Troy Bolton is the main protagonist of the first three films. Depicted as one of East High's most popular students, Troy is also the captain of the school's varsity basketball team, a position he earned in his junior year after joining the team as a sophomore. The majority of the student body, especially Troy's best friend, Chad Danforth, expects Troy to lead East High to victory. Troy is the only child of Jack and Lucille Bolton; Jack is also the coach of the East High basketball team and puts additional pressure on Troy to excel. Troy is also involved with the school's golf team. In the first film, Troy meets Gabriella Montez at a ski lodge karaoke party on New Year's Eve. When the school year resumes, Troy finds that Gabriella is a new student at East High. For fear of what his father, friends, and classmates would think, Troy asks Gabriella not to mention his singing performance to anybody else. However, the secret eventually gets out when Troy and Gabriella unintentionally audition for the winter musical after singing in the auditorium. The news throws East High's social order out of balance. Troy finds himself having to choose between Gabriella and the musical callbacks or his team and the championship game. Although his friends initially try to thwart Troy's chances of being cast as the musical's lead, they help him make both the game and the callbacks, which had been scheduled on the same afternoon. Troy and Gabriella earn the lead roles, somewhat angering the drama department's president, Sharpay Evans. In High School Musical 2, Sharpay has her mind set on capturing Troy's affections and coming between him and Gabriella. Troy, Gabriella, and their friends are hired at a local country club, Lava Springs, but are weary of their new-found employment when they learn the club is owned by Sharpay's parents. Sharpay uses her wealth, power, and influence over Troy, tempting him with college opportunities in exchange for him singing with her at the club's Midsummer Night Talent Show. Troy gives into Sharpay's plot, causing Gabriella, Chad, and their friends to see Troy as a whole new person. Although Troy is being offered a college scholarship, he must not compromise his character while on the quest for his future. In the franchise's third film, Troy once again feels uncertain about his future as high school graduation draws near. While Troy is set to attend the University of Albuquerque, he begins to have second thoughts about other schools he and his father talked about. Coach Bolton and Chad are both insistent on Troy attending the university, but he decides to attend University of California, Berkeley in order to pursue both basketball and theater and to be closer to Gabriella, who enrolls at Stanford University.
In the first three films, Troy is portrayed by Zac Efron, with Drew Seeley providing his singing voice in the first film. The reason for this dubbing is still somewhat unclear, although Efron has told Rolling Stone that the songs for the first film were written prior to casting and out of his vocal range. Casting for the role was a multi-audition process, and candidates for the role included Hunter Parrish and Sterling Knight. Efron had previously audition for a Disney Channel pilot that was not picked up by the network a few years prior to casting for High School Musical. Although the franchise will continue with a fourth film, Efron and his character will not be returning.