A High School Musical Fave Turned to a Co-Star During Her Darkest Time
Don’t lie, whenever you pop in the ol’ High School Musical DVDs and get to the final scene in HSM 3: Senior Year, you may or may not be guilty of the ugly cry. We’re totally there with you. We can’t help that the series has the BEST cast, especially since they are all BFFs in real-life. And in true best friend spirit, when Monique Coleman was questioning her worth, she turned to Alyson Reed (a.k.a. Ms. Darbus) to get her out of the slump. The irony slash cuteness slash perfectness of that is almost too much to handle.
We seriously can’t fathom how the 35-year-old actress ever even questioned her capabilities; besides continuously spear-heading Gimme Mo’, the non-profit the actres founded, she also landed herself a major role this year. If you haven’t already checked out the web series, The Fourth Door, we can pretty much guarantee you’ll be running to the nearest tablet to binge-watch the second after you read all Monique had to share with us.
We were so excited when we heard you’d be starring in the supernatural web series, The Fourth Door. How did that originally get started?
“It was actually just a traditional audition. The difference though, is that the casting director, Carmen (Aiello), didn’t really believe in the audition process as it stands, so the first audition was actually an interview with Tony (Valenzuela) and the co-creator and producer, Jarrett Sleeper, which was a little out of the ordinary. Typically, you go in, you read for people and they pick you or they don’t. This was different because they got the chance to know a lot of different people, and vice versa. I basically made it through the entire process and was lucky enough to book the project. I wish more people did it this way, because the reality is, the way you audition is not necessarily the way you are on set and it doesn’t always show if you have the responsibility to carry something past just the scene that you auditioned with.”
What can you tell us about the series?
“The Fourth Door is a supernatural thriller that follows this girl, Lain, through a place called Limbo, which in this story is where we go after we die, but before when we get to where we are going next. Essentially, Lain is running around with a teenage astronaut who she has a very strong connection with, even though she doesn’t know why in the beginning. She is fighting off all the terrible memories of his childhood, in order to free the guy that she loves. As she goes on, she learns more about herself and her inability to have accepted love in her life; she gets to go through a really neat transformation… When we shot it, we did scenes from all different episodes altogether, so now I am getting to see it come together almost like an audience member and it’s been a really cool experience.”
What was your reaction when you heard you got the part as Lain?
“I was so excited. It’s a dream role for me and a part that even when I read it before the audition, I knew I wanted it. I’m very passionate about women’s empowerment and the empowerment of girls, and the fact that she was such a strong female character, who’s also grappling with certain emotional shortcomings… There was so much in there that I felt like I could not only relate to, but wanted so badly to bring to life. I was over the moon, to say the least.”
What else can you tell us about Lain?
“I think Lain’s journey is interesting because in her life, she was very sure of herself and the decisions that she’d made, but then in her afterlife — or in Colin’s afterlife, rather — she discovers why she took steps off of the path for love, and I think that’s really neat. I really want people to watch it because I’m interested to learn how the audience perceives it and what they take from it. I look forward to getting people’s feedback. I love that it’s in this supernatural, larger than life world, but the story is something simple enough that people can relate to. I think sometimes it takes being in an overly stimulated visual environment to distract you from the fact that we’re all just people who are trying to learn how to love each other. In it, we ask the question, is there still hope after you die? I think there is.”
It seems like there are a lot of stunts and action scenes to shoot. Were there ever any bad injuries on set?
“No, just a little scratch on my elbow or something that could be fixed with a band aid (laughs). I was really sore, though. You don’t realize when you are doing it how much adrenaline you have; when it’s over, you’re like, ‘Why am I so sore?’ I invested in some serious Epsom salt. Doing my own stunts was a really fun part of the experience, and something that I didn’t necessarily think much about going into it. It all happened quickly from booking the role, to shooting, to the project actually being completed and out; it all happened in less than three months. There wasn’t a lot of time to stop and think about things, but it was so worth it. I woke up so excited every day and also a tiny bit sad because I knew that it wasn’t going to last forever. I was so full of feeling.”
We saw that your birthday was pretty much a mini ,em>HSM reunion with Lucas, Corbin, and a couple of other HSM faves. How have you all managed to keep in touch over the years?
“Yeah, as the years go on, we’ve realized that we’ve known each other for more than ten years, so we’re definitely more than friends; we’re each other’s family. We’ve celebrated weddings, babies, birthdays and so many things together. For a while it was hard because we were on different coasts for whatever reasons, whether it be Corbin (Bleu), Vanessa (Hudgens) doing Broadway, or Ashley (Tisdale) shooting in Canada, or me travelling the world… We’re all very busy, which is really a blessing to be so busy. Over the years, we’ve supported one another from afar when we’ve had to, but now that most of us are here in LA, it’s really nice to be able to do more things together.”
It’s like you all actually went to high school together.
“Yeah, totally. I like to think of it like Julia Roberts and George Clooney, or Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. I always picture the Golden Globes and I know what I want my table to look like, and it kind of looks like my birthday party (laughs). It’s pretty neat.”
You founded an organization more than five years ago and it’s still making a huge difference today. Can you tell us more about that?
“Post-High School Musical I had this realization that fame and success were never going to be enough if it wasn’t about something bigger than myself. I decided to take what I learned about young people from being part of such a big franchise for youth, and really just try to make a difference. I founded Gimme Mo’ as a non-profit and a brand to really empower and motivate young people to be their best selves. I travelled the world with the United Nations in 2010 as the first Youth Champion and I’ve since been trying to find as much of a balance as I can with my work on and off-screen, so that my work on-screen feels like it has meaning and value, and can amplify the things that I really care about. I want to make sure that young people, especially young girls, are safe, educated and healthy.”
People can also watch episodes from the talk show on Hulu. What kinds of things do you touch on?
“We cover youth, homelessness, bullying, self-esteem, there’s an episode called, “Think Before You Ink” about things you should consider before getting a tattoo, so it’s really just trying to have things that are relate-able to young people, but then also some that are service-oriented or celebrities, and that kind of thing.”
Has there ever been a favorite guest celebrity who has been on it?
“I really loved the one I did with Corbin, called “On Being a Gentleman,” because it has so many things to it. I got to interview him backstage when he was on the Broadway show In the Heights and kind of incorporate that into the episode. We also did a sketch comedy piece in there, which was also fun. It was really fun because we are so close and comfortable.”
Are there any other exciting projects coming up that you can share?
“I can’t share anything at the moment, but I may have some news coming up shortly… Honestly, I’m so happy to be in a moment where I’m not thinking about the past or the future, but I’m exactly where I want to be, doing exactly what I want to be doing. That’s such a hard thing to achieve in such a competitive industry. It’s really, really rare. I called Alyson Reed, who played Ms. Darbus in HSM; I drop in and she coaches me sometimes with acting or auditions, which is really hilarious since she was the drama teacher in the movies. When I booked this role, I called her and was crying on the phone telling her how excited I was and how grateful I was to her. There was a period in time where I had lost all my confidence, and had gone off and done all these things that were very important, but took me out of acting. I was worried about whether or not I could still do it; I felt very insecure. So much fear came up in me when I decided that coming back to acting was something that I really wanted to do, and she coached me through it. When I called her to tell her that I booked this part, she said, ‘I’m happy for you, but what I’m most happy for is that in your lifetime, people only get a handful of these opportunities to do something that they love 100% if they’re lucky, so cherish every bit of it.’ I’ve done so much more than just High School Musical, but obviously that’s a standout moment. Now, the Fourth Door is far and wide a standout role and one that I know I am going to cherish for a very, very long time.”