Ashley Tisdale and Aly Michalka Ashley Tisdale and Aly Michalka

CW's new cheerleading series Hellcats has plenty of sis-boom-bah, the the producers stress that the series is grounded in character-driven drama.

"I think there's a lot of heart," said Smallville star and executive producer Tom Welling at Thursday's Television Critics Association fall preview. "I think there's a lot of struggle from all the characters, especially our lead. And it's sort of that journey [of] her finding her identity and what she's going to do with her life."

CW announces more commercials on online streaming

That lead is Marti (Alyson Michalka), who joins the cheerleading squad for scholarship money when she faces being chucked out of college. Cheerleading gives her space from her childish mother.

Cheer introduces Marti to Savannah (Ashley Tisdale), a cheer captain and southern belle who takes the world of competitive cheer seriously. The Disney says her new character " isn't anything like Sharpay," her High School Musical character.  

Check out the latest news on the fall TV season

Welling, 33, will spend this year pulling double duty as producer of Hellcats and the star of Smallville. Fortunately, both CW series shoot in Vancouver, and Welling said both crews understand his passion for the new show. "I'm doing everything I can," said Welling, "with a lot of support from both shows to facilitate what each needs from me."