Milo Manheim and Meg Donnelly sing to each other in "Zombies 3." Photo courtesy of Disney
LOS ANGELES, July 13 (UPI) -- The cast of Zombies 3, premiering Friday on Disney+, said the third film in the Disney Channel Original Movie franchise hopes to get families talking about real issues.
Milo Manheim, 21, who plays zombie Zed in all three films, said Zombies 3 teaches the value of healthy conflict.
"It's important to have conflict because that encourages conversation," Manheim told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "Then we can progress and grow as a community, society, and world."
The Zombies films are set in the fictional town of Seabrook. In the first film, teenage zombies had trouble fitting in at a human high school.
Zed did find acceptance from Addison (Meg Donnelly), and they have dated in all three movies. In Zombies 3, aliens arrive in Seabrook to further complicate the world of monsters and humans.
The aliens come from a world that avoids any conflict so that they can live in harmony, but they leave problems unaddressed. Donnelly, 21, said the aliens represent the danger of avoiding conflict.
"In order to have amazing harmony or for change to happen, you have to talk about it," Donnelly said. "That's true acceptance."
Acceptance has been a theme of all three Zombies films. First, the humans had to learn to accept zombies, even though they are undead.
Zombies 2 introduced werewolves to Seabrook. In the sequel, the zombies had to learn to accept werewolves just like they wanted to be accepted themselves.
The aliens have superhuman strength and technology. Trevor Tordjman, 26, who plays human student Bucky, said Zombies 3 shows how everyone has something to teach others.
"The aliens come with these super powers," Tordjman said. "Not only do they have to learn our way of life, but we also have to learn from them."
Matt Cornett, Terry Hu and Kyra Tantao play the blue-haired aliens. Cornet and Tantao wore wigs, but Hu, 26, dyed their hair blue.
"It did take nine hours and then I actually got sick," Hu said. "It was so much sitting and the chemicals of it all. That was a lot."
Cornett, 23, recalled a moment when the cast visited Niagara Falls during a rainstorm. Hu's dyed hair did not survive the outing.
"I look back in the backseat and Terry's wiping their face," Cornett said. "They have blue running down their face."
Tantao said her only difficulty was getting all of her real hair under her alien wig.
"I've got a lot of hair, so it took about an hour, 20 minutes every day just to get it in the wig cap," Tantao said. "So it was a long process, but I felt so cute in that little wig."
RuPaul plays the voice of the alien mothership, but was cast during post-production. Tantao said a crew member read the mothership lines when the aliens spoke to it before they found out RuPaul was cast.
"That's recent news to us," Tantao said.
Although the first two films were produced by and aired on Disney Channel, cast members said children and adults respond to the themes of the Zombies films. Chandler Kinney, 21, who returns as werewolf Willa, said she meets fans of all ages.
"Zombies really is for everyone," Kinney said. "Everybody can relate to a character, can see themselves and resonate with a storyline or with something that they're going through."
All of the Zombies films are musicals, too. Zombies 3 presented the cast with new challenges, such as "Ain't No Doubt About It," which Manheim felt harkened back to his duet with Donnelly in the first film.
"I feel like it's such a 'Someday' vibe," Manheim said
The entire cast joins in a reprise of "Someday" in Zombies 3. The original song featured Zed and Addison articulating their hopes that they could be accepted as a couple someday.
"It is still so resonant in the entire storyline," Kinney said. "So the fact that we get to all sing it together was so special and so heartfelt. I think we were all on the verge of tears, if not crying, while we were filming that."
The zombies, werewolves, humans and aliens sing "Alien Invasion" as the visitors arrive in Seabrook at night. Hu said that song required challenging night shoots.
"Filming at 4 a.m. one night during the rain felt like we're really doing this and putting our all into it," Hu said. "But I think it really paid off."
Another song, "Exceptional Day," also presented physical challenges to the actors, said Pearce Joza, 19.
"It was especially challenging because we had to dance on this beach on the sand," Joza said. "I've never done that before."
When they were first cast in 2018's Zombies, Manheim and Donnelly were 16. Manheim said Donnelly called him with the news right before the producers did, and he'll never forget where he was.
"I was at my friend Jasper Marcum's house chilling in his treehouse," Manheim said. "That moment is just ingrained in my mind forever."
Since the Zombies movies have aired and become part of the Disney+ streaming library, Manheim and Donnelly have performed live at Disney theme parks. Manheim said connecting with fans in person is meaningful to him.
"When me and Meg are at Disney World standing on stage performing for 1,000 people, it's moments like those where I'm like, 'Wow, I did that,'" Manheim said.
The cast members of Zombies 3 said they would be open to a Zombies 4. Disney has not announced another sequel, but if Zombies 3 is the end, Manheim believes its themes make the trilogy complete.
"The way that Zombies 3 ends is a really great way to wrap it up," Manheim said. "Zombies 3 does a really good job of putting a bow on top of it all."
Manheim's co-star Kinney, however, sees unlimited potential to keep growing the world of Seabrook.
"I think the Zombies universe is so large and open to everyone that there's always room for more stories, more characters," Kinney said. "We're all super open to that."