The irony of Zac Efron falling seriously ill while filming his reality show ‘Killing Zac Efron’ in Papua New Guinea at the end of 2019 isn’t lost on the 32-year-old actor. ‘It was touch and go for a while,’ he says, ‘but I guess if you are going to title a show like that, you should really be true to your name and follow through with the premise.’
‘Ultimately I was quite lucky to survive what was a very serious bacterial infection; whilst being able to return to action quite quickly, it scared me a lot at the time.’
Typhoid to one side, Efron is riding a wave these days. From ‘Baywatch’ to ‘Neighbours’, across ‘The Greatest Showman’ and ‘Extremely Wicked’, ‘Shockingly Evil and Vile’, the actor has successfully made the transition from teen idol to dramatic actor.
He's also rebooted his personal life after a stint in rehab a few years back and he's enjoying life more than living an alcohol-free life, as he reveals to RSNG…
RSNG You’re mixing up the film genres like never before and have slipped back into voiceover work. Was that in your plan?
ZAC EFRON, ACTOR & PRESENTER ‘Not really – I'm open to all genres, but when Scooby-Doo comes about you have to consider it. The show was such a major part of my childhood and I don’t think I would ever have forgiven myself had I not wrapped up a perfect time in my life by going back and enjoying the cartoon.’
‘There will always be some jobs that you don’t need to be sold to when it comes to deciding to take it… and this was definitely one of those!’
‘Overall, as far as my choices go, I tend to vary it depending on the film that came before; I want to keep mixing it up, as you say; I went through the phase of action films but The Greatest Showman brought an end to all that with something very different.
‘Now I would rather get to bed early, read and relax, and be up very early in the morning to get into my workout routine’
RSNG Does it help that you’ve slowed down with some of the excesses away from the film set?
ZE ‘Probably, yes. I still have fun but I've changed my life a lot over the last few years. I don't mind leading more of a boring life in that sense. I would rather get to bed early, read and relax and maybe watch a movie, and be up very early in the morning and get into my workout routine, doing weights, swimming, cardio, all of that.’
‘I enjoy the feeling that comes with being in good shape and working out. I've never felt better in my life than I do now, in every respect.’
RSNG Did you start training intensively because you wanted a certain look in your films?
ZE ’I got into working out mainly because I wanted to get healthier. Of course, it also suited the character I played in the Neighbours films. Then Baywatch came along, so it followed nicely.’
‘Overall, though, I liked the energy it gave me and I like being athletic doing things like going climbing or surfing. I have some great trainers I've been working with and they've helped push me hard which is what I wanted. I always like a challenge. I like exploring my limits.’
RSNG Have you ever gone into extreme diet mode?
ZE I wouldn't call it extreme. The worst part is not eating carbohydrates. That's what I always miss the most, but if you want that six-pack, you've got to be very disciplined and work at it.’
‘One big lesson that I've learnt is that you have to make time for your body to recover and rest’
RSNG How many days a week do you train?
ZE ‘Usually five days a week with a day in between to let my body recover. I would do most of the standard kinds of stuff like crunches and curls and also a lot of stretching.’
‘I've become a lot more adept and skilled at refining my workouts now because I've been doing it for a while. One big lesson that I've learnt is that you have to make time for your body to recover and rest.’
RSNG Do you still yearn to go back to your musical roots that saw the High School Musical films first turn you into a star?
ZE ‘I have very fond memories of that time in my life and music and singing is still very much part of my soul. It reminds me of being very happy and carefree and expressing yourself through singing and dancing is a really important thing.’
‘I never feel like I need to escape or run from that time in my life. Of course I needed to do other things and challenge myself in other ways – that's only natural.’
‘The fact is I've grown up and I've gone on a journey where I've been able to learn and grow with each film and each role. I've been very lucky to have got my life together and experience a new kind of awareness where I'm enjoying every moment so much more.’
RSNG Do you ever wonder how someone like yourself who grew up in a farming region of California like San Luis Obispo managed to become an actor?
ZE ‘I was very lucky that my family was so supportive of me, and when things would ever get chaotic I could always turn to them to keep calm and stay grounded. That's very important when you're getting a lot of attention and you're still figuring out who you are as a teenager.’
‘Then as you get older you need to find good friends who are real and who you know you can count on. But I think I always had the kind of confidence that comes from knowing that I had my family behind me.’
RSNG You've been in the public eye now for nearly 15 years, and seem to navigate the pitfalls. How have you dealt with it?
ZE ‘Deal with it? Dealing with it sounds like a condition but it's a side effect of what happens. I'm very lucky to have those people but ultimately, I feel like I'm well practised at it.’
WHAT NEXT? A perfectly serene gym workout? Not likely…