It’s not often you’ll encounter a Hollywood star as good-natured, down-to-earth and genuinely gracious as Lucas Grabeel. Perhaps best known for his role as Ryan Evans, Sharpay’s twin brother from the High School Musical series, he is equally becoming well known for his role as Toby Kennish in the ABC Family drama Switched at Birth. But Lucas has a wide-range of talent and a very diverse portfolio of projects. You might have seen him on Boston Legal, Veronica Mars, or even on Smallville where he portrayed a young Lex Luthor. He was also in the movie Milk, the critically acclaimed film starring Sean Penn.
Lucas’ latest project is Sheriff Callie’s Wild West, a new Disney Jr. show. Lucas plays Peck, a Barney Fife-like woodpecker who is Sheriff Callie’s deputy and was kind enough to let me ask him a few questions:
What drew you to the idea of playing a law-enforcing woodpecker on Sheriff Callie’s Wild West?
I’ve always dreamed of doing voice-over, making silly voices as a kid. I loved the thought of being an animated character. It was one of those things. I was auditioning as much as I could and showed up with the right voice at the right time. Now that I’ve been able to see the finished product, it’s such a cute show and I’m so happy to be a part of it. There’s really great energy. Everyone’s super smart. We have a lot of fun and I think that transcends through the microphone.
What inspired you to choose that particular voice for Peck?
They said it was a country western show with a Barney Fife-like character. I’m from Missouri and my dad talks like this [does his best Peck voice.] So I did an impersonation of him and just notched it up a bit.
Speaking of your dad, what would you tell parents who want to know why their kids should watch Sheriff Callie?
Disney is really great about creating content and especially great about creating content for children. They’re also great at creating content that’s clever and the effects are appealing to adults as well. I’m laughing along with my girlfriend as we’re watching it together. When you’re sitting down with your child it’s going to be a good message, it’s going to be funny, it’s going to be great and you’re going to learn a very valuable and simple message.
Changing tacks a bit, what influence have your parents had on your career?
A lot actually. When I was in high school I did a lot of musical theater. They were always extremely supportive, taking me to the theater and letting me do my thing. That was important. I didn’t have a “momager” or “dadager.” They let me do it on my own which was very valuable. When I was trying to decide about college, my dad said, “You have all the talent in the world. You might as well go out there. You’re going to be a star.” I know other friends who are artists who didn’t have the same support. It was much harder for them.
What would you tell a parent whose child wanted to go into the acting business?
Well, you know, I see a lot of parents controlling their kids in their art. Teaching your kids is important, but you’re not going to teach them a whole lot if you’re doing everything for them and tell them how to say their lines. Allow them to fail, allow them to trip, because they learn from that. Encourage them to do everything. When kids ask me about getting into acting, I tell them, “Never say no to anything because you never know where it will lead.” When an opportunity comes along, do it! Learn horseback riding, archery, whatever! Whatever interests you. Even if you never do it, being well-rounded will be a huge benefit.
How do you think parents can best support their children’s aspirations and dreams in general?
Strong support. Also giving space and freedom, especially in becoming an artist because artists are a little bit weird. Give them the reinforcement, the confidence of being able to do whatever they want to do. My parents always said, “Believe in yourself and nothing will stop you.” I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t believe in myself and have the confidence that my parents gave me. Who would have thought that I could come from a town of less than 5000 people, go out to Hollywood, and be able to do what I do. It’s a fairy tale and I’m so grateful for my parents doing that for me. It’s a great life I get to live. And I’m so grateful.