In The Princess Switch, streaming on Netflix now, Vanessa Hudgens basically plays Meghan Markle before and after marrying into the royal family. One of her characters, Stacy, is a normal woman—a baker from Chicago—while the other is Margaret, Duchess of Montenaro. They look exactly the same and find each other when Stacy competes in a baking competition in the fictional kingdom of Belgravia.
When the two women switch places for a few days, it becomes a mashup of The Parent Trap, The Princess Diaries, The Holiday, and the royal wedding—all packed up in a sweeter-than-Stacy’s-cakes Christmas movie. So we rang up star Vanessa Hudgens to see just how in tune she was with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s romance, what the toughest part of being a royal would be for her, and how much she loved The Parent Trap. (No movie spoilers here, except that Vanessa definitely created a secret handshake that rivals Annie and butler Martin’s iconic one.)
In America, a lot of people have become royal obsessed in the last few years. Did you follow Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s journey?
Vanessa Hudgens: I definitely watched the royal wedding when I was in hair and makeup. But for me, the whole princess obsession kind of came from growing up on Disney movies. I grew up with all the classics, and I always fantasized about being a Disney princess.
Was there one that you really looked up to when you were a kid of in the Disney princess realm?
Hudgens: I loved Princess Jasmine because she was so spunky and such a free thinker. And she had a pet tiger. That’s pretty baller.
It’s funny—I interviewed Lana Condor, who’s in another Netflix movie, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. And we both said that growing up as Asian-American adopted kids, you were one of the only women of color we could look up to in a Disney movie. I didn’t see women of color in movies and TV shows much when I was younger. I really appreciate it.
Hudgens: Oh, that’s so sweet! Thank you!
Did it feel good, in that kind of vein, to see a mainstream Christmas movie about a princess who isn’t white, for kids of color to look up to? Do you hope that that makes kids who want to be princesses be able to look up to you like they would to Jasmine?
__Hudgens:__Yes. Wow, I mean I hadn’t even really thought about that, but that is very special and an incredible responsibility. As people who are in the entertainment industry get to give, I feel like these characters are such fun, free thinking characters that are great role models for an ethnic younger audience. It’s just very special.
You mentioned that you watched the royal wedding in hair and makeup. Did you draw any inspiration there at all? Or think about the parallels between Meghan and Stacy?
Hudgens: It was definitely something that had crossed my mind for sure. But especially now that she’s royalty, you don’t necessarily get the biggest inside scoop. It’s more of a sight from a distance. So I got to kind of put myself in her shoes and see what that would look like for me as an actual reality, and as the full picture what that would feel like.
What would be the hardest rule for you to follow as a royal?
Hudgens: As silly as it seems, I feel like no Instagram. It’s the way that I keep up with my friends and my family and get to connect with my fans. It’s also a place that I pull a lot of inspiration for, whether that be hair and makeup looks or Halloween costumes or Christmas present ideas. Weaning myself off of that would be interesting.
Royals aside, there’s such a great Parent Trap vibe in The Christmas Switch. Was that something that excited you when you first read the script?
Hudgens: Yeah, it was one of my favorites! Me and my sister [Stella] would act out the scenes from the movie and watch it over and over and over again, as kids do. It was just like such a classic staple in my household growing up that I was like, “Oh my gosh! This movie is just like it it!”
Did you pick a twin that you were when you played out the movie? Were you Hallie from Napa, or were you Annie from the U.K.?
Hudgens: We would just go back and forth, because we watched it so often and knew all the lines so well. We would just kind of fall into whatever felt right at the moment.
What was your favorite scene?
Hudgens: Probably the fencing scene, where they take off their helmets at the end, and they’re looking at each other. Then the realization scene where they show each other the photo of their mom and dad, and then they fit together perfectly. Like [doing perfect Lindsay Lohan impression] “That’s my mom!” and “That’s my dad!”
There is a great secret handshake in The Princess Switch that is reminiscent of the scene where Annie gets dropped off at camp. Did it take a lot of practice to perfect?
Hudgens: No. [Laughs] It literally was like that day of filming. My director, Mike, said we needed to figure out a handshake, so I went up the little girl I was doing it with and was like, “Do you have any ideas?” She’s like, “No.” I was like, “Girl, come on. Help me out here!” So the night before, I, of course, watched The Parent Trap. I was trying to figure out what they were doing and trying to pay homage to that somehow.
Do you have any secret handshakes in your life? Like with your sister or with your friends?
Hudgens: I don’t. I’m so boring! I guess me and my boyfriend [Austin Butler] kind of have one, where we walk past each other and do the high-five and then do the low high-five as we’re walking away, like behind the back. It’s kind of hard because he’s taller than me, but we’ve got a magnetic connection.
You’re such a talented singer. You kind of sing in the movie, but just in the background at the end. Would you do a full rom-com original musical if someone pitched it to you?
Hudgens: Yes, of course. I love musicals. Musicals are like my home. Any time that I get to be on set and sing and act and dance, I am by far my happiest self. So I am always for a musical, never against it. I grew up doing musical theater and kind of found my own two feet through being on the stage. So if there’s like a new, original musical that is happening, I would definitely be the first to jump on board. But of course, there’s so many classics as well, especially on Broadway. To me, it’s always about timing. If the time is right, it feels good, I’m there for it.
Do you think there should be a sequel to The Princess Switch? If so, what would you like to see?
Hudgens: I honestly don’t even know where it would go, because we already got our happy endings. We’d have to create more conflict, or maybe there would a third twin. Spruce things up a little bit. I have no idea. I’m going to leave that one up to the writers, but I know that I had so much fun doing it. The characters are so sweet that I would definitely be on board.