Zac Efron has accomplished a lot in his 30 years so far. He's become a go-to Hollywood star, able to convincingly make you laugh in a comedy, make you cry in drama and get you bopping along with his impressive singing and dancing skills. He even privately overcame his own personal battles with substance abuse, emerging even stronger and healthier than ever. And I mean, have you looked at him? Those baby blue eyes. The perfectly styled hair. The smile that seems to radiate sunshine. The abs. Abs for days.
So yeah, he's what you call the dream bae if we shall be so bold. And for many of us, he will forever have a special place in our hearts for being the one and only Troy Bolton. You know, the basketball player who just wanted to sing and fell for the smart girl, since she was able to see right through it all and helped him uncover his true self.
The High School Musical movies are nothing short of iconic and thinking about how the first film in the trilogy debuted back in 2006 with Z was just 18, he's become a full-fledged movie star since then. But he wasn't always the leading man we know him as today. Long before he was ever Zac the Hollywood hottie or even stealing hearts as Troy Bolton, he was simply Zachary David Alexander Efron.
He always had a flair for the dramatics as you can see.
He did theater as a kid and he was even set to go to college at the University of Southern California to study film, but that was when the HSM audition happened and we all know how that turned out. Before striking gold with that movie though, he had other roles you might not be as familiar with.
2002: Zac played a young Simon on Firefly.
This show was a space western drama series that although only had one season, is one that is very beloved by the fandom. Zac appeared on one episode as the young version of one of the characters, Simon. So only one episode but still, how cute was he?
2003: Zac played Stuart in Melinda's World, which was his film debut.
This movie was set in the 1950s Midwest and follows a girl named Melinda and all the ups and downs of her life. Zac's character Stuart is a boy she has that teasing-type friendship with and they even share a kiss in one scene, which was Zac's first-ever on-screen smooch.
2004: Zac played Steven in Miracle Run.
Zac took on the role of a teenager with autism in the Lifetime movie. The story focuses on his single mother raising him and his twin brother Philip, who also has autism, and how their mom is determined to fight the social stigma of autism and just wants her sons to be treated like any other kids, especially in school. This movie brings on the tears but ultimately tells a truly uplifting story.
2004-2005: Zac played Cameron Bale on Summerland.
Oh Zac, and that adorable gap between his front teeth he used to have. He starred on The WB series Summerland, along with Jesse McCartney and Kay Panabaker. Fun fact: Kay's first kiss ever was on-screen, with Zac! He played her character Nikki's BFF turned on again/off again boyfriend with a tough home life. The memories.
2005: Zac played Patrick McCardle in The Derby Stallion.
Zac with a horse! Yes, that's right, in this movie, Zac's character Patrick ends up learning from a former champion steeplechase jockey all about horses and you know, steeplechase — a horse race that has obstacles and fences in it — after he admits to his dad he doesn't want to play baseball, since it's something his dad was putting pressure on him about. It's a gem of a movie with a rather sad plot twist, but of course, has a happy ending.
So there we have it. Zac had other episode stints on shows like ER, NCIS, The Guardian, and CSI: Miami, long before he was ever the leading star he is today. He's come a long way and the fans who have been with him since the early days are nothing but proud.
Research credit: Cayla Bamberger
This post was originally published on August 17, 2017, and has since been updated.