LOS ANGELES, Calif., (KGET) — Disney Channel’s Valentine’s Day gift comes in the form of “Zombies 2,” a sequel to the top-rated telecast last year with Kids 6-11 and Tweens 9-14. Along with continuing to look at what romance is like for a living, breathing high school student and a student who’s undead debuts at 8 p.m. Feb. 14 on the cable channel.
“Zombies 2” picks up as cheerleader Addison (Meg Donnelly) and zombie football player Zed (Milo Manheim) are readying for Seabrook High’s Prawn, the school’s super-sized prom. Things don’t go smoothly as a mysterious pack werewolves threatens to shake up Seabrook’s newfound peace and causes a rift in Zed and Addison’s budding romance.
Praise for the reason the first film was such a hit focused on the chemistry between Donnelly and Manheim. That connection came immediately.
“As soon as I saw Milo, we instantly became best friends. We were paired up with different people but we were talking the entire time,” says Donnelly. “It was so easy to do scenes with Milo because the friendship our characters have in the movie is what was happening in real life.
“It was two years between filming the movies but Milo and I hang out all the time. We are like best friends in real life so going back to work on the second movie with him was even easier.”
It wasn’t always easy for the two actors to find time to spend together as Donnelly was busy working on her television series, “American Housewife.” Manheim filled in the time between the movies appearing on the ABC reality competition series “Dancing with the Stars” (where he finished in second place).
Manheim jokes that while he loved competing on the dance show, it did take him a little time to adjust from serious dance steps like the salsa or tango to doing the more modern steps in the cable movie.
As for getting to work with Donnelly again, Manheim recalls how during the original casting, there was no plan for them to end up playing the film’s central couple. Both actors auditioned with others but during their breaks, they ended up sitting together and talking. The production team noticed the natural connection and the cheerleader-zombie pair was cast.
Manheim reveals the secret of why they clicked.
“She was the happiest person I had ever met in real life. She was like a character out of a movie because she’s constantly smiling. And now she’s one of my best friends,” Manheim says.
“Zombies 2” features a large cast of young actors. Reprising their roles are Trevor Tordjman as Bucky, Kylee Russell as Eliza, Carla Jeffery as Bree, James Godfrey as Bonzo and Kingston Foster as Zoey. Joining the cast are Chandler Kinney as Willa, Pearce Joza as Wyatt and Ariel Martin (Baby Ariel) as Wynter.
While Donnelly and Manheim handle the romance, the task of bringing the high energy to the film fell to Tordjman as the I’m-so-perfect Bucky. The character is a ball of cheerleading fire but Tordjman admits that wasn’t always an easy level to find.
“Honestly, I had to dig down deep to find that energy sometimes but just being around this cast is so exciting, it just naturally came,” Tordjman says.
It helped that Tordjman is an accomplished dancer (hip-hop, breakdancing and tap) who was a series regular for five seasons of “The Next Step,” the highest-rated teen show on Canada’s Family Channel. Among his other credits are host, choreographer and performer in “The Next Step” Live World Tour, and acting roles in the CBC/Family Channel series “Lost & Found Music Studios” as well as the TV movie “Full Out.”
Tordjman grew up in an area where there was a lot of musical theater where he could find and then cultivate his passion for singing and dancing. He knows that access is not available to everyone and credits productions like “Zombies 2” for giving a large audience more opportunities to see musicals.
“The music in this movie is so incredible you just can’t help but want to dance around. I would not be surprised if it wasn’t inspiring people everywhere to get into song and dance,” Tordjman says.
If “Zombies 2” is to match the success of the original film, it will have to be a monster hit. “Zombies” premiered in February 2018 and delivered over 12.8 million viewers including 4.0 million Kids 6-11 in its first 10 telecasts. It was Disney Channel’s number one video-on-demand property and was the number one title in the DisneyNOW app for 2018.
Its videos on DisneyMusicVEVO have amassed over 377 million views. The movie soundtrack debuted at number one on the Billboard Top Children’s chart. The original film was nominated for a Humanitas Prize.