THEN AND NOW: The cast of the 'High School Musical' movies 15 years later

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Olivia Singh
·8 min read
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high school musical gabriella troy
Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Efron starred in "High School Musical." Disney Channel
  • "High School Musical" came out in 2006 and the stars have since starred in movies and shows.

  • Zac Efron is a bona fide film star now and played Ted Bundy in a 2019 Netflix movie.

  • Vanessa Hudgens starred in the 2020 Netflix rom-com "The Princess Switch: Switched Again."

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

On January 20, 2006, Disney Channel premiered "High School Musical." The movie centered on a jock (played by then-unknown Zac Efron) falling in love with a shy, book-smart girl named Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) and shaking up the norms amid auditions for the school's musical.

Catchy tracks and perfectly synchronized choreography resulted in the film being viewed by millions of people nationwide, and the soundtrack became the top-selling album of 2006. The success also led to two sequels and a new Disney Plus series called "High School Musical: The Musical" with a new generation of actors.

Keep reading to see what the cast has been up to in the 15 years since "HSM" was released.

Zac Efron starred as Troy Bolton.

troy bolton high school musical
This was Zac Efron's breakout role. Disney Channel

He was the most popular guy at East High, equally talented at singing and playing basketball. Troy fell in love with Gabriella after meeting her at a ski resort and reluctantly being paired up for karaoke.

Efron stars on a travel series for Netflix titled "Down to Earth With Zac Efron."

zac efron down to earth france
Zac Efron on his show, "Down to Earth With Zac Efron." Netflix

It's unclear when Efron and costar Vanessa Hudgens began dating in real life, but they split in 2010.

Since "HSM," Efron showed off his smooth moves as Link Larkin in the 2007 movie "Hairspray." He also led R-rated films like "That Awkward Moment," "Neighbors," "Dirty Grandpa," "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates," and "Baywatch."

In December 2017, the actor starred in "The Greatest Showman" alongside Zendaya and Hugh Jackman. The actor also voiced the character Gary on the animated Facebook Watch series "Human Discoveries."

He played real-life serial killer Ted Bundy in Netflix's 2019 movie "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile."

Efron has a YouTube channel, where he posts fitness and travel videos, too.

Next, he'll star in a reboot of Stephen King's "Firestarter" and appear in a remake of "Three Men and a Baby" for Disney Plus.

Gabriella Montez was portrayed by Vanessa Hudgens.

vanessa hudgens gabriella montez high school musical
Gabriella wore a necklace with Troy's initial on it. Disney Channel

Gabriella was one of the smartest students in her class. She was shy, but showcased her fun side whenever she took the stage for a performance.

Hudgens has made a name for herself as both an actress and singer.

vanessa hudgens september 2019
Vanessa Hudgens in September 2019. Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

Hudgens released two albums (one in 2006 and the other in 2008). In 2012, she starred in "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" with Dwayne Johnson and "Spring Breakers" with Selena Gomez.

She hit Broadway with the titular role in the musical "Gigi," which ran for a few months in 2015. The actress also sang and danced as Rizzo in "Grease Live!," starred on the short-lived NBC sitcom "Powerless," and was a judge on Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance."

These days, Hudgens is keeping busy on-screen and off-screen. She appeared on the big screen in two films released in 2018, "Dog Days" with Nina Dobrev and "Second Act" with Jennifer Lopez, and starred in the Netflix thriller "Polar."

She also played Maureen Johnson in Fox's "Rent: Live."

Hudgens played two roles in the Netflix Christmas movie "The Princess Switch." In the 2020 sequel titled "The Princess Switch: Switched Again," the actress portrayed three different characters. She starred in another holiday movie for the streaming service called "The Knight Before Christmas."

The actress dated actor Austin Butler for nine years, but their split was revealed in January 2020.

Ashley Tisdale played mean girl Sharpay Evans.

ashley tisdale as sharpay evans in high school musical
Sharpay Evans was always jealous of Troy and Gabriella's relationship. Disney Channel

Sharpay loved attention, and didn't appreciate people who were also gifted performers.

Ashley Tisdale is now an actress, singer, beauty founder, and executive producer.

ashley tisdale december 2019
Ashley Tisdale in December 2019. Faye Sadou/MediaPunch /IPX

Prior to "HSM," Tisdale was already Disney Channel royalty for her role as Maddie on "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody." She continued playing the Tipton hotel's candy counter girl until the show ended in 2008 and voiced the character Candace on "Phineas and Ferb."

The singer dropped two albums (in 2007 and 2009), and also released her third studio album, titled "Symptoms," in May 2020.

She tied the knot with musician Christopher French in 2014 and they're expecting their first child together.

The actress also branched into beauty with the creation of Illuminate Cosmetics in 2016.

