It’s now been five years ago since a Disney Channel TV movie by the name of High School Musical first exploded onto the mainstream and propelled the film’s cast of unknowns into instant celebrities and teen idol status. One of the unknowns was Vanessa Hudgens, who began her career with small roles in the films Thirteen and Thunderbirds.
In the years she reprised her role as Gabriella Montez in the two sequels High School Musical 2 and the theatrically released High School Musical 3: Senior Year, the now-22 year-old hopes to press on her acting career with a role as Lindy Taylor in the teen drama Beastly
The film is a modern-day retelling of Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s Beauty And The Beast, based on a teen novel by Alex Flinn. In it, Lindy soon develops feelings for a classmate who is under a spell that makes him ugly looking. Hudgens was asked about whether the film’s message was what compelled her to do the film.
“Of course, it’s really important to stand for what you believe in and this is message is definitely something that is very strong and close to my heart,” Vanessa believes, “But I think that the main thing always is to develop a character, to develop a real person with depth and emotions, to have it come from a personal place.”
The modern-day “beast”, Kyle Kingson, is played by British actor Alex Pettyfer, whose previous films include Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker, Wild Child, Tormented, and most recently, I Am Number Four. Vanessa talked about first meeting her co-star.
“We met when we did a chemistry read, so it was already for the movie,” Hudgens recalls, “And it was really exciting because we both came in, we did a few scenes, and it was very creative. And we kind of just played; it was a lot of fun. We talked about music and hit it off.”
A common theme in the film is dealing with self-consciousness as
“I grew up dancing a lot,” Vanessa remembers, “So I was very self-conscious of my, as I would call them, ‘tree trunk legs’ because I’m very muscular. When you’re dancing a lot every day, you become very muscular and I did not appreciate that at the time. But now I’ve learned to love them.”
The biggest focus of the story is specifically on teen obsession regarding looks. It was posed to Vanessa what she finds most attractive about the male species.
“Male species! They’re a species!” Hudgens sarcastically replies, chuckling, “I think one really attractive thing to me is being present, not really worrying too much about the past or the future. Of course, you can have dreams, but to just try to make the best out of each moment that you have.”
Hudgens was then asked whether she felt looks mattered even a little bit when it comes to dating guys.
“I mean, to a certain extent,” Vanessa admits, “I think true beauty is on the inside. It’s the way someone carries themselves and what they’re passionate about and what they like. And I feel like if you can just relate to someone and just have fun with them, that’s what really matters.”
In Beastly, playing the girl who transforms Alex Pettyfer’s character into his “beastly” self is Mary-Kate Olsen, who is herself, along with her twin sister, Ashley, a former child actor and teen idol. Vanessa talked about the experience of working with and meeting Olsen.
“I love her!” Hudgens gushes, “I’ve loved her since I was a little girl, too. I was kind intimidated of her, because she’s been in this business for so long. And she’s been very, very smart with all the choices she’s made. I’ve just been such a big fan. She was just a very cool, laid-back chick. I was very pleasantly surprised.”
One scene has Hudgens’s character getting a gift
“Materialistic things are fun, of course, but I love being outside,” Vanessa says, “And my friend took me on a camping trip. And that was just a lot of fun, creating new memories and being outside.”
Vanessa has acted in Hollywood since the age of fourteen. She was asked about whether the experience of growing up as a teen in Hollywood felt akin to high school.
“I think there are positive and negative experiences with everything that you endeavor, whether it’s the business or being in fashion,” she says, “Everything always has a clique, I feel like there are certain groups of people who hang out with each other.”
“But it’s definitely exciting,” Hudgens continues, “The world is a lot bigger, it’s definitely a lot more cutthroat, but it’s really exciting. I think it’s just about surrounding yourself with creative people and just staying true to what you’re passionate about.”
However, Hudgens says her own high school experience was far from typical.
“I was home-schooled, so the comfort of my own home and a lot of time with my mom,” Vanessa says, “I don’t know, but I had a really great time. When I was going to high school, well, home school, I lived not too far away from Disneyland, so I would do a few hours of school, and then go with my mom and my sister to Disneyland almost every day, which was a lot of fun.”
Vanessa talks about how her own personality compares with that of her character, Lindy.
“Me and Lindy are kind of different,” Hudgens says, “Lindy is a girl who thinks it’s kind of easier to go through life under the radar and slowly blossoms into her own person, which is really beautiful, because she finds it through love, and she helps [Kyle] see the beauty within himself as well. I feel like we
Beastly is one of the few films Hudgens has done since retiring from the High School Musical franchise. She was asked what she wants to accomplish with her career now that she’s an adult.
“In between [the second and third] High School Musical [sequels], I did Bandslam, which was a completely different character,” Vanessa says, “I don’t know. For me, I do want to be smart. I think it’s extremely important to say no more than yes most of the time and be selective.”
“I just want to play characters that are different,” she adds, “That’s the fun part of for me: playing different characters and trying different things and just establishing a whole new look for each character. So, yeah, I have been a bit choosy, but I feel like I’m very happy with where I’m at.”
However, Vanessa says she had no issues with playing another teenage character for this film.
“I mean, who doesn’t want to be forever young?” Hudgens replies, “And It’s a really great thing and high school is such a crazy and interesting time. There are just so many different ways you can touch the subject of high school. It’s OK, I’ll try to stay young as long as I can. It’s a good thing.”
Aside from singing in the High School Musical films, Hudgens’s years as a teen idol with Disney parlayed into a singing career and she has put out two pop albums. She was asked whether or not she plans on continuing with singing into her adult career.
“Yeah,” Vanessa answers, “I’m such a musical person. I’m always, always, always singing, but I feel like I’m looking for the right match. I don’t want to do it and have it be forced. I want to give it the time and attention that it truly deserves and have it be an extremely creative outlet and just have fun and not rush.”
“How can you not when you’re running around with a massive Rambo gun?” Hudgens replies, “It’s a pretty empowering thing, but the greatest part about it was working with these four other girls that had such a strong sense of who they were and just very confident, smart young women. When you’re put in this situation with these girls, it’s like we felt unstoppable.”