Vanessa Hudgens "Gone with the Wind"

When Lily Rabe asked Vanessa Hudgens to star in her movie " Downtown Owls," there was a scene she had to check with the High School Musical star. "Lily asked, 'Don't you like this dance number?'" Hudgens recalled on Zoom. The film stars Rabe and co-directs with her partner Hamish Linklater, but does not have a choreographer. "I was like, 'Well, my best friend is a dancer,'" Huggins said. "'I can talk to her about it and we can brainstorm ideas.'" Rabe quickly agreed. "I went to my girlfriend's house and we played '80s music, did some research, and put together a full program. We knew it was going to be a montage, so it wouldn't necessarily be the cleanest and most precise stuff, but it’s really fun.”

This scene adds a ray of light to an otherwise melancholy affair. "Owltown" is adapted from Chuck Klosterman's 2008 novel of the same name. The story takes place in a small town in North Dakota where a deadly snowstorm is approaching. The film, now available to rent and purchase on digital platforms, stars Rabe as a hilariously devastating small-town teacher going through marital problems, alongside Henry Golding, Ed Harris and Finn Wittrock joins Hudgens in the cast.

It's a solo move for Hudgens, who regularly appears in high-profile Netflix films and as an A-list red carpet host, but it's not as much of a departure as one might think. Hudgens, who is currently expecting her first child with husband Cole Tucker, may be best known for her Disney work, but her own tastes haven't always been particularly mainstream. “I’m not a good pop girl,” she says when I ask her if she’s heard Taylor Swift’s new album , The Tortured Poets Department . "I love my Radiohead; I love my Björk. I love alternative rock and electronic music and Rüfüs Du Sol. Just a moody vibe."

What drew you to the Downtown Owl project ?

It was a script that was being circulated through my agency and I was told that Lily and Hamish were going to direct it. I've been a fan of Lily for a long time and I'm also a fan of American Horror Story . I'm obsessed with her - she always does such great work. I was really drawn to this story. I think it has a very unique tone and I love the character. She literally jumped off the page.

How does a couple direct? I thought this might be a little unusual.

Honestly, it's awesome. Not only are they a couple, but they are a couple with a newborn baby! They truly are the epitome of "where there's a will, there's a way." They are a great team and all very special actors. It’s really great to work with directors who are actors because they understand it in a different way. They understand the process and know how to communicate it in a way that helps tell the story from the actor's perspective.

Will you be directing something yourself?

Maybe somewhere. I think my taste is too weird and not what people expect, and I think that's what makes directors interesting - when they have a specific, different point of view.

Do you think you'll start working soon after having a child like Lily? Or do you have any specific goals for returning to work after maternity leave?

Who knows – there’s no crystal ball here. I leave it to the wind. Regardless of my schedule, there are so many things I want to do. I feel like I still have a lot to accomplish, so I just keep working towards those goals in any way I can.

Tell me more about the experience on set. You filmed in a fairly remote location. Are you all staying there?

To be honest, I was in and out so quickly that I barely saw anyone. I did my job and left.

Is this a dream for you or do you prefer it to be more ingrained?

It depends on the part. For this one, it was a very dramatic, quick part and I could shoot it very quickly, which was great because I could come in and have fun and then come back fresh. But sometimes, when the character is bigger, you obviously want to be more immersed in the world and be a part of the process.

The bar where your scene takes place is a place I dream of visiting on a road trip across America. Have you ever been on a big cross-country trip?

Quite a lot, yes. I'm an adventurous girl, so I find myself in some interesting places. I once shot a movie in Guthrie, Oklahoma, and we spent a lot of time there. We ended up making friends with locals and singing karaoke at a local bar.

So much fun. So what is your most popular karaoke song?

"You Gotta Be" by Des'ree.

I know you're usually a regular at Coachella, but this year you decided not to attend. how come?

The walking sounds are aggressive. It's a lot of walking.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Downtown Owl is now available to buy or rent on Digital