MANILA — It’s been 14 years since the original “High School Musical” was released, but its star, Vanessa Hudgens, still constantly hears a reference to the Disney film today.
In fact, “High School Musical” comes up in Hudgens’ latest film, which has zero connection to the musical franchise and sees her in a role so far removed from the singing Gabriella.
In “Bad Boys For Life,” which debuted in the Philippines on January 22, Hudgens portrays Kelly, an agent from the tech-driven Advanced Miami Metro Operations (AMMO).
Will Smith’s Mike describes the group as a “high school musical boy band with guns,” just as Kelly is shown with her fellow agents, in a trailer of the third installment of the “Bad Boys” series.
“I hear a ‘High School Musical’ reference multiple times a week!” Hudgens told ABS-CBN News via e-mail. “However, it is something I find joy in. It allows me to reminisce a bit and connect to my younger self. That project opened up so many doors for me and I’ll always be grateful for that.”
Indeed, since her breakthrough role in the 2006 film, Hudgens has had no shortage of big-screen projects, often juggling disparate genres from drama, comedy, musical, to action.
“Something I really pride myself in is breaking out of my comfort zone and I’m always up for a challenge,” she said of her choice of roles.
“I learn something new from each project I do and take those lessons with me to my next project,” she added.
Where genres are concerned, Hudgens’ casting as Kelly posed a unique challenge for the actress, as it came immediately after she starred in the live TV special “Rent” as Maureen.
She recalled that she “actually had to leave the ‘Rent’ set and head straight to the airport to catch a flight to Atlanta for ‘Bad Boys’ production.”
“I was thrown right into it, but wouldn’t change that one bit,” Hudgens said.
Clinching the part was a “dream come true” for Hudgens, specifically as it meant working with Smith and Martin Lawrence in what’s billed as the “retirement” movie of the franchise.
“We all had such a great time making the film – I couldn’t have imagined a better group to do this project with,” Hudgens said.
In “Bad Boys For Life,” Miami detective Marcus (Lawrence), who is set on retiring to focus on his family, reluctantly teams up again with Mike (Smith) after a new threat puts the latter’s life in danger.
The tandem gets help from AMMO, including Hudgens’ Kelly, whom she described as “badass.”
“That is one of the main reasons I was excited to do this project!” she said, referring to Kelly being a strong female figure in a predominantly male action film.
“I think as an industry we need to continue making strong roles for females, both in front of the camera and behind the camera,” Hudgens said.