04/09/2009 at 04:00 PM EDT
"A year ago the last thing I thought I'd be doing was this right here," says actor Lucas Till, 18, of his role as Miley Cyrus
's love interest Travis Brody in the newly released Hannah Montana: The Movie
The Texas-born, Georgia-raised Till plays a horse-wrangling cowboy in the movie, but his new role as a heartthrob is certainly throwing him a bit.
"It's refreshing going from getting picked on in middle school to getting my name screamed out across the street," he says. "But to go to a friend's house and see his little sister with a poster of me on her wall, that's definitely weird."
So is being hand-picked by the most popular teen around. "I was nervous," says Till about meeting Cyrus. "I was expecting a different attitude, but she was just a normal sweet girl."
"I remember saying 'he's hot' to my mom through a text," says Cyrus, recalling Till's audition. "[But] I was on my best behavior."
The secret of his appeal? "That voice!" says costar Emily Osment. "He sounds like a 50-year-old man." Not to mention he lifts weights at the gym – "all the time," he says – and has four years of Brazilian jiu-jitsu training under his belt. "I won’t be using it to flip any teenage girls," he jokes. "But it’s a good skill to have."
Additional reporting by SCOTT HUVER