So all the
dancing you see in the movie, I just shook what my mama gave me.
My mama didn't give me anything, so I just shook what I had.
Seeing how you wear
your hair now, how does it feel for you to wear it in 50s
styles like that big beehive?
It's great! Actually, I get to go brag around now, because I did change a
little bit to play Link. I gained 15 pounds. That was fun for me, but of
course now I get to run and talk about it, pretend how dedicated I am.
My hair was very big, but I love my hair! It was the first time I ever
reached 5 feet because I'm 4"10. It was the final piece for Tracy, the final
way of getting into that character and letting her emerge.
How long did it take
you to put on?
It took us about an hour and a half to get it all ratted up and perfectly
If this movie makes
100 million bucks, and you made a sequel and we were living in a perfect
world, what would you want or expect for the two characters?
Oh, my gosh – I can't imagine. That would be so much fun.
That would be amazing! I think it would be fun to see them together.
Like 20 years down the road, Tracy is making sandwiches for Link.
I don't know. I think anything with this cast would be great.
What was it like
working with Queen Latifah?
That's my girl! She's been an idol of mine growing up, because she was
always a beautiful woman, proud of who she was, embraced who she was, shared
it with the world and didn't apologize for it. So, for me, to work with one
of my idols was one of the coolest experiences of my life, and now to know
her for the person she is, the incredible human being, is really the most
She's cool! I feel like such a dork. She is so awesome. I want to hang out
with her more.
And getting to work
with John Travolta, too?
Yes, definitely! That's an experience within itself.
The others are as cool as John, but it's the confidence with which he
approaches everything – he just knows that he is cool. You even see a little
bit of it in Edna. It's so iconic, and I'll always admire his courage, the
way he always goes for it. It's marvelous.
Did you see the
original John Waters'
Yeah. We had like movie nights. (to Nikki) Did you ever come to one
of those? We had a movie night in Toronto, [with] Hairspray and we'd
all just laugh. It was so funny because we found out Brittany [Snow] really
does look like the original Amber. We would laugh so hard.
John Waters is a genius.
Did you get the chance
to talk to Ricki Lake [who played the original Tracy]?
Yes, I did. I actually still am in contact with Ricki. We email each other
all the time. She was there for a whole day. During "You Can't Stop the
Beat." It was just incredible to have her there.
You didn't get her
down to dance. Did she join?
Oh, yeah! She is so sweet, just like the older sister I always wanted.
Was she in the song
for the soundtrack?
Yes, Ricki, Marissa – all three of us were in a recording studio together,
in booths right next to each other, and we all sang the song. It was a great
experience. Tracy Trio, I think we should take it on the road.
Was Harvey [Fierstein,
who played mother Edna in the Broadway show] there too?
No, they just added him in.
Are you doing a
recording of original [material] for yourself or recording outside of movie
I love to write lyrics for myself and other people. I've started writing and
compiling material for a possible album in the future.
We were talking about an album of duets.
We can do duets, but I think what everyone expects of me is to make an
album. It would be an easy road for me.
You could record one
Oh, of course, I would love to record songs. But I'm not going to go and
have the Zac Efron introductory album.
How long will it be
until you get tired of the teen idol thing and want to go out and do your
Fiction; go out and shoot people?
As I get older, I definitely get interested in certain kinds of films. Of
course, I'm in love with Pulp Fiction, and so many adult films, and I
don't know when that transition will be. It's usually just finding projects
that interest me. Curse words and drugs are not necessarily interesting, but
it's the characters and drama and situation that they are put in. If I find
a heroic character in a nitty gritty story, I would love to play that
character. Although I love musicals and continue to be in them, they are not
the only genre I would love to do. I would love to try everything from
horror to action to straight comedy – so much in this business that you can
do and it's all in different levels.
Do you have thoughts
of similar roles?
Absolutely. It's all about the character and connection you make, how you
portray them. So I can't wait to dive into something serious, dramas, and
also some straight comedies as well. But I think there are so many great
venues to take in this business, and I can't wait to explore them all.
Do you have anything
else that you completed?
Yes, I'm getting ready to start on my second movie. I can't say exactly what
it is yet, but I can say it will be filming very close.
are you about High School Musical 2?
What's going to be different about it, so it's not a repeat of the original?
In the first movie we established the characters. In the second movie we
just dealt deeper. By now we know what the characters are like, and of
course, the kids are going to know them individually. With such naturally
different characters, you are going to have drama and hilarity. With this
cast we got such great music. You'll have the same great cast, same
director, and we have tons of new original music. I'm glad we are going to
have it one more time.
Would you make it a
Haunted High School Musical?
I think "haunted" is no longer in the picture. I think everyone was a nay on
that idea. Now I think it will be much more of a real story about the
Wildcats' legacy and how they lead this time, and senior year. I think
that's so much more dramatic and real.
Yeah, that would be part three. But at this point it's in the studio’s
hands. They haven't really come to the cast yet. Hopefully we will see a
Are they still talking
theatrical for Three?
interviewing Vanessa [Anne Hudgens] next week. What do you find interesting
about her as an actress and person?
I love watching High School Musical 1. I didn't go to see the live
show of High School Musical, but I watched the concert DVD. The first
time I saw the movie; it jumped out to me how much Vanessa could really
light up the screen. She is a brilliant performer. She's such a kind, caring
individual and that just really shows through the character she plays, like
Tracy. I like working with girls with charisma and I think Vanessa really
has that. Vanessa is incredible, she really stands above the rest of the
competition and I admire her for that.
Are you going to do
the movie of
Footloose – based
on the musical?
Yeah, it was just an idea brought to me by some friends. In particular, the
way they would do the movie was very interesting to me and [I was]
definitely intrigued. I got the feeling that we wouldn't just be remaking
Kevin Bacon's brilliant movie. There is no way I would attempt to take on
that idea. They kept a few things. First of all, it would be a full-blown
musical, which is interesting, such great music to build on. We would put in
some new elements and try to make it our own movie. I don't want to take
away from Kevin Bacon’s legendary performance.
Are you going to be a
Hairspray on Broadway?
Well, since we both started in theater, that's always a dream come true.
That's how you catch the bug – by performing live and hearing the applause
and singing songs for an audience that is generally intrigued. There is an
instant gratification at the end of every number. I personally would love to
go back to Broadway.
I as well.
Who knows, maybe we can do it as a duo, as Link and Tracy.
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