Kyrie Irving is a huge High School Musical fan.
The NBA star has been so ever since he appeared in his own high school’s production of the Disney Channel movie, playing Corbin Bleu’s role of Chad, and he still dreams of meeting the whole cast.
“I think it would be pretty gnarly to meet all the characters,” he tells Yahoo Movies. “That franchise is just amazing, the musical genre is something that I’m in love with, musical theatre is something that I’ve loved since I was a kid.
“It would be awesome to meet them and hopefully I can meet them soon.”
It could happen soon enough now that Irving is making a name for himself in the entertainment industry. There’s a long tradition of basketball players transitioning to film; from Michael Jordan in Space Jam, Shaquille O’Neal in Kazaam and more recently LeBron James in Trainwreck, many a pro-baller has found a home on the silver screen, but the Boston Celtics star is taking it several steps further.
That’s because Irving doesn’t just star in the new comedy movie Uncle Drew, he actually came up with the character himself after debuting it in a series of shorts for Pepsi. You can find the videos online, which he wrote and directed himself, and they hilariously show the 26-year-old being made up to look like a 70-year-old man, then going on to school some young players on the court.
“For me, I had this surprising aspect of being an older man being able to play with youngbloods and be able to add wisdom, lessons,” Irving tells Yahoo Movies. “I’ve been trying to do it since we had the Pepsi shorts so I just wanted to go down that same lineage of where Uncle Drew has evolved from and echo that in the movie.”
The film sees the basketball player back in prosthetics but he’s not alone in being aged up. Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson, and Lisa Leslie play his septuagenarian teammates who reunite to help Little Rey Howery’s down-on-his-luck coach Dax win a legendary basketball tournament in Harlem.
Stepping into comedy has often been the move made by former athletes and Irving says there’s a “certain vulnerability, a romantic side” to the genre that appealed to him, but he also wants the opportunity to take his acting career in a more dramatic direction.
“I think [drama] would be a great opportunity to go into more genres and really challenge myself with different parts of acting so I would definitely be interested,” Irving says. Film is definitely an industry the NBA star is interested in pursuing, and his love for performing started at a young age.
Irving counts Steven Spielberg and Will Smith as two of his favourite filmmakers and hopes that he can make movies as “profound” as theirs. It’s why he’s laying the groundwork now to start his own production company, and doing as much networking and relationship building to ensure the success of this future endeavour.
“Right now it’s just the groundwork of really learning the network, learning what direction I necessarily want to go in, then going after it and executing it,” he says, but he’s already committed to making his as inclusive as possible. The actor will follow in the footsteps of Michael B. Jordan, “a great friend” of his, who confirmed earlier this year that his own company, Outlier Society Production, would commit to inclusion riders to ensure diversity in the hiring of cast and crew.
“It’s where our society has got to progress,” Irving says. “We are in need of that diversity, it is a necessity not only for creative ideas but from an environmental standpoint: it can’t be limited.”
Irving is as much a triple threat on the court as he is in the real world, and arguably more so. At 26 he’s already achieved so much when it comes to his sport as well as his outside endeavours, which includes, as well as filmmaking, music (he recorded a song for the Uncle Drew soundtrack), charity work and activism. That’s a lot of responsibility for someone so young, especially when his professional and personal life plays out in the public theatre of opinion, but he’s not worried about burning out just yet.
“It comes with a lot of responsibility, it comes with a lot of commitment and sacrifice but I think that the vision of what I’m trying to do is one of the most important to learn about the world,” he explains. “When there are things I want to go after, and things that I feel passionate about, then its necessary to give it the attention that it deserves.
“Throughout all that you can’t lose the value of rest and taking care of yourself,” he adds. “but I believe it’s worth it when you get to be a certain person on this platform to affect change within the world. I definitely feel like it’s a calling for me.”
Uncle Drew is out on Friday