By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HONOLULU—Vanessa Hudgens, 23, has come a long way since her “High School Musical” days. She’s also a successful recording artist. Her 2006 debut album debuted at 24 on the Billboard charts, and later certified gold.
The brunette beauty now stars opposite Dwayne Johnson and Josh Hutcherson in the family adventure drama “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” in which she embarks on a wild adventure on an uncharted South Pacific island with her father and a pair of tourists. After crash-landing by helicopter, she and the others have to dodge strange creatures and find a way to escape the island before it is swallowed up into the ocean. Some theaters will be showing the Jules Verne-inspired adventure—a follow up to 2008’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth”—in 3D.
Front Row Features: What was it like making a 3D movie?
Vanessa Hudgens: I’ve never done one before so to be able to jump into this and see the end result was just so cool. I’ve never been able to enjoy a movie that I’ve done like I do this.
Front Row Features: Let’s talk creepy things in the jungle. What creeped you out the most?
Hudgens: The centipedes that were crawling were just so disgusting and massive and all their little legs crawling freaked me out.
Front Row Features: What was the toughest part about doing this film?
Hudgens: The (underwater) stuff. I have a pet peeve that is so ridiculous but I hate getting my face wet and fully submersing myself under the water. Opening my eyes and acting underwater aggravates me. I don’t know why.
Front Row Features: Your character, Kailani, seems to be a pretty strong role model for young women. She’s tough but focused on getting into college and has a loving relationship with her father. What did you think of her?
Hudgens: I think she’s a beautiful character. She definitely stands up for herself, as all women should. We’re strong. We’re powerful and Kailani definitely sticks with that and her relationship with her father I love because I’m very close to my family, but it’s that thing when you’re at a certain age, your parents can seem like the most embarrassing thing on the whole entire planet and you want to be nowhere near them. But, at the end of the day, you know you can’t literally do anything without them. You love your parents through and through and they love you, probably more than you could imagine until you’re a parent yourself.
Front Row Features: She’s certainly in control of Josh’s character; you’re kind of swatting him around like a fly.
Hudgens: (She chuckles.) It’s definitely a funny relationship. In the beginning she wants nothing to do with him. He’s just another American tourist but, through everything, I feel like he really opens her eyes and heart to adventure, which is an amazing gift to be able to give someone.
Front Row Features: This is a fantasy story that you have to make real. Can you talk about that?
Hudgens: I think that Hawaii was a large part in making everything real. To shoot such magical places, Hawaii definitely has them. We’d go out to this valley and I would show up to work and almost be in tears by how moving and stunning these places were. I think it definitely added that element.
Front Row Features: Talk about working with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Hudgens: He’s awesome. He really is an extremely large guy. I thought that he was going to be big, but you can’t imagine how massive a human being he can be until you meet him. He’s such an incredibly sweet guy, though. He’s very genuine, really funny, (and) very silly. Very charming.
Front Row Features: What surprised you about Josh?
Hudgens: How carefree he is and that’s hard. Every now and then, there are people you run into in this business who can care about what other people think and morph themselves into something they’re not. It’s refreshing when you meet people who are very true to themselves. Josh is very true to himself and very silly and kind of crazy just like me so it was nice having a partner in crime when it comes to just being a spaz.
Front Row Features: Did you or Josh pull any pranks on the set?
Hudgens: Not really. But we were such little kids. We’d run around, sing and dance and swing on vines. We got to go to some great restaurants and I went paddle boarding. That was the best.
Front Row Features: Do you ever get so involved in your roles that you get confused about who you really are?
Hudgens: That kind of happens but that’s more short term. A few things may stick with me but, over time, that fades away and I become myself again. I think all the parts I do play are an extension of myself so I pull from that but, at the end of the day, I go back to my happy, bubbly, giggly Vanessa.
Front Row Features: You play quite a different role in your next movie, “Gimme Shelter”—a pregnant, homeless character. How did you connect with that?
Hudgens: I actually lived in a shelter for pregnant, homeless teen girls for two weeks before we started filming and just kind of became one of them, hanging out with them and their children, (and) listening to their stories. Chopping your hair off (as I did for the role) makes you feel like a different person; the make-up the tattoos, the piercings. It was a transformation.
Front Row Features: Did the other girls know who you were?
Hudgens: They knew, but it’s irrelevant to their lifestyle. They really couldn’t care less. It doesn’t benefit them in any way by knowing me. They’re just trying to get by.
Front Row Features: It’s been a while since you recorded an album. Are you giving up your music career?
Hudgens: Definitely not. Music is such a big part of my life. My closest friends are musicians and I’m constantly surrounded by it, but right now it’s not something I’ve been doing. In this movie, I let Dwayne have the music spotlight. (He sings “What a Wonderful World” in one scene.)