Monique Coleman on Reuniting with Corbin Bleu 15 Years After 'High School Musical' : 'It's a Safe Space'

Monique Coleman tells PEOPLE about reuniting with High School Musical costar Corbin Bleu for Lifetime's A Christmas Dance Reunion, airing Dec. 3

A CHRISTMAS DANCE REUNION - Monique Coleman, Corbin Bleu
Photo: Lifetime

It's a Wildcats reunion!

More than 15 years after starring in Disney Channel's High School Musical, Monique Coleman and Corbin Bleu are sharing the screen again in Lifetime's A Christmas Dance Reunion.

Starring in a Lifetime Christmas movie has always been a dream of Coleman's, but getting to star alongside Bleu was what really sealed the deal for her.

"I was really excited about it and then when I saw that Corbin was already attached to the project, it was the fastest I'd ever said yes to anything in my life," she tells PEOPLE. "I was very fortunate that it is such an amazing story and it really suits us so well."

A Christmas Dance Reunion follows an attorney named Lucy (Coleman) who reunites with her childhood dance partner Barrett (Bleu), and in many ways, Coleman says the film "parallels" her and Corbin's real life.

"After High School Musical, I took a little bit of a detour in a beautiful direction. I started my own company and foundation called GimmeMo' and I spent the last 10 years working in advocacy and giving back," she explains. "So for me, the character Lucy and her journey of becoming a lawyer, although it's different, is very similar to what I've done."

In the years since HSM wrapped, Bleu has also ventured into musical theater with roles in Holiday Inn, the New Irving Berlin Musical and Kiss Me, Kate. "I've seen almost every single one of his shows on stage. I've just watched him have this incredible illustrious career in theater and on Broadway. So [the film] was a little bit of an art imitating life moment," Coleman says.

"When the movie wrapped, it actually wrapped on my 40th birthday, which was so special. I have all these dreams that I still haven't realized. I have all these things that I want to do, but that I didn't. This [movie] feels like such a beautiful way to bring my world together and to get back on track with what I really want to do in the next stages of my career and the fact that I got to do it with one of my best friends is really amazing," she shares.

While it was nostalgic doing another dancing film, what Coleman loved most was just getting to work with Bleu again. "I forgot how utterly just talented and delicious he is," she adds. "I obviously have seen him in shows and we're friends, but I forgot what it was like to work with someone who has such an incredible work ethic, who shows up and gives 110 percent every single time, every single take, whether he's on screen or not. He's such a generous actor and really cares."

Monique Coleman, Corbin Bleu

Seeing the outpouring of support from HSM fans for the film has also been "an affirming experience" for Coleman. "A lot of times he and I both have been cast in roles that are perceived as token characters," she explains. "Not to say that our characters in High School Musical were that because I do think that Disney has done a good job in terms of diversity and inclusion, but I will say that oftentimes, whether it just be unconscious bias or not, we are there to serve a different, more centralized story. So in that context, sometimes you don't know who you would be as the lead. You can't imagine what it would look like if people would really even care or take to you."

She continues, "After High School Musical, I went into advocacy so I was going into schools and a lot of times I was doing workshops on bullying and self-esteem and following your dreams and [students] would always ask, 'Is Zac [Efron] here? Is Vanessa [Hudgens] here? Is Ashley [Tisdale] here?' They would always be looking for someone else. But I was there. Now to be in this position, there was definitely a sense of nervousness. 'Are people going to be excited to see us? Will we really have that same magic?' It has exceeded my expectations to see how people are really taking to seeing us on screen together."

Since reuniting for A Christmas Dance Reunion, Coleman is eager to do even more projects with Bleu. "I honestly pray that we get to do more things together because we have that sort of spark that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan had, and Leo and Kate, and Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, and all of these different couples that we've seen in movie after movie together. I really feel like we have that potential as well and I'd like to see that happen," she says.

As for what kind of project she'd love to do with Bleu, she's open to either a sequel to their Lifetime Christmas movie or potentially a whole TV series. "[A sequel] would be so much fun and the film kind of leaves that opening for there to be a sequel," she teases. "I would also love to do a series with Corbin. It would be really neat for us to get to just do this for a period of time."

"He and I have aspirations to do action, ironically," Coleman says. "I believe that this is already happening, so we wouldn't be able to do this one, but for instance like a Mr. and Mrs. Smith-type series. Something where we're hot and older and kicking ass, just showing these other sides of ourselves because yes, we're sweet and we love each other, but we also want to bring the drama. Like how John David Washington and Zendaya came together for Malcolm & Marie, I would love to do something like that with Corbin. Something where we were just like in the shit, in the drama, and something that really surprises people."

Coleman adds, "He and I both care about evolving in this industry. It's not just about capitalizing or leveraging, but really about evolving as artists and always doing our best work. The thing that we love about working with each other so much is that it's a safe space. So I wouldn't want to use that safe space to keep being safe. I'd want to use that safe space to try things that other people may not give us the opportunity to do."

A Christmas Dance Reunion premieres on Lifetime on Friday.

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