High School Musical's Vanessa Hudgens as you've never seen her before
Once a squeeky-clean teen in Disney’s musicals, Vanessa Hudgens is keeping it real these days. She tells Tara Brady about her latest role as a drug-addicted prostitute pursued by a serial killer
“I’m a very enthusiastic person,” she says. “I’m passionate about what I do. I have a love for it. I’m able to stop doing a character and pick it up the next day without carrying darkness around with me.”
“All of my grandparents were musicians,” she tells me. “But I never met any of them. I was a really shy and a really introverted kid. The only way for me to come out of my shell was as an entertainer. Singing and dancing was something I could hide behind. Once I was on that stage it wasn’t me anymore.”
Were her parents worried when she got mixed up with show business?
“Oh yeah. My mom still wants me to go to college. Even now. They were against the idea. It worried them that it was such a competitive industry and that I was a very fragile child. I was shy. I kept to myself. It didn’t seem like a good fit at all. It was a total contradiction. They allowed me to pursue it against their better judgement.”
From the age of eight, Hudgens became a regular in local musical productions. Entering her teens she had already appeared in am-dram versions of The Wizard of Oz, Carousel and The Music Man and several commercials. Does she remember her first time on a set, I wonder.
“Oh yeah. I was nine. I was in a commercial for Travelodge. I was singing and dancing with the Travelodge bear. I thought it was the coolest thing ever.”
Officially, the Hudgens narrative has it that she shot to fame as a shiny teen-star then struck out on her own with ‘shocking’ roles in Sucker Punch and the incoming Machete Kills. It’s often overlooked that her first big break was not with High School Musical or the Disney Channel. Instead Hudgens first came to our attention as part of the cast of Catherine Hardwicke’s girls-gone-wild drama, Thirteen. Was she old enough to see the final cut when it was first released.
“It’s funny,” she laughs. “You take what you want from things. I watched it. But I was very naive at the time. I really was 13 when we made that film. So all I got out of it was ‘whoa, these girls are crazy’ and also I wanted my belly button pierced. I did get it pierced but not until years later. I didn’t have a clue.”
Surely being clueless and painfully shy left her ill-equipped for the stardom bestowed on her by High School Musical. Being one half of the show’s onscreen-offscreen golden couple – Zac Efron provided the other part – and being the face that launched a thousand pencil cases must have been tricky?