The three years at Asher Angel spent in Utah co-starring in the Disney Channel series “Andi Mack” were his “best shooting experience” ever.
OK, so he’s only 18. But his list of credits — including a pair of “Shazam” movies — is growing. And, almost exactly two years after the final episode of “Andi Mack” aired, he still sounds excited about working on that show.
“We had to get the best cast, the best crew,” said Angel, who played Jonah Beck, Andi’s (Peytonn Elizabeth Lee) on-again, off-again boyfriend. " I mean, we were literally like a family. And being out there for three-plus years, you become close with one another. I had so much fun out there.”
So … it’s not particularly surprising that he jumped at the chance to return to Utah and take on a guest role — Jack — in “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” It offered not just a chance to return to Salt Lake City, but to reunite with former “Andi Mack” co-star Sofia Wylie (who’s regular on “HSM” as Gina) and a whole lot of other people.
“Jack is just this charming guy who happens to somehow get Gina’s attention,” Angel said, “and you get to see them have a lot of fun together. … Having a reunion with Sofia was just the best time.”
(Wylie played Andi’s friend Buffy on the earlier show. There’s a nod to “Andi Mack” fans when the characters first encounter each other — in Salt Lake City International Airport. “Have we met?” Jack says. “‘Cause you look super familiar.”)
But Wylie was just one of dozens of people he knew. “So many people,” Angel said. “I mean, it was pretty much the same exact crew from ‘Andi Mack.’”
Including Brent Geisler, who was the first assistant director on “Andi” and directed the upcoming episode of “HSM.”
“He played a huge part in ‘Andi Mack.’ He was always taking care of us,” Angel said. “He’s kind of like, for me, an older brother. So it was really fun being on set with him and Sofia and getting to go and film something — and something that’s really special, like ‘High School Musical.’
“I was a fan watching Season 1, and not just because I love Sofia and I worked with her, but I everyone on the show is super talented. And I know Joshua Bassett [who stars a Ricky] and we’re pretty good friends as well. And I just love the work. That’s a dream right there.”
While “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” and “Andi Mack” are very different shows, they both aspire to more than just entertainment. They both share underlying messages that once might have surprised you from a Disney show — about friendship, acceptance, race, LGBTQ identity and more.
There are “absolutely” parallels between the two shows, Angel said. “And that’s what I like about ‘High School Musical.’ It’s not just dancing and singing, but there are real messages that they put out, which is really important for kids that are watching. That’s why this is even more special.”
That and the chance to work with old friends in a place where he’s spent a lot of time. He said he likes Utah because it’s sort of off the beaten track of show business: just 700 miles from Hollywood, but a world away.
Angel actually started spending time in Utah long before he booked a role in “Andi Mack.” His family owns a vacation home here, “so I’m very familiar with Utah, because we go there every year with my family skiing. It’s just kind of like my second home. And it’s just a place that I really love to be in, and love bringing my family there.”
“I kind of grew up in Utah,” he said. “Learning how to fish and learning how to kayak and learning how to mountain bike and ski and all this cool stuff... That’s where I first put on a pair of skis and did a lot of outdoor sports.”
His affection for the state does have its limits. He’s a big fan of the Phoenix Suns — Angels is from Arizona — although he does feel for Utah Jazz fans after yet another season came to yet another disappointing end.
“I know that’s a little heartbreaking for you guys,” he said.
As for what’s next? Angel is currently in Atlanta filming “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” — reprising his role as Billy Batson, the teenage alter-ego of the superhero (Zachary Levi), from the 2019 “Shazam!” movie.
“It’s going to be great,” Angel said.