You might recognise Vanessa Hudgens from High School Musical—and we won’t be surprised if you did because that’s how we knew her too. Twelve years since that show, the 30-year-old actress has gone on to act in various movies, such as fantasy film Beastly and crime comedy Spring Breakers. Her latest endeavour is Second Act, in which she acts alongside Jennifer Lopez.
“I play Zoe who is the vice president at a company called Franklin & Clarke and her father is the CEO of the company. She’s a very strong, independent go-getter. You meet her and she definitely doesn’t want anyone new coming into her space. She’s very competitive. That’s the thing I love about her the most,” Vanessa said.
Read on to find out what she thinks of her career so far and working with JLo.
You have some emotional scenes in Second Act with Jennifer Lopez. Can you talk about that and how you developed chemistry with her?
I think it was one of those things that were written in the stars. Every now and then, you meet someone you feel like you have known for a long time. That was the case with Jen. Working with her was so magical because she was so present with me and I felt like when she was working with me everything was going to be OK. I knew what she was doing and she knew what I was doing and we would come together and put our best foot forward. We also had this weird thing where I felt like she could communicate with me telekinetically. She would look at me and I was like, “I feel like you are saying this”. I would do that and it would guide her to where I thought she wanted to go and that would allow me to move into that place. It was just an amazing cycle that honestly feels magical.
Do you think you had this connection because you grew up listening to her music?
I don’t know. I think God just wanted us to be friends and do this movie. I feel like it is such an amazing message and it will empower girls and women everywhere.
Jennifer’s character is aged in her 40s and undertakes a major career change. Can you talk about the importance of moving forward and overcoming career obstacles?
I think that is such a lovely reminder to see it, and see it happen successfully. I think so much of the time it doesn’t matter how old you are we have this mentality of feeling stuck and almost feel like being a victim to it. In certain circumstances you are really the only person holding you back. If you want something and have enough hard work and focus and perseverance you will get there.
Second Act was shot in New York and you share a few scenes with Jennifer in public locations like Central Park. What was that like? Were there a lot of fans watching?
It was honestly kind of a disaster (laughs). I was trying to have a very honest, real and emotional moment with Jen but there were literally 100 people surrounding us and freaking out. It was rough. Not ideal. But [lucky for] how nurturing and how loving Jen is she looked at me and said, “You’re fine. You’ve got this”. I was like, “OK”.
What was the casting process like?
I remember I went in and did a standard audition with casting and the director and it was a very emotional scene that is meant to happen with Jennifer, but I was doing it to a man. I was like, “You know, I promise you this would be a lot better if I was doing it to a woman.” It’s like yeah, “It’s acting but I can’t really connect with you in the way that I would connect with her”. So I came back in for a chemistry read with Jennifer. I remember being so nervous. They had a little waiting room that I was sitting in and I remembered something from an acting class that I had recently just taken where they said, “Before an audition, lay on the floor and feel your body. Feel where you’re holding tension and just try to breathe into it and let it out.” I thought if somebody walked by me right then they’d say, “Are you OK? Do you need help?” But yeah, then I went into the room and Jennifer was sitting there dead center and of course I had met her once before, but it was just in passing. But to have such an intimate moment with her, I was just like still taken aback by her aura. She’s stunning. There’s just this radiance about her that I guess some would call the JLo glow. It’s a real thing. It’s a very real thing, but once I got over that and we started doing the scene work, I was kind of just so at peace with her. There was something so special about working with her that felt so organic and almost like if we were working together, I knew that everything would be okay. We just had this kind of connection where sometimes you meet certain people and you feel like you’ve known them your whole life and you just have this connection. You can’t describe it and that’s kind of what I had with her. And it was so special being able to work with her day in and day out and allow that to grow.
What was it like working with costume designer Patricia Fields on the movie?
She is such an icon. I mean like Sex and the City was one of my favorite shows. And it was like, “Here I am in New York City with Pat Fields”. That’s pretty iconic and she really just has such an amazing grasp at taking the director’s vision and your vision and running with it and allowing it to grow in a way that the characters grow as well. That’s what I loved about it, you know, you meet my character Zoe in one place where she’s a bit more hard and then throughout the film she softens up and I feel like her clothes reflect that as well.
So did you get to go to Patricia’s place and look through her closets and things?
(Laughs) I didn’t go through her closet, but she would bring coats from her own personal closet and she’s so petite herself that everything would work perfectly on me, which was great. I reaped the benefits of her petiteness.
You didn’t try and steal any?
I mean, I definitely wanted to (laughs). I’m not that girl.