It's probably safe to assume Ethan Craft, the lovable airhead on Disney Channel's "Lizzie McGuire," was every '00s girls' dream guy. He had the hair, the smooth moves and a huge heart. Plus, he loved spaghetti. What more could you want? He charmed everyone's hearts and made us think twice about the repeat part printed on shampoo bottles.
After finishing "Lizzie McGuire," actor Clayton Snyder went to Pepperdine University and eventually ended up playing professional water polo overseas for a few years. He's recently gotten back into acting.
Once we learned Snyder was going to play Biff Tanner in a "Back to the Future" musical later this month, we hopped on the phone with him to discuss singing, the slow curve and if a "Lizzie McGuire" reunion is actually happening.
MTV: So, tell me about your new project. How did the "Back to the Future" musical come about?
Clayton Snyder: I knew I wanted to come back in acting, but hadn't been, so I got plugged into a couple of classes, and I was on this one... A couple my classmates were in this show, and it was a 30 minute musical rendition of the movie "Hook," and "Hook" is very near and dear to my heart, and so I knew that I couldn’t miss it. I'm not a, what would you call it, a musical aficionado, but I love me a good musical. I think they're a lot of fun. And so I went and saw it and it was one of the funniest things. It was one of the hardest times I remember laughing in my entire life, so I remember thinking to myself, "I have to be a part of this."
...Out of all the characters, Doc would have obviously been a lot of fun to play, but Biff is certainly my spirit animal, and that might not sound very good, considering who Biff is, but I just think the talents that I have do lean towards Biff, or Griff, or Buford or whatever rendition of him in that movie is. So the thing about this one is, it’s not just a 30 minute musical, it’s actually a 50 minute musical this time, because we're doing the entire trilogy.
MTV: Is this your first singing project?
CS: My acting started with musicals in elementary school, so singing is something I've always done, never done professionally — so you're not going to find me on "The Voice" or anything — but it is something that I have a lot of fun doing, and can do well enough to keep up with people in shows like these... I also took voice classes when I was younger as well, and I didn’t really do anything singing-wise, except for my shower, until Pepperdine, where they had this sort of battle of the Greek houses... A sorority and fraternity would team up in this mini musical competition, in a theme that would be released that was called "Song Fest." It was one of the most fun things I ever did at Pepperdine.
MTV: What other projects do you have coming up, besides the musical?
CS: There's my first thriller feature coming up, [and] we’re going to be filming that in October. It’s called "Hide in the Light..." A group of college kids, abandoned orphanage, demon possessed little girl.
[I'm also in] a USC thesis film called "Still in San Pedro," directed by Jamie Napoli, which is being submitted to festivals now. I played the lead as a small town wrestling coach [whose] love life is threatened when his successful older brother returns home for the holidays.
MTV: [Moving on to "Lizzie McGuire"] I have to ask, do you still not repeat?
CS: I have never repeated and never will.
MTV: I don’t know anyone that does.
CS: Seriously, that’s such a funny line because I don’t know anyone that repeats! The show is insinuating that Lizzie’s parents do, in fact, repeat and I don’t think that is a thing that people do. I don’t personally know anyone who does. Or if I do, I’m not aware of it.
MTV: When people see you, is that one of the main things they say?
CS: That is one of the trademark lines from Ethan, [and] that kind of sums up his life’s philosophy, that he doesn’t repeat. I’m kind of surprised he didn’t have to repeat a certain grade, which is amazing. I guess he was charismatic in that way and he should be a politician.
MTV: It's funny you say that. I remember an episode where you accidentally rubbed paint into your hair, and Gordo said Ethan would probably be good at politics. Do you think Ethan has gone on to pursue politics?
CS: He probably did. He’s mayor. Honestly, he’s gotta get people to like him and get an administration around him to run the show. Ethan loves having his friends and having a good time and I think that would provide him with that and it would be a no-brainer. He can wear his suits and look cool. There was an episode where I was the President of the USA, [so] he certainly has the potential to go very far.
