Vanessa Hudgens and Josh Whitehouse Talk Spreading Joy With 'The Knight Before Christmas'

The Knight Before Christmas - Publicity still - H 2019
Courtesy of Netflix

The Netflix film's stars speak to The Hollywood Reporter about the accessibility of the streamer, the most memorable scenes to film and their favorite holiday traditions.

[The following story contains spoilers from The Knight Before Christmas.]

Netflix is helping viewers get into the holiday spirit with its latest Christmas romantic comedy The Knight Before Christmas, which is now streaming.

In the film, science teacher Brooke (Vanessa Hudgens) takes in medieval knight Sir Cole (Josh Whitehouse) after a magical sorceress transports him to present-day Ohio. Once in the small town, Cole must fulfill his mysterious one true quest in order to return home.

While Brooke is not looking for love at the beginning of the movie, things change when she meets the knight. "When she meets Cole, it puts everything she knows on the cusp," Hudgens tells The Hollywood Reporter.

"Cole has spent his life training as a knight. He's been a baker, a candlestick maker. He's kind of the whole trade," Whitehouse says of his character. "He has to seek his quest, which turns out to be love, and he finds that with Brooke."

While Hudgens is no stranger to the streaming service, the film marks Whitehouse's first collaboration with Netflix. "I love Netflix. This is my third film that I've done with them. I feel like it's hard because the industry is changing because of streaming platforms, and it's expensive to get an entire family into the theater, as well," she says about why she likes working with the streamer.

"I love the theater experience and I'm still an absolute fan of it, but I feel like Netflix is a place where I can do films that continue to live on and that people can access at their fingertips whenever they want," she continues. "It's just really nice to know that my films are easily watchable and accessible."

In addition to starring in the film, Hudgens also serves as an executive producer. "It wasn't the most serious or heavy content matter, so I felt like it was a good, easy fun thing to begin that journey. It was one that I felt very safe in," she says of choosing The Knight Before Christmas as the first film she produced. "I loved doing it and being part of the process. Having a bit more to say was a really wonderful thing."

Whitehouse adds that he thinks Netflix plays an important role of keeping movies relevant. "The best films will die out if they don't stay in the cinema for a long time, so having movies available to stream is great," he says. "Especially a Christmas film because the holiday comes around each year."

Both Whitehouse and Hudgens agree that they wanted to do the film to help spread Christmas spirit. "Christmas films spread joy and happiness and bring family together at such a festive time," says Whitehouse. "To be a part of people's lives and in their homes on their televisions around Christmastime is a really beautiful thing."

In terms of their favorite scenes to film, while Hudgens admits "every day was really enjoyable," both she and Whitehouse particularly remember shooting the moment when Brooke accidentally hits Cole with her car during a snowstorm.

"I think it was our last day. It was probably 5:30 in the morning and we were struggling to fight the sun from coming up," Hudgens says about the filming process for the scene.

"What was a shame was that they did this amazing shot that I loved. I was pushed back really quickly and I shouted a medieval swear word and I did it in slow motion," recalls Whitehouse. While the take didn't make it into the final cut, Whitehouse says that he plans to post the clip online following the release of the film.

The two also recall the swamp boat that was used to hold a wind machine to blow snow around. "Imagine being blown in the face with one of those when trying to do a scene," says Hudgens. Whitehouse adds, "It was blowing like 100 miles an hour."

"I remember there was a day that I came to set and I was like, 'OK, what are we doing today?' And [director Monika Mitchell] shows me a huge pyrotechnic pile of wood that had been set up. It was blasting fire about 15 feet high up to the sky and I was gonna be chasing a skunk," Whitehouse recalls. "At that point, it just felt like every day we were doing something very silly, very fun and very entertaining. There were a lot of happy moments and it kind of went throughout the whole process."

Throughout the film, Cole struggles to adapt to present day, at one point trying to carry on a conversation with an Amazon Alexa. "When I got to watch the film back the other night, that tickled me quite a lot," he says of the scene. "It was really fun to shoot and to play around with the idea of not knowing where the voice is coming from."

Meanwhile, Hudgens recalls a scene in which Brooke takes Cole to the grocery store. "Cole and Brooke are grocery shopping and Brooke's student pops up and she ends up talking to her," the actress says as she sets the scene. "Brooke asks Cole to grab bread. From behind me, he was opening the bag and eating the bread. I had no idea he was actually eating while we were filming, so seeing it for the first time, I was done. That was hilarious."

As the film progresses, Brooke and Cole grow closer and act on their shared romantic feelings for each other. Following the car accident, Brooke invites Cole to stay at her place. The two quickly bond when they go on an outing to a diner.

"I think for Brooke it was kind of love at first sight. She definitely has this moment of awe with him when they drink hot chocolate at the diner," says Hudgens. "She takes him in because she's a very caring person and she wants to look out for everybody, but he is also a handsome young man who seems pretty harmless. She took the opportunity to take him in and nurse him back to health, and they fall in love."

Whitehouse says that the instant attraction was mutual for the characters. "Cole is immediately taken by Brooke, but they need to do the dance for a bit where they don't really accept or acknowledge that they have feelings for each other," he says.

Throughout the film, Brooke and Cole learn a number of lessons as the knight goes on his quest. While both characters learn to be open to love, Hudgens says her favorite lesson in the film is to follow your heart despite logic. "You don't have to be able to explain love with your logical mind to know that it's true, and I think that that's a really, really beautiful thing that I always try to keep myself in check with," she says.

While Brooke helps Cole adapt to the modern world, she also teaches him about a number of Christmas traditions. In preparation for the upcoming holiday season, both Hudgens and Whitehouse spoke about their favorite traditions.

"I love making mulled wine. It's so amazing and it's very delicious. I love the classic things. Playing Christmas albums, decorating the Christmas tree and watching a ton of Christmas films. Those are mainly my go-tos," says Hudgens. "Singing Christmas carols is always fun, too."

For Whitehouse, participating in a Secret Santa gift exchange with his housemates is always a highlight of the holidays. "My housemate and I try to put the Christmas tree in the most adventurous position we possibly can," he adds.