Corbin Bleu: "I Consider Myself Black When It Comes to Film Roles"

The Italian-Jamaican actor on High School Musical, guilty pleasures and cutting his 'fro.

Posted: 04/19/2013 08:30 AM EDT

Corbin Bleu isn't one of those actors who stumbled into fame. He's been preparing for it all his life. The former child actor, who landed his first gig at age two in a commercial for Life cereal, became a tween idol after High School Musical and is now navigating the tricky transition to full-grown star.

The Italian-Jamaican actor talks to us about his new gig on the long-running soap One Life to Live, being biracial in the business and his relationship status. 

It must be scary to be the new guy on One Life to Live, a show that's been on the air for 40-plus years. What's that been like for you?
That's actually one of the reasons why I wanted to do it. It's television history. I get a chance to work with people like Erica Slezak, who's been on the show for more than 40 years, and I'm learning a lot from her. It's a little crazy though, because there is a whole history of story lines, and I don't necessarily know what's going on. I don't know who used to be married to so-and-so, who has a hidden kid, who died and came back to life. But it definitely keeps it interesting every day.

Soap operas can easily be defined as guilty-pleasure television. What are some of your favorite shows that you keep on the down-low?
I watch cooking shows all day long. There's something therapeutic about them. And cartoons. I still watch Spongebob Squarepants and Tom & Jerry.

Like your High School Musical co-stars Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Efron, you're in the process of transitioning to a grown-up career in Hollywood. Has that been challenging?
There is an image that people have of you from what they've seen in your work, and the physical look that they know from you. But I'm 24 years old now, and the challenge is really to get people to see me that way. That's why recently I've done a lot of different films, a lot more edgy stuff. Even producers and casting directors are surprised when I walk into a room, and they go,"Whoa, you look completely different than what I expected."

Did that have something to do with you cutting your 'fro?

That was more about, it was time for a change. I was ready for it. I didn't do it all at once. It gradually went down. I had it at half-way when I was doing Broadway, then it just kept on going down until I did a movie called Sugar and I needed to have a mohawk. Once I was done with that, I trimmed it all the way down.

You have a pretty diverse background, an Italian mother and Jamaican father. How do you identify yourself?
No matter what, I consider myself Black when it comes to film roles. That's how general society sees me. But I have always been able to identify with both my cultures. I have my Italian side of the family, and when we have dinner it feels like you're in Tony Soprano's living room. And then my Jamaican family, my grandmother and my great grandmother both have thick Jamaican accents. My life is a blend. In fact, my mother is an amazing cook and I always wanted us to open an Italian-Jamaican fusion restaurant. Like, jerk chicken pizza and curried goat pasta.

Between High School Musical and One Life to Live, you're bound to have a lot of female fans. Do you have a girlfriend, or are you still browsing?
[Long silence.] Yes, I do. And that's all I'm going to say about that! That's just the one part of my life I want to keep personal.


One Life to Live premieres on Hulu and iTunes on April 29.


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 (Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

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