Ashley Tisdale and Aly Michalka have a lot in common. Both have starred on the Disney Channel, Tisdale in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and in the High School Musical franchise as the self-centered Sharpay; and Michalka in Phil and the Future, Now you See It and Haversham Hall. They also are songwriters and singers.
The two actresses are now starring in the CW’s new drama Hellcats – Aly Michalka as Marti, a pre-law student who joins the competitive Hellcats cheerleading squad in order to secure her scholarship and stay in school; Ashley Tisdale as Savannah, the Captain of the cheerleading team.
I recently spoke with both Aly and Ashley about their new series.
You both come from the Disney Channel.
Aly Michalka: I think it was a cool coincidence that we both just happened to come from a musical background and this Disney world. That was not some genius person’s idea where they were like, ‘We are going to cast these two girls that have been in this area before.’ I think it was just something where we happened to be right for these roles, and we happened to fight for these roles really hard.
It was a show that people might have preconceived notions about. We were like, ‘We are going to show the real side of these people.’ Cheerleading is badass. These people are athletic. These people work out like crazy. These people are trustworthy people because they are there to catch you when you are up in the air, flying. They have your back.
It’s a team effort. And it makes us, as actors, bond even more. The stakes go up higher for us because we have the respect for these characters and for these real-life girls that we know are in America doing the same thing.
Ashley, your character in this is a little reminiscent of your role as Sharpay in High School Musical.
Aly Michalka: I don’t think Ashley seems like Sharpay at all. First of all, she’s brunette in this. And I think there’s a softness to Savannah that Sharpay didn’t have.
Ashley Tisdale: I think the reason why you thought that they are alike is because, in the very beginning of it, Savannah and Marti do have a conflict when Marti calls them groupies. That’s very offensive, and Savannah is the team captain. She’s a team player. She’s also from the South. She’s completely different from Sharpay. I think she’s been in her own little bubble. She’s a cheerleader. She’s very religious. She’s a Christian. She’s very naïve.
As she and Marti being roommates, they grow together. Marti is bringing Savannah out of her bubble. You start to see in the pilot she’s actually a really nice girl.
Aly Michalka: She’s not as selfish as Sharpay. If Savannah wanted to be the star of the squad, she wouldn’t want to hire Marti to help them out. But she sees that there’s something in Marti that can help their team and help them get to the nationals.
There’s this connection that our two characters have that I love, just because I don’t think you would ever imagine these two characters to be friends, but what pulls them together is their passion for what they do. For Marti, it’s law, she needs to be on the squad to help pay for her scholarship. And for Savannah, it’s making it to nationals. So there is that common ground that they share together. Their stakes are really high for the two of them.
Were you ever a cheerleader?
Aly Michalka: I have no cheerleading background, but my mom happened to be a Raiderette that went to the Super Bowl, and they won, which is rad. So I guess I have it in my blood, but I’ve never had an interest to be on a squad.
I have a dance background for sure. I’ve been a part of hip-hop dance companies when I was a teenager. So I was very comfortable with the dance aspect of it.
How much of a component will your singing career be on this show?
Ashley Tisdale: I think that both Aly and I will keep our music careers, obviously separate from the show, but if there’s an opportunity to sing on the show, that’s exciting too.
Aly Michalka: It’s up to the writers and Kevin (Murphy) as a creator and producer to figure out how to fit that in. I know that there is a storyline coming up where Marti does happen to perform in a very cool, relaxed, organic setting. So we are ready for that. But my music is very special to me, and I take it extremely seriously. And it’s something that’s sacred, that my career as an actor is separate, but when it’s combined, that’s awesome.
What kind of training regimen did you go through for this show, and how much of the routines do you do yourself?
Ashley Tisdale: We do have stunt doubles. But the pilot, we did two weeks of dance rehearsal, and those were for the two dance numbers. When we got into production, we learned that we have a week now, so that was kind of shocking.
Aly Michalka: A week and then it was two days.
Ashley Tisdale: So we were like, ‘Okay we’re going to learn a whole three-minute song in two days?’ It was a little nerve-racking. But we got through it. And the best part is when we actually go to perform. We got to look at it and go, ‘Look at what we accomplished.’
Aly Michalka: You actually feel the rush that these girls feel after a competition. We just filmed a big cheer number last week, and at the end of it, I was like ‘Dude, we killed it.’