Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Building an impressive resume. At only 25, Vanessa Hudgens is fast establishing herself as an actress of surprisingly wide range. After first gaining fame in the Disney Channel’s frothy High School Musical trilogy, she’s gone on to surprise critics with strong turns in a diverse assortment of films, including 2009’s Bandslam (also a musical comedy), 2012’s action-adventure Journey to the Mysterious Island  and, in that same year, the dramedy Spring Breakers (about four vacationing college girls and their fall into fall into drugs and violence). With Gimme Shelter (hitting theaters Friday, 1/24), she establishes herself as a creative force to be reckoned with as Agnes “Apple” Bailey, an unwed and homeless teen mother who opts, despite all pressure, to keep her unborn baby.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Hudgens about her role, her career going forward and her surprisingly-deep perspective on life.

JWK: Has playing Apple changed you in any way?

VANESSA HUDGENS: It has really helped me grow. I mean I’ve never had the opportunity to work this hard at something. It really tested my focus in a way that I’ve never really had to use it before. To me it was — as person — seeing how much we all have to help out and how important it is to connect with people, to not be quick to judge people, it’s helped me grow spiritually. It’s helped grow in so many ways.

JWK: I visited your Tumblr page and was fascinated to find the quotes you posted there. For instance, from Martin Luther King Jr., who you describe as a “truly remarkable man of God,”  you have “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”  You also have an image an image of a posted that offers these words of wisdom: “Be kind. Work hard. Stay humble. Smile often. Stay loyal. Keep honest. Travel when possible. Never stop learning. Be thankful always. And love.” It seems to me that you defy the stereotype of a young Hollywood star — in that you put a lot of value in wisdom.

VH: Well, that’s good! I hope everyone else gets that! I do think it is so important to look at the big picture. I mean time is so precious and it’s so short. We’re all put on this Earth for a very specific reason. What that is, maybe we won’t know until we’re on our deathbed. I feel like it’s very important to stretch and to become the best person you can be because it’s so sad when people fall from a place where they have great opportunity. So, I think it’s just really important to take care of yourself.

JWK: I know you shot the movie at the actual Ramsey, New Jersey  shelter on which the film is based. What was your relationship like with Kathy DiFiore, the woman who founded and runs it?

VH: Great! I would go to her whenever I would need a little bit of strength. I know that she was secretly praying for me. She’s the most selfless person I’ve ever met in my entire life and just such an inspiration. She would definitely take me (aside) a couple of times — just to the two of us — and throw me some inspirational words.

JWK: What do you hope people take from this film?

VH: There are so many things. I think that it provokes a lot of feelings that maybe people have gone through, things maybe people of suppressed. I mean we all have pain. It’s just that our situations are different. So, hopefully, it will bring those emotions back up and allow you to sit with it and, by doing so, bring some healing. I think that it really shows that sometimes we’re exactly where we’re meant to be even when we’re in a lot of pain and a lot suffering. Those moments are the moments that really push us to our real destiny and help us find love for ourselves. And that you’re not the only one going through things. I hope that teenagers can see this and, hopefully, be inspired or that it will give them hope and faith.

JWK: Your next film is a comedy called Kitchen Sink. What’s that about?

VH: It’s about a girl in high school. It follows a couple of high school students who live in a time where zombies, vampires and humans live together as harmoniously as they can. An interesting group gets stuck together to survive their current situation. It’s kind of a cross between…Shaun of the Dead and Breakfast Club. It’s really cool. I’m excited about it. I get to be way more glamorous in this one which was fun because I am a girly-girl at the end of the day.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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