CULVER CITY, California — They've already engineered the unlikely transition from fictional book characters to fictional TV pop singers to a real-life band, complete with record-breaking tour attendance and 11 million CDs sold. So where do the most cheetah-licious girls in the world go from here?
"Bollywood!" enthused Kiely Williams, the 21-year-old singer/actress who plays Aqua, one-third of the multimedia pop trio the Cheetah Girls (see "Tweens Revive Struggling Music Industry, One Cheetah Girl At A Time").
These days, Williams is one fast-moving Cheetah: This month she's wrapping up a role in the Anna Faris comedy "I Know What Boys Like," dropping a new album alongside fellow Girls Adrienne Bailon (Chanel) and Sabrina Bryan (Dorinda) and getting ready to head overseas for the group's third made-for-TV movie.
"We're going to India in January to shoot the third Cheetah Girls movie, and we are over-the-moon about it," beamed the bubbly Williams. "The fact that we're going to live there for three months is out of this world."
"We just met with our director, who's amazing," she said of Kenny Ortega, the TV veteran who directed both "High School Musical" movies and the last "Cheetah" flick. "It's going to be something very different for the Cheetah Girls, definitely pushing the envelope as far as what the Disney Channel will allow us to do."
Fans can expect a very different version of the group this time around, now that all three girls are in their 20s, Raven (a.k.a. Raven Symone, who played Galleria) has left the group to focus on her own career, and the script has Chanel, Dorinda and Aqua traveling to the Land of the Tiger.
"It's going to be a bit more adult because we're getting older," Williams revealed of the plot. "You've seen us as [high school] freshmen, as sophomores, and now we're going to college. We're a little bit older, and there are more boys involved in our lives — and a lot more romance."
"Cheetah Girls 3: Indian Adventure!" is targeting an August 2008 release on the Disney Channel and features the three ladies competing against each other to land a starring role in the kind of elaborate, dance-filled, romantic feature film that has become an Indian trademark. Appropriately enough, the Girls are already altering their act to include all those wrist-twisting Bollywood dance moves.
"We're going to screw in the light bulb, drop the orange, pick up the apple," she giggled. "We're learning all that stuff!"
Williams is also busy promoting their third album, TCG, which had the newly grown-up Girls writing six of the 11 songs. "We're so excited about it; we've worked so hard, and it's our crossover album," she said of their attempt to maintain a loyal fanbase while embracing a more mature crowd, much like "High School Musical" has recently done. "We're trying to make positive, kid-friendly music still, but for the rest of the world, so that everyone can enjoy it.
"I think we've really come up with something very special," she said, citing a favorite track from the new album that samples Lionel Richie's "All Night Long." "It's a song called 'Fuego,' and it's our first Spanglish song — we recorded it all in Spanish, and all in English, and we've done a mixed version in English and Spanish. You are not going to believe that it's the Cheetah Girls when you hear it — you're going to be like, 'That's not them!' The word 'fuego' means fire, and the whole song is about setting the night on fire, and having a good time and partying with your friends," she grinned. "[That single] is going to be out in November, and I think it's definitely a new sound for us."
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