A brand-new group of Wildcats is taking center stage in Disney+’s original series, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. One of them is Big Red, played by Larry Saperstein.
I got the chance to talk to Larry about how he got started in acting originally, whether or not he was a fan of the original High School Musical films, what we can expect from Big Red in future episodes and so much more. Keep reading to see what he had to say!
Tell me a little bit about how you got into acting originally
I grew up in NYC, and I started taking dance classes when I was 6 years old. Both of my parents used to do community theater, and I would always tag along to rehearsals. When I was 8, the same community theater cast me as Winthrop in a production of The Music Man, and from then on I loved it! I stayed with it and started taking classes in the city, and now, here I am!
Was there a specific person or experience that you would credit with helping you decide that acting is what you wanted to do for a living?
That’s tough! I think in many ways, I’m still figuring a lot of things out! I have been fortunate to have a few mentors – for tap dance, for acting, and even for theatrical design (another passion of mine) – and they have all shaped my artistic sensibility. My mom always used to say that it takes a village to raise a person, meaning your values and skills don’t just come from one inspirational figure. It comes from everyone that takes the time to lend a hand, and I really have always believed in that.
Let’s talk about High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (HSMTMTS). What did you first think about the show when you read the script? What was your audition process like?
I remember thinking how funny the show was at first, and loving the docu-style aspect of the show. I had always wanted to be in a docu-style comedy! I don’t think it clicked for me though that it was actually an homage to HSM until about halfway through reading the first episode the first time.
My audition process was a little hectic, because I was the last main cast member hired. They were about two weeks away from when they needed to begin shooting the pilot, and I remember doing the first audition, and then going to Florida to visit my grandparents. I was there for about 30 hours, and was asked if there was any way I could come back to New York to do a callback. I found the cheapest flight back, did my callback, and 3 days later, I was in LA testing for producers and Disney executives. A few days after that, we were sitting down for the very first table read! It all happened so fast that I don’t know if it really hit me how massive this was until our first few days of filming.
Were you a fan of High School Musical (HSM) before you got the role?
Definitely! Who wasn’t? I remember forcing my mom to put the second movie on tape the night it came out, because we weren’t going to be home. And then she let me stay up well after midnight to watch it. I also remember being mad at her because she told me that she liked the first movie better than the second. HSM 2 is better and I will still stand by that.
Seeing that the franchise is so iconic, did you feel a lot of pressure heading into filming or not as much because it’s not a straight remake of the movie?
I think the pressure came less from HSM and more just from wanting to do a great job and make the producers proud. I loved the script so much and I was already hooked on the show before we even began filming. I knew the idea for the show was brilliant, and I was so excited to get the ball rolling! Once we really bonded as a cast, there were never any nerves because we always had each other’s backs and we are so committed to each other and to the show. And I think that really comes through when you watch the show!
I know a lot of actors bring a bit of themselves to the characters they play, but in what ways do you think you’re similar to Big Red and in what ways do you think you’re different from Big Red?
We’ve actually talked about this a lot as a cast because some of us are way more similar to our characters than others. I, for one, have a few key differences to Big Red – they actually had to send me to skateboarding lessons before shooting the first episode because I didn’t even know how to go in a straight line – but he has definitely become my favorite person on the planet. Big Red and I are both insanely loyal friends, and we are both very open minded and willing to try new things. There’s an optimism in Big Red joining the musical that I really always tried to tap into.
At least from what we’ve seen in the first two episodes, Big Red is not part of the musical aside from getting volunteered to fill in for the read through. Can we expect him to be a part of the musical in some way, shape or form?
Big Red has been roped in, and he’s not going anywhere! The series really is about finding your tribe, and finding the people that make you want to be a better person, and so I think you’ll be able to see Big Red start to find a home where he’s never before felt like he belonged.
Which upcoming episode are you most excited for fans to see and why?
Episode 1×07 is my absolute favorite! The episode has so many light-hearted, sweet moments, and we spent almost that entire episode filming as a full cast. The group scenes in the show are some of the best moments, and it makes for an amazing dynamic which I’m so excited for everyone to see.
Why should people who might be reluctant to watch HSMTMTS at first ultimately give the show a chance?
I think anyone who has ever been involved in theater ever will find something to relate to in HSMTMTS. It pays so much respect to the original HSM films, but even more so it explores what it’s like to be a theater kid and what it’s like to find a group of people that like you for you. Plus there are amazing new songs and a ton of wonderful moments that I think anyone would love!
Lastly, we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd so what is something that you’re currently nerding out about?
So many things! For one, Disney+ (not sponsored, ha) has so many movies and TV shows that I’m reliving, and The Imagineering Story is fantastic. I studied technical theater and design for a while, so anything relating to the technology behind entertainment is incredibly interesting to me. I also recently was super into The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance series on Netflix, because the craftsmanship for the new puppets is fantastic and they are absolutely gorgeous.