The last time Vanessa Hudgens was seen on television was in January of 2016 as “bad girl” Rizzo in Fox’s musical event Grease: Live. Her heartfelt performance was arguably the most praised of the entire cast, in part because of the personal strength and bravery she brought to it given that her beloved father had passed away the night before the live telecast. For Hudgens the show had to go on -- and she triumphed, especially with her profound rendition of the song “There are Worse Things I Could Do.” A year later the actress is thanking that production for her latest foray into television -- NBC’s Powerless, which premieres tonight at 8:30 p.m. on NBC.
“After Grease I thought TV was an interesting idea,” she told me during a recent interview. “I heard about this and I jumped at the opportunity. It’s actually great being on TV because you don’t have to worry about what your next movie will be, so it does take a little bit of pressure off.”
As NBC’s latest foray into the D.C. Comics/superhero genre, this cheeky workplace comedy series gives viewers a new approach to all things in that fantasy universe, focusing as it does on the ordinary civilians of Charm City, a metropolis plagued by pesky super-villains. As Emily Locke, Hudgens (pictured at top) takes a position as Director of Research and Development with Wayne Security – headed by Bruce Wayne’s cousin, Van Wayne (played by Alan Tudyk, pictured below second from right), whose mission is to protect their fair city from all manner of evil.
Hudgens is excited to develop her comic flair as the perky new girl, assigned to restructure the firm and assist in the creation of an array of gadgets designed to protect humanity. Strange as it may sound, she said her character is someone to whom she can relate. “I get the bright-eyed, bushy tailed girl who is completely optimistic,” she shared. “I’m a lot like my character, very positive and happy, so to be able to stay in that place and be able to pull from that is really nice.” (Hudgens and Tudyk are pictured above with co-stars Christina Kirk, Danny Pudi and Ron Funches.)
She is also relishing the challenge of doing physical comedy, something she admits to being new to. “Comedy is hard,” Hudgens said. “I haven’t done a lot of it before and I’m just so grateful I’m working with amazing directors and an amazing cast. I’m literally asking them if there’s anything they can think of that I could do better; please tell me, because I want to know!
“There’s definitely some physical stuff and weird things like tripping a lot, but it’s in the name of comedy and I love it,” she added. “It’s so much fun.”
One thing’s for sure: The series is a departure for the star of the High School Musical movies, who admits that while she’s still friendly with her old Disney cast-mates, she prefers keeping those days long behind her. She’s looking to the future and has no interest in stepping back in time for a reunion. “I’m too old,” she laughed. “I mean, I’m 28! I can’t be in high school anymore, even though I just did it for Grease, but that was different -- when they did the original movie no one was 18.”
With her current world filled with high-tech gadgets and extraordinary scenarios, I couldn’t help but ask if there was any correlation between her latest vehicle and the 2004 Thunderbirds movie -- her first big Hollywood break, in which she played Tin Tin. That was long before she sang and danced her way to being a household name.
“Oh my gosh! I was 15 when I did that and I’m 28 now!” she shrieked. “I feel this is so different because that one was about a multimillion-dollar family saving the world.”
Hudgens paused, then noted that the Wayne family in Powerless is similarly wealthy. So maybe it’s “not too far off," she admitted. Then she laughed and added, “Except I was a child then and I’m a woman now.”
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