One thing Julianne Hough wanted to make perfectly clear in a phone chat earlier this week: She is “absolutely the opposite” of the bitchy, status-conscious and self-absorbed bride-to-be she portrays in “Dirty Grandpa” (opening Friday).
“I pride myself, hopefully, that I’m nothing like Meredith. But, I’ll tell you what. It was really fun to play her, to do something I’ve never done before and get the chance to show a different comedic side to me,” Hough said.
In the film, Hough’s character is engaged to Zac Efron’s Jason, who has evolved from a fun-loving, down-to-earth guy into a young stiff of an upwardly mobile attorney, working at her dad’s fancy law firm.
When Jason’s grandmother dies, and his grandfather (Robert De Niro) reconnects with his family at the funeral, a road trip comes up — a chance for the once-close grandpa and grandson to reconnect. What ensues is a journey of offbeat rediscovery that includes much partying, spring break in Florida and Jason’s chance to wake up and see where his life is headed.
For Hough, the chance to play the stumbling block to all that was a hoot. “Trust me, I’ve met a few Merediths in my time. I won’t name names, but there are definitely a few people that I based my character on!
“Yet, even watching things like the ‘Real Housewives’ shows or ‘Bridezillas’ — stuff like that — were inspiration for me,” she continued. “Plus, on a more positive note, thinking about my own engagement [to pro hockey player Brooks Laich of the Washington Capitals] makes me think about the process of preparing for a wedding. So that helped, too. Of course, whatever I personally will be doing — for my own wedding — will be the complete opposite of how Meredith approached the process!”
Hough also reflected on this past season of “Dancing With the Stars” and her role as a judge on the show where she long was part of the professional dance team, along with her brother, Derek Hough.
“I want everybody to understand that I really care about what the celebrities are doing on that dance floor. I know how hard it is each week to put all the time and energy into improving themselves as dancers. So, when I gave constructive, harsh criticism sometimes, I hope they know it was coming from a place of love, and not just judgment. I felt this past season, I really found my groove and my voice and my role on the show, as a judge on the panel.”
The next big thing for Hough is her performance in “Grease Live!” airing Jan. 31 on Fox. The actress will be re-creating the role of Sandy, originally played by Olivia Newton-John in the iconic 1978 feature film.
Hough is excited about the fact this live TV musical not only will be performed for the nationwide audience, but also for a live audience watching the production on the set of Warner Bros. in Burbank, California.
“The first time I watched ‘Grease’ as a kid, I was thinking I want to be another Olivia Newton-John. She can sing. She can act. She can dance. She can do it all. Watching her, for the first time, I realized this is what I want to do.”
While Hough met Newton-John in person in Nashville a few years ago, she was especially thrilled when the veteran star guest-later judged on “Dancing With the Stars.”
“As I walked up to Olivia, even before I could say anything, she came running