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Justin Martin Interview

High School Musical's new class member
discusses joining the fray of Disney's hit franchise

By Amy Braun

A young actor with an already-impressive resume, Justin Martin is one of the three new Wildcats in High School Musical 3: Senior Year, now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Justin Martin poses in character as Donnie Dion in the High School Musical 3: Senior Year end credits.
Justin started acting at the age of 7 in his Atlanta church's drama department. Since then, he has been in numerous commercials and TV shows such as "Malcolm in the Middle", "Judging Amy", and "Cold Case", for which he was nominated for a Young Artist Award. In 2006, Justin took on the role of Young Simba in Disney’s long-running, award-winning The Lion King Broadway musical. Last year, he appeared as Travis Younger, playing the son of Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and the grandson of Phylicia Rashad in the thrice Emmy-nominated television movie A Raisin in the Sun.

In High School Musical 3, 14-year-old Justin plays Donnie Dion, an underclassman player on the Wildcats basketball team who is best friends with fellow newbie Jimmie "Rocketman" Zara (Matt Prokop). In this recent interview, Justin opens up to UltimateDisney.com about the popularity of the High School Musical franchise, the Extended Edition DVD, and his future career plans.

UltimateDisney.com: Were you a fan of the High School Musical movies before getting involved in High School Musical 3?

Justin Martin: Not so much me. I have a little 9-year-old sister, at the time she was 8, so she's in love with High School Musical, a die-hard fan. So when she found out her big brother was going to be in High School Musical 3, she went crazy.

What were some thoughts you had when you found out that you got the role of Donnie?

I got the call from the director himself. It was on my mom's birthday, and Kenny Ortega called me, and at first I thought that it was a prank call, because some of my friends had called me acting like the director, the producer, or the casting director, and they were acting like it was up. When he called me at first, I didn't believe him. I just thought it was another of my friends or whatever, but it ended up being him, and it was crazy. It was great.

Were you excited to work with the actors from the previous High School Musical movies?

Yeah, definitely. I think at first I didn't know what to expect coming into the whole situation. It's like your first day of school, and you're a freshman and there are all these seniors and juniors,
and you don't really know what they're going to think about you, 'cause it's their school. But from day one, they welcomed us in the cast with open arms, and it was great. We all became like a big family.

Can you tell me about the deleted scenes that are on the Extended Edition DVD?

Yeah. The DVD has a few features on it. It has the blooper reel, which is hilarious. It also has the new character profile, which includes my web diary, Jemma [McKenzie-Brown]'s, and Matt [Prokop]'s, so it's just a little bit more insight on the three new characters, so that should be fun, also.

Your character, Donnie, looks up to Corbin Bleu's character, Chad. Did Corbin give you any special advice during filming? How about other cast members?

They were always instrumental in giving the newcomers advice. The main advice that they just gave us was to keep a close relationship with your family, especially your parents. And know who your friends are before all this happens, because those are the people that were with you before everything happened, and they're going to be with you after all of it. That was the most important advice that they gave me.

What do you think it is about the High School Musical movies that resonate with so many people?

Well, I think it really teaches kids how to be their own person, and not care about what anybody else thinks. Like, for example, Zac [Efron]'s character - he's the star on the basketball team, but he loves to sing and dance, and that's okay, and he won't be judged. So, I think that teaches kids.
Justin Martin and Matt Prokop get a whiff of their new lockers in this High School Musical 3 deleted scene from the Extended Edition DVD.
A lot of the schools that have stereotypical social groups that aren't cool, and other groups, it teaches them how to break out of that shell and really say that they can be their own person.

And for High School Musical 3, I think it reaches out to a more adult and mature audience, dealing with things like senior year and prom and going to college. I think when adults watch it, they can reminisce on how life was their senior year when they were in high school.

You had been on Broadway playing Simba in The Lion King, so obviously you had had singing and dancing experience prior to High School Musical 3. Did you find any challenges in performing in a movie musical, versus performing in a Broadway musical?

