For her next project, the 24-year-old has shifted gears by stepping away from the musical genre and into a family comedy, "Aliens in the Attic," which debuts on Friday.
She spoke to Reuters about life after "HSM," pesky paparazzi and how she almost considered quitting show business before Disney came calling.
Q: Your new movie has a lot of CGI (computer generated imagery), because there are aliens hiding out in the attic of your summer home. Have you done CGI work before?
A: "Never, but it wasn't very hard. We shot on set in New Zealand and they had these little green stuffed animals we were supposed to look at. The action scene at the end was a lot of fun. It was like learning a dance routine."
Q: Since "High School Musical," you seem to be everywhere. Your album, Guilty Pleasures, came out this week and you're a voice on the Disney Channel's animated "Phineas & Ferb." Not to mention those reruns of "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody."
A: "Entering the Disney Channel really made my career what it is. Before that, I was guest starring on shows, and I was shooting pilots that weren't going anywhere. I remember doing three pilots, three years in a row and not one got picked up. I thought, 'Man, maybe I should be doing something else.'"
Q: So what happened?
A: "No joke, the day after I was crying to my manager, just feeling like it was the lowest of the low in my career, the audition for 'The Suite Life' came in. That was a big break for me. It got picked up by the Disney Channel (in 2005) and I've been working non-stop ever since."
Q: And avoiding the paparazzi, who follow your every move.
A: "They're outside my house all the time. It's kind of annoying. Sometimes I'll go about my day by myself and there are 40-year-old men taking pictures of me and I don't know who they are. They should start wearing badges."
Q: Well for whatever it's worth, you always look very stylish.
A: "I used to work in clothing stores growing up - Windsor, Wet Seal, Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch. I still wear Abercrombie and Hollister to this day."
Q: You were a child model and actress who did over 100 commercials as kid. Why work other jobs?
A: "Even though I've been working in the business since I was three and never needed a job, my mom and dad really wanted me to have a normal life and learn the value of a dollar."
Q: And did you?
A: "I learned to save my money so that I can choose to do projects because I love doing them, not because I have to."
Q: So what would you love to do next?
A: "Comedies or romantic comedies. The comedians I look up too are Cameron Diaz and Kate Hudson. I love Julia Roberts. I love movies like 'Legally Blonde' and 'My Best Friend's Wedding.'"
Q: Where do you see yourself in the future?
A: "I'm not someone to look too far ahead. Even though I've been super-successful with 'High School Musical' and with other projects, I feel like my career has just started."
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Patricia Reaney)
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