Zac Efron Reacts to Being Called a 'Zaddy' and Talks Playing a Dad in 'Firestarter' (Exclusive)

The 'High School Musical' star plays the dad role in the horror film based on Stephen King's novel by the same name.

Yes, Zac Efron's reached that age where he's old enough to play a dad. But, in true new-dad fashion, the kid (sorry) man needs a lesson on a term that entered the pop culture lexicon some six years ago that he's suddenly re-defining: Zaddy!

The 34-year-old actor is set to star in the reboot of the 1984 horror film that's an adaptation of a Stephen King novel of the same name. Efron plays Andy McGee, father to Charlie, who possesses pyrokinesis powers. Budding actress Ryan Kiera Armstrong, 12, plays Charlie.

With the new Keith Thomas-directed film set to hit theaters and stream on Peacock on May 14, many fans (notably millennials) are beside themselves at the idea that Efron, who was 18 while filming the first High School Musical, is now old enough to play the role of a dad. But, now that the shock has settled in, they've resorted themselves to anointing him as a Zaddy. 

"Wow, cool!" Efron said. "Is 'Zaddy' not Zac Daddy, or what is it?" Truth be told, Efron had no clue what the term meant until ET's Lauren Zima explained that it's a good-looking dad. Or, as Esquire once put it in a 2018 article: "Zaddy is a man 'with swag' who is attractive and also fashionable." 

"Is it?" asked Efron. "Oh wow. All right, I'll take that one."

Efron's co-star then proceeded to hand her movie dad a trophy.

"A Zaddy trophy," he said. "Oh, that's what that means."

Despite the fact it's the first time he's playing a dad, pivoting to the new role is not really something he thought about too much, what with the grueling storyline in the horror film.

"All things said, there's a lot going on in the film, so being a dad, as much as it was a weird thing to be happening, there's a lot more dangerous stuff going on," Efron explained. "So I got to focus on that."

Armstrong, playing the iconic role once portrayed by then-8-year-old Drew Barrymore in the 1984 film, vividly remembers when she found out the Baywatch star was going to play her movie dad.

"You know what's really, really funny? I was just watching The Greatest Showman," Armstrong explained. "Just watching it, OK? And that night, I got the call that you [Efron] were playing my dad. That very night!"

Armstrong, who has also appeared in The Art of Racing in the Rain and The Tomorrow War, had high praise for him.

"He really settled into the role and became this father-like figure and was really helpful throughout the entire shoot," she said. "And was very giving, very present, very immediate, which was awesome to be opposite of that."

Efron recalls watching the original Firestarter when he was younger, and there's an image that'll never leave him.

"I had seen it when I was young," he recalled. "And that image [the one where Barrymore's character gives a menacing and deadly look] is so ... it's haunting. You can't get it out of your head."

Armstrong, who is not a fan of horror, said she brought herself to watch it in an effort to prepare for the role.

"It was great to have that reference," she said. "But also at the same time, I have a very hard time watching horror movies. I'm not going to copy, of course. And it was great to have Drew's... her way of thinking it and her way that she envisioned it. And it was really interesting to see that and to build upon that."

It won't be the last time Efron will portray a dad. He'll play one again in the reboot of Three Men and a Baby. The original 1987 comedy starred three bachelors -- Ted Danson, Steve Guttenberg and Tom Selleck -- who try to adapt their lives when a baby suddenly gets dropped off at the doorstep of their NYC bachelor pad. 

As far as any teasers for that role, Efron's got a couple of things.

"I'm really excited to work on that project," he said. "We're just getting a new draft on it soon, so I'm really excited for that. And yeah, I'm already in for round two. Wow, it's hard to shake this dad thing once you start, isn't it?"

As far as any cameos from the original cast for the reboot, Efron says he'll try and round up the OG bachelors.

"Yeah, I'll put in the good word up top, with whoever I can," he said. "But I would love that. I think it's necessary, so we'll see. I will personally try, yes."