Not really. That's one of the things that I loved about it, because I've always loved theatre, singing and dancing. And it's cool that High School Musical involves all three of those, acting, singing, and dancing, in the movie. It was a lot of fun.

Do you have a favorite musical number in the film?

My favorite one is "The Boys Are Back", with Corbin and Zac. That was my favorite song in the whole movie.

What are your goals for your career? Do you have anything coming up that you are really looking forward to?

I love playing different roles. High School Musical was my first kind of kid/family-oriented movie; every other movie that I've done was more dramatic and more for a mature audience. So it's cool to break out of that shell and do something a little bit more fun, so I love having versatility with each role that I do.

In April, The Soloist [in which Justin plays a younger version of Jamie Foxx's lead] comes out, which is so much different from High School Musical.
So I like just changing it up with every role that I do. Hopefully I can keep on doing that in the future. Right now, I'm working on music, which it isn't something new to me, but for the fans and my audience, it's going to be something that they haven't heard yet, so I'm really excited for that. So, just changing it up and always bringing something new to the table.

Do you have a favorite Disney film?

High School Musical! Come on, now!

Have you always been a fan of the movie musical?

I think High School Musical revolutionized making musicals cool again. There wasn't really a kid-oriented family movie musical until Grease, and I think Grease, it wasn't even really that kid-friendly, so High School Musical is the first of its kind to come out with something like that. And it made musicals cool again, and especially made it cool for guys to sing and dance.

When I was in elementary school, I took tap classes, and I remember having to hide my tap shoes in my bag. 'Cause I had tap class right after school and whenever they'd fall out of my bag, I'd get made fun of, because I was a dancer and a singer. But now it's cool for dudes to sing, 'cause girls like it. I think it really brought back making it cool for guys to be involved in theatre and sing and dance and want to act and stuff.

If you could have been in any movie musical from any era, which would you choose?

I love The Wiz. That's one of my favorite movie musicals of all time.

Buy High School Musical 3: Senior Year Extended Edition DVD from Amazon.com
High School Musical 3: Senior Year is now on DVD and Blu-ray.
Read our review. / Buy High School Musical 3: Senior Year from Amazon.com:
2-Disc Extended DVD / 1-Disc Theatrical DVD / Blu-ray/DVD Combo / DVD Trilogy / Blu-ray Trilogy

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Related Interviews:
Mitchel Musso ("Hannah Montana", "Phineas & Ferb", Snow Buddies music video) | Michael Angarano (Sky High, The Forbidden Kingdom)
Taylor Lautner (Twilight, The Adventures of Sharkboy & Lavagirl) | Brenda Song ("The Suite Life of Zack & Cody", "Suite Life On Deck")

Related Red Carpet Photo Reports:
High School Musical DVD Premiere at El Capitan (May 2006) | High School Musical 2 DVD Premiere at El Capitan (November 2007)

Related Reviews:
High School Musical 3: Senior Year (Extended Edition)
High School Musical: Encore Edition, 2-Disc Remix / High School Musical 2: Extended Edition, 2-Disc Deluxe Dance Edition
High School Musical DVD Game • High School Musical: The Concert - Extreme Access Pass DVD, CD
Recent Disney DVDs: Mary Poppins: 45th Anniversary Edition • The Secret of the Magic Gourd • Space Buddies
Fall 2008 Movies: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa • Fireproof • City of Ember • Body of Lies • Beverly Hills Chihuahua
Disney 2008 Films: WALL•E • The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian • Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert
Featuring the High School Musical Cast: That's So Suite Life of Hannah Montana • Jump In! • Return to Halloweentown
Wizards of Waverly Place: Supernaturally Stylin' • Hannah Montana: The Complete First Season • Step Up 2 The Streets
The Even Stevens Movie • Lizzie McGuire: Box Set Volume 1 • Kit Kittredge: An American Girl • The Cheetah Girls 2 • Twitches
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High School Musical: Soundtrack, 2-Disc SE Soundtrack, Karaoke Series / High School Musical 2: Soundtrack, Karaoke Series

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Posted February 19, 2009.