More recently, Tisdale starred as Jenny Kenney on the CBS sitcom "Carol's Second Act" and Kayla on Netflix's "Merry Happy Whatever."

Lucas Grabeel played Sharpay's brother, Ryan Evans.

ryan evans high school musical
Ryan Evans had a great sense of style. Disney Channel

He was constantly forced to participate in schemes with his fraternal sister. But Chad gained a newfound sense of respect for Ryan after they danced to a baseball-themed routine in the sequel.

After "HSM," Grabeel went on to voice characters on popular TV shows.

lucas grabeel september 2018
Lucas Grabeel in September 2018. Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

You might have recognized the actor's voice on shows like "Elena of Avalor" and "Family Guy." He also voiced a hot dog on the Nickelodeon and Netflix show "Pinky Malinky."

Additionally, he starred as Toby Kennish on the drama series "Switched at Birth" and competed on the Food Network's "Chopped" in 2014.

Acting aside, Grabeel is part of a folk-rock band called Midnight Holler.

When Grabeel teamed up with Tisdale in 2017 to sing "What I've Been Looking For" (popularized by the first "HSM" film) the former costars revealed a surprising detail about their relationship.

"We were not close," Tisdale recalled. "We were not good friends, let's be honest."

Grabeel added that they "didn't get off on the best foot," but nowadays they love each other.

Troy's wingman, Chad Danforth, was played by Corbin Bleu.

corbin bleu as chad danfroth in high school musical
Even though he didn't want to associate himself with musicals, Chad Danforth was clearly an impeccable dancer. Disney Channel

In a 2007 interview, Bleu revealed that he actually came up with the creative and fun catchphrases that were written on Chad's shirts.

"I kept the one that said, 'I worship waffles,'" he added.

Bleu went on to become a Broadway star.

corbin bleu 2019
Corbin Bleu in March 2019. Walter McBride/Getty Images

He starred in productions of "In the Heights," "Godspell," and "Holiday Inn." Bleu returned to Broadway in a 2019 revival of "Kiss Me, Kate!"

The actor was also the runner-up on season 17 of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" and released two albums.

He guest-starred on episodes of "Castle," "The Good Wife," "The Fosters," "Chicago Med," and "Supergirl."

In 2016, Bleu married actress Sasha Clements.

Monique Coleman starred as Taylor McKessie.

monique coleman as taylor mckessie in high school musical
She was Gabriella's best friend. Disney Channel

Taylor was the leader of East High's scholastic decathlon team and selected as the activities coordinator at Lava Springs.

Coleman now uses her platform to empower others.

monique coleman november 2019
Monique Coleman in November 2019. Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Aside from her Instagram being filled with inspirational messages, Coleman was named the United Nations' first-ever "Youth Champion" for her efforts to improve the lives of young people.

She is also a "Champion" for Girl Up, an organization that strives to help young women become leaders.

Like Bleu, the actress competed on "DWTS." She participated in 2006 and finished in fourth place. Coleman still remains good friends with Bleu and sat down to interview him for an episode of her talk show, "Gimme Mo." The actress also scored a Daytime Emmy nomination in 2019 for hosting "Gimme Mo."

Speaking to Insider for the 15th anniversary of "HSM," Coleman said that she "went years without working" afterward and "really struggled to kind of find my voice as an artist."

She found fulfillment and purpose through philanthropy and Gimme Mo Youth, which began as a non-profit but now extends to all facets of empowering young people.

Coleman said that her faith and turning to philanthropy helped to "ground" her and make her feel like she did "something that mattered" outside of her job as an entertainer.

In her personal life, she got married to Walter Jordan in 2012, lived in New York, and "recognized that I still want to make sure to achieve the dreams that I have as an artist."

Coleman will continue to empower youths through a children's book that she has in the works. She also wants to play a superhero (like DC Comics' Vixen or Bumblebee) "more than anything."

"Ever since 'Black Panther,' I've finally been able to really see a place for myself and not necessarily in that franchise, but just in general, that there's so much room for more faces," Coleman said. "And I deeply want to be one of them and tell some really cool story."

Songwriter and pianist Kelsi Nielsen was played by Olesya Rulin.

kelsi nielsen high school musical
Kelsi Nielsen was an introvert. Disney Channel

She wrote the song "You Are the Music in Me" for Troy and Gabriella.

Rulin runs a blog where she answers questions from fans, shares wellness and beauty tips, and writes about fashion.

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Olesya Rulin in October 2019. Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Most recently, the actress starred in the TV movie "Devious Nanny." She also appeared on shows like "SEAL Team," "The Night Shift," "NCIS," and "The Mentalist."

She's quite close with Coleman and thanked her for "cheering me on and making me see my own potential. All while helping young people around the world achieve their dreams."

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