On the rare evenings they're not out stalking the likes of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, the paparazzi have recently turned their lenses on Ashley Tisdale, who portrayed snobby Sharpay Evans in "High School Musical." The 22-year-old starlet reprises that role in the upcoming sequel, "High School Musical 2," which airs August 17. Thing is, these rabid photographers never really come away with anything scandalous — just a bikini-clad Tisdale, prancing around on a beach with her friends.
Not that it bothers Tisdale much. She won't soon be seen passed out at some L.A. hotspot, and she's definitely not going to be shaving those blond locks off anytime soon.
"I've always treated my career as my work, and my normal life is just relaxing, being with my family and friends," she explained. "I have good morals, and my parents have always been supportive, and they raised me well. So I wouldn't want to embarrass my family or myself like that. Nobody's perfect — it's just something that's important to me, doing the right things in life."
While Tisdale appreciates the fact that she's a role model for thousands of young girls, she doesn't let that dictate her behavior off-screen.
"I am who I am, and I [won't] act a certain way because I have young fans," Tisdale said. "My mother was a big role model for me because she doesn't drink and doesn't smoke. So growing up, I was never really interested in that. I have fun being myself, hanging out with my friends, kayaking, going surfing. I want to be known for the work I do and not what I do with my life."
And Tisdale has been doing plenty of work. In addition to promoting the heck out of the first "High School Musical" and the subsequent "High School Musical" concert run, the actress has delved into her own music, releasing her solo debut, Headstrong, back in February. The album has gone on to sell more than 265,000 copies, and will be re-released with extra bonus material this fall. Now she's back in promo mode for "High School Musical 2," and later this month, she begins shooting "Picture This," in which she stars as Sharpay's polar opposite — an unpopular, unfashionable girl who works at Petco (see "Ashley Tisdale Gets Unpopular ... In Leading-Role Debut, 'Picture This' ").
"I love playing the mean girl," she admitted, "but I want to show diversity as an actress. I definitely want to show [people I can play] different characters and this is a leading role, which I've never done before. I love doing physical comedy and making people laugh. I want people leaving the movie theater and feeling good."
In "High School Musical 2," Tisdale returns as Sharpay, who may be even meaner this go-around. In the sequel, Sharpay gets Troy a job at her parents' country club in an attempt to steal him away from Gabriella.
"Sharpay's definitely worse in this one — any girl that's going after someone's boyfriend isn't cool to me," she continued. "She plays it up like she doesn't know what she's doing, but she definitely does. But I think that there's a vulnerable side of her too, towards the end of the movie, that nobody's really seen. I feel like a lot of the characters go through changes in this movie, and they're more developed. I think that's going to be cool for our fans to see."
For the first time, audiences will get to see what Sharpay is like outside of class, meeting her wealthy family and living her lavish lifestyle with her — pink Mustang and all. "Sharpay is extreme in this one, and it's fun to play that character," she said.
One thing's for sure: When "High School Musical 2" debuts August 17 (see " 'High School Musical' Stars Dish On Sequel's Showstoppers, Love Triangles"), there will be a lot of children glued to their sets — as well as some others.
"People followed us around a lot," she said, when asked about the "High School Musical" tour and the fans who turned out for it. "Sometimes we'd have really weird fans who are like 30 years old. At one of the shows, we had five guys — they all looked like they had to be 30 — in the front row of the concert. Not only did they know the 'High School Musical' songs, but they knew my music — and my album hadn't even come out yet. It was kind of weird. One of the guys was singing along with me, and I'm looking right at him. It's kind of weird."