It’s been 10 years since we’ve seen Vanessa Hudgens play a high-schooler on TV in High School Musical, but this Sunday, the actress is channeling her inner teen once again. She's taking the stage as Rizzo in Fox’s first-ever live musical, Grease: Live—and while Hudgens may be back in the halls of a high school, that's where the similarities between the musicals end.
“There is definitely much more at stake with Grease,” she tells InStyle. “High School Musical was a fun little movie that we did, which became bigger than any of us could have dreamed. But everyone already knows Grease, so we have a lot to live up to.”
The pressure of recreating a classic may seem like enough, but the fact that the production will be aired live—and filmed in front of a studio audience, no less—is the real challenge. That's why Hudgens's biggest concern is simply “making sure everything goes right,” she says. “There are so many moving elements involved with a musical, especially this one.”
One of those elements is the costumes. Designed by William Ivey Long, who's best known for his work on Broadway, the looks are a modern update on Grease's classic '50s style. Hudgens’s favorite thing about Rizzo’s wardrobe is “the silhouettes,” she says. “I can’t handle them—pencil skirt, cinched-waist and popped collars. It’s so badass and sexy.” It’s also classically Rizzo, the tough-girl leader of the Pink Ladies.
“I relate to Rizzo in a few ways,” says Hudgens. “She doesn’t take crap from anyone, and neither do I. She speaks her mind like I do. And she's tough like I am.” But there are some differences between the two—and Hudgens is totally fine with that. “Rizzo is a bit cooler, and she’s more mean than I am,” she says, adding that she's not trying to be more like her character anytime soon. “I think I already have the Rizzo traits that I would want!”
Of course, Hudgens had a vastly different teen experience from her Grease: Live character. “I didn't go to high school, because I spent those years on set,” she says. Looking back, that may have been a blessing in disguise. “I guess missing out on all the drama was the best part.” But there is one teenage ritual that Hudgens missed out on since she didn't attend a traditional high school. “I never went to a real prom,” she says. “The only one I’d [been to was] in High School Musical, and now Grease.” And so her favorite prom memory, "having amazing choreography to dance to," is pretty unique.
Even though her high school experience was far from average, Hudgens would still give her teenage self some easily-relatable words of advice. “Enjoy every moment,” she says. “Don't let anything pass you by, and don't take things personally.”