MTV: There’s no animosity to him, which makes him great.
CS: Oh, he’s so non-confrontational.
MTV: Is that how he always was, when they pitched him to you?
CS: No! He was a bully for the first couple episodes, still an airhead, but the first episode they shot was "Picture Day," and I spent most of my time trying to convince Gordo to make a straight, thug face for his picture for picture day. And then from there they kind of dropped the other love interest that was in the show, I don’t know if it’s a shooting conflict or what. It’s not that hard to write people on and off a show.
My character subtly or not shifted to become the heartthrob and was more lovable. Never once after that did he push people around. In contrast, Lizzie in one episode stayed home from a party for one reason or another and we all decided as her friends to bring the party to her house. And that was sweet! You can’t come to the party so the party is coming to you. You know? What a sweet and thoughtful guy! He’s lovable.
MTV: I remember you did the slow curve [in "The Lizzie McGuire Movie"]. Is that something you've ever heard of, or tried out, in real life?
CS: Um, no. [laughs] I'm not that suave, or sly or debonair in any way. I would be more aloof. That is something I am very different from Ethan about, is that, Ethan, as a kind nature that he is, he has an eye out for the ladies. I think he likes being around them, he likes the attention that he gets. Whereas for me, that’s not something I necessarily scope for, it’s just not in my personality, I suppose. I’m more likely to strike up a conversation with a stranger than to try any antic or pickup lines.
MTV: That probably works better for you than the slow curve.
CS: Yeah, like, “Hey! I’m Clayton, what’s your name?” I don’t really believe in that "you need to make them come to you" kind of thing. I’m like, I’ll come to her and if she’s cool I’ll stick around, and if she’s not, then I’ll leave at any time.
MTV: Your hair gets progressively longer during the show, was that your idea?
CS: It was unspoken, actually. Cause I’ve thought about that. It was nobody’s real decision, I don’t think, to grow it out, I just never cut it, and nobody really said anything and it kind of turned into its own character as the show went on. It was very short, well it was pretty short, on the "Picture Day" episode, that first one, and by the end of it I could bite like two inches if I pulled the front of it down my head. It was a long, shaggy thing, and it was certainly a character because that hair was NOT true to life at all.
I had a curly, fro, clown mop of hair off set, and I took longer than the girls did in hair and makeup to get that thing as luscious and straight as it was. They just destroyed it with product and hairspray and straightening iron and more product. There was one episode where we were playing flag football outside and the climate allowed it to rebel a lot more, so you kind of got a little glimpse of how it wanted to curl if you were able to catch any of those segments. Hair and makeup had no power over it.
MTV: So, I know you’re friends with Jake Thomas [who played Lizzie McGuire's younger brother]. Do you get to see him a lot?
CS: Yeah... Jake was continuing to do some acting and Hilary [Duff] was as well, [and] obviously she had her music career and she released a new album, which is awesome, and she’s been acting on "Younger..." But it was kind of like a long hiatus from acting. I kind of fell out of touch with everybody, which I feel kind of bad about, but it was just... really nice to keep in touch with people, but I also really believe in the value of just being more present with the people you’re around. You know?
So not to say that I think certain friendships have seasons, when you’re closer with people when you’re not, and so you can always have a relationship to someone or a group of friends that you don’t necessarily have to work so hard to facilitate or to like maintain. You can allow yourself to spend more energy and focus on the community that you’re actually surrounded by... Then the next time you’re around them and see them, it’s such a great opportunity to catch up and see what’s new. So yeah, we’ve been hanging out here and there, but we’ve all got our kind of own things going as well. But this is also kind of the talk of an official reunion of sorts, which is still talk.
MTV: It’s just talk?
CS: Still talk.
You can keep up with Clayton on Twitter, Instagram and his website. Be sure to catch him as Biff in the "Back to the Future" musical starting this Saturday, Oct. 10 at The Other Space in Los Angeles in West Hollywood. To order tickets, click here.