Zac Efron stole our hearts in High School Musical, and has remained a heartthrob since, appearing in everything from Seth Rogen’s Neighbors franchise to depicting the world’s most famous serial killer, Ted Bundy, in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.
“I’m grateful for every bit of that early success,” Efron said of High School Musical and being a teen heartthrob. “It was hands down the most honest, carefree, passionate experience of my life. There were no expectations. [But later,] I definitely felt that pressure. I’m not comfortable with it at all times. The people that I saw and the people that I started to meet, the majority were young. These were kids, and I looked into their eyes and I saw myself as a fan, and it was shocking to be on the other end of that. You just want to please every single one.”
With the premiere of his new Netflix show, Down to Earth with Zac Efron, we figured it was time to give you all 18 things to know about this Jewish star.
1. Zac Efron was born Zachary David Alexander Efron in San Luis Obispo, California, in 1987. He has one brother, Dylan.
2. His parents worked at the same power plant, where they met. His dad, David, worked as an electrical engineer, and his mom, Starla, as a secretary.
Here’s his Dad:
And his mom:
And just because this feels important, here are his grandparents:
3. Efron is a Jewish last name, from the Biblical place Ephron (אפרון). (The last name is also spelled Ephron, as in Nora Ephron.) Ephron is where Abraham is buried.
4. Efron identifies as Jewish, but explains “I was raised agnostic, so we never practiced religion, but my parents were very strict. After school, there would always be a parent at home. After I did all my homework, we would eat dinner and then I could play video games. And that was my life.”
5. His first role was a short appearance on E.R., in a 2003 episode where he dies on the operating table. After the episode aired, Efron says, “I made the huge mistake of bringing the tape into school because one of my teachers asked to see it. I found out after my period that he had shown it to every single class. I was open to so much ridicule. It was embarrassing. After that, I was like that weird actor kid at school. It singled me out.”
6. He then appeared in a series of different shows, and landed a recurring role on Summerland on the WB.
“Summerland was the first show I ever was on,” Efron said on the Graham Norton show in 2019, “and it was my first on-screen kiss, I think I was like 16. So I was very nervous.” Watch him tell the story:
7. His big break obviously came in the form of High School Musical, a Disney Channel original movie. In the first film, his singing voice is mixed with Drew Seeley’s, but in subsequent films, it’s all Efron singing.
8. While filming HSM, he dated his co-star, Vanessa Hudgens. They met during their audition in 2005. Efron recalls, “My mom dropped me off out of a minivan somewhere in North Hollywood. I had no idea what to expect. There were about 40 guys. And we walked in, and [director] Kenny Ortega was there with a piano, and they put everybody in a room together, and we ran through different phases of what we would need to do — first dancing, then singing — and a few of us got tapped on the shoulder [to leave], and I didn’t. And next came the scene-reading sections, and I got paired with Vanessa Hudgens.”
Here’s their audition (skip to 1:05):
Here’s their first interview:
And last, here’s Zac in “Say OK,” a bop:
9. In August 2010, Efron denied they were a PR relationship. “That’s just f*cking insane,” he said. “I’ve never even heard of that happening. I don’t even know who I would have been around who would have thought that was even a good idea. It would have been so much easier to call it off a long time ago.” In December 2010, Hudgens and Efron break up.
10. In the late 2000s, Efron starred in 17 Again, Charlie St. Cloud, and Hairspray.
“A lot of people ask me if I’m worried about being pigeonholed in musicals. It started with High School Musical. ‘Are you worried about being pigeonholed in teen things?’ I dunno. I don’t like to worry about being pigeonholed, because if I’m worried about that, how can I be giving 110 percent in everything I’m doing? I’m just lucky to be here. So, I’m just going to keep going wherever the road takes me,” Efron said at the time.
11. During his rise in Hollywood, Efron admitted to struggling with addiction and sobriety. “I was drinking a lot, way too much,” he says. “It’s never one specific thing. I mean, you’re in your 20s, single, going through life in Hollywood, you know? Everything is thrown at you. I wouldn’t take anything back; I needed to learn everything I did. But it was an interesting journey, to say the least.” He checked into rehab in 2013, and in 2014, opened up about his sobriety, in addition to the fact he goes to Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, and sees a therapist.
11. In 2014, he broke away from his Disney image by starring in Neighbors alongside Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne. He later starred in the sequel, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.
12. Other notable Efron films: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, The Disaster Artist, The Greatest Showman, and a remake of Baywatch. Speaking of Baywatch, Efron said, “I never want to be in that good of shape again.”
13. In 2018, he adopted a dog named MACA.
14. Zac Efron and his brother, Dylan, make a YouTube series called “Off the Grid,” where they travel and blog. There are only 4 videos live now. (We can’t believe Zac Efron has pivoted to vlogging!)
15. Efron also filmed a Quibi show kinda similar to this YouTube series, but more extreme. Killing Zac Efron is a sorta Man v. Wild show where he tries to survive in Papa New Guinea. He had to be medically evacuated while filming after contracting typhoid. Yikes!
16. In 2020, his Netflix show, Down to Earth with Zac Efron, premiered. It’s a travel and food show where Efron travels with wellness expert Darin Olien looking for sustainable and healthy ways to live.
All while Efron looks like a snack.
suddenly I am in love again with Zac Efron pic.twitter.com/3xz9JWpsHP
— cass (@loveablecass) July 13, 2020
I’d like Zac Efron’s parents’ phone number so I can just leave a 3 minute voicemail of me applauding pic.twitter.com/FX7rE70niC
— Julia (@theradiohag) July 12, 2020
16. He loves carbs and exercise. “It’s more than just training. When I was younger, it was a sense of stability, and something that I had to accomplish every day — one of the few things I could go do and know that I was doing my homework; I felt like I was staying on track when I was training,” Efron told Teen Vogue. “Now, it’s turned a lot more into a lifestyle and philosophy. I think that I want to be able to do what I’m capable of now, when I’m 50, 60, 70 years old — like my grandfather, who is still skiing and swimming 20, 30 laps in an Olympic-sized pool every single morning, with one lung!”
17. Let’s talk about Hal Efron, his grandpa. One, Please enjoy the teen magazine pictures of Zac behind Hal on his birthday:
Two, just LOOK AT THEM:
18. Let’s end on some Zac Efron words of wisdom: “No matter who you are, you face challenges growing up. You go with your things, you learn, you have to. It’s impossible to lead an honest and fulfilling life as a man and not make mistakes and ‘fess up to them when you need to.”
Image of Zac Efron in header by John Lamparski/WireImage.