The Netflix holiday romance movie The Knight Before Christmas, follows Brooke (Vanessa Hudgens), a science teacher who’s been disillusioned by love until she suddenly crosses paths with medieval knight Sir Cole (Josh Whitehouse), transported to present-day Ohio by a magical sorceress. In the spirit of the holiday season, Brooke helps Sir Cole navigate the modern world, as he attempts to fulfill the mysterious mission of figuring out his one true quest, in order to return to his home and time period. And as Brooke and Sir Cole grow closer, they each inspire to other to wonder what it is they really want in life.
At the Los Angeles press day for the film, Collider got the opportunity to sit down with co-stars Vanessa Hudgens (who’s also a producer on the film) and Josh Whitehouse and chat about the popularity of Christmas movies, why this script was appealing to them, what cracked them up most on set, finding the chemistry for a romantic movie, the challenges of wearing medieval armor, what defines the holidays for them, and what made the film’s location so special. Hudgens also talked about her experience on Bad Boys for Life with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, while Whitehouse talked about what’s next for his band.
Collider: Christmas movies have become insanely popular. When this one came your way, what was the reaction to it? Why did this one stand out, for you?
JOSH WHITEHOUSE: Honestly, this was the first Christmas movie I’d ever read, in a script. There’s a lot of Christmas movies around, but in terms of reading scripts and trying for roles, this was the first one I’d come across. I thought it was a lot of fun and it was different concept. There was humor in it, and a good love story, for me.
VANESSA HUDGENS: I thought that it was really special because it goes against the standard girl looking for love, actually looking for the knight in shining armor to save her. We meet Brooke, and she’s not looking for love. She’s just been cheated on. She’s very analytical and she’s a teacher. She’s been hurt by love, and she ends up meeting, of course, an actual knight and it’s something that she can’t really wrap her head around, even though she’s used to being able to figure things out. I think that it’s a lovely little reminder to believe in magic.
I love the fact that she’s not expected to give up her life and sacrifice her family for a man. Was that a nice surprise?
HUDGENS: We show that you don’t need a man to rescue you. You can make life wonderful and share a beautiful partnership, and there are gentlemen out there.
Josh, with a character like Cole, was it hard to find ways to identify with him because he is from a different time?
WHITEHOUSE: No, not really. I didn’t feel that fall from Cole. Obviously, he’s from a completely different century and I had to do a lot of research to understand the life he led, but I feel like we share similar values, or at least I’d like to think so.
Were there ever times like the dialogue that you just couldn’t help but laugh?
HUDGENS: Nothing really, in that way. I know that the times we cracked up the most was in the scene where Sir Cole is introduced to Brooke and we had to “Sir Cole” a bunch of times. And if you say that a bunch of times, it ends up becoming “Circle,” and it was just hilarious. With set life, when you’re loopy during night shoots, you find things very comical.
When you make a Christmas holiday movie, you want people to watch it for that holiday season, but you also want them to continue to watch it, every Christmas. Is that something that you think about, while making a movie like this, or do you try to just stay focused on telling a universal story?
HUDGENS: We just tried to tell this story, the best that we could. If you tell a good story, people will watch it again and, hopefully, make it a part of a tradition, and then be able to create nostalgia, every time they watch it.
With a holiday romance movie, the romance and the chemistry is very important. Did you get to spend time together, or did you work on that playful relationship beforehand?
WHITEHOUSE: It’s a light-hearted, fun and playful film. It’s not down in the depths of the deepest into a relationship that you can be. It’s about sparking and recognizing something nice. But we had maybe a week to get to know each other.
HUDGENS: Yeah, it was not long. We were in a little town, and we spent a lot of time together. We had a lot of fun. We hit it off.
When you’re telling such a sweet story, did you ever have to stop yourself from being too cynical?
WHITEHOUSE: I didn’t find myself being too cynical with it, no. I just wanted to do the best that I could, to try to make that as convincing and grounded as possible.
HUDGENS: When it comes to love, I’m such a hopeless romantic, so I’m the exact opposite of that.
Josh, what was it like to actually put on the armor and see yourself in it?
WHITEHOUSE: I thought it was great. I loved being able to dress up. It helped me get into character, seeing myself in the armor, beforehand. I love getting dressed up.
Were there challenges to putting it on?
WHITEHOUSE: Absolutely, there were challenges to putting it on. It took about 40 minutes to an hour to get dressed, every time. And then, in between takes, they’d offer to take it off, which I would want because it was so heavy. I started to get used to it, towards the end of shooting in the armor. It was about a hundred pounds, which really hurt my feet. My feet just hurt a lot. But I think about people that did that, every day, for real.
Must make getting up and down off of a horse a bit difficult.
WHITEHOUSE: I don’t know how they did it. Beinge forced to wear that, every day, it got to the point that it just became the norm to me.
What defines the holidays, for you?
HUDGENS: For me, it’s just time with my family, time with the people that I love, being able to reflect and also, set new intentions, and just be grateful.
WHITEHOUSE: Yeah, time with my friends and family, with a few drinks and some food, and a moment to reflect back upon the year you’ve had, and maybe what you want to do next year.
So, you’re not competitive holiday decorators?
HUDGENS: No. I applaud that, and I do not dis it, by any means, but that takes so much time. Although, I probably put that much time and work into Halloween, so I should not be speaking.
You should do a Halloween romance movie.
HUDGENS: Yeah, I know! We’ll work on it. It’s gotta be spooky! You’ve planted a seed. I agree.
Was there a most fun day on set with this, or is every day fun, when you’re making a movie like this?
WHITEHOUSE: It was great, getting to work with a fantastic horse. It was just really nice being able to work with a big, beautiful animal like that. All of the stuff that we did in the Christmas village was super fun. It was so Christmasy.
HUDGENS: I’ve loved where we shot the film. We were filming in a lakeside town, so after a long night shoot, we’d get back and be looking over the lake, seeing the sunrise and the water completely still, reflecting all of these pine trees. It was just stunning. It was a beautiful location.
So, what’s next for you guys?
HUDGENS: I’m going to Scotland to film the second Princess Switch (The Princess Switch: Switched Again), and Bad Boys will be coming out, which I’m very excited about. And then, I’ll be heading to New York to do Tick, Tick . . . Boom, which I’m also very excited about. Musicals are my favorite. I tell myself, if I can do at least a musical a year, then I’m happy. So, there’s a lot of exciting things.
WHITEHOUSE: Currently, I have been spending the last two years working on an album, for my band. I have a band called More Like Trees. We’ve just released two singles and have got one more in December, and the album comes out in January. So, I’m just currently focusing on trying to get my album ready and do some music videos, and stuff like that. And then, I’m working on finding my next job, at the moment.
Vanessa, how much fun was it to work on Bad Boys for Life, with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence?
HUDGENS: It’s gonna be great. It’s really funny. It definitely pokes fun at the fact that it’s been awhile and years have passed.
Was it intimidating to walk onto that set, especially knowing how long people have waited for that movie?
HUDGENS: They were so wonderful. They made me feel so welcome. They’re just really a joy to be around. I would have presents in my trailer from them and was like, “Oh, my gosh, they’re way too sweet. This is way too nice.” They just made us all feel like a family, and I think that will show up on camera. It was fun for everyone.
The Knight Before Christmas is available to stream at Netflix on November 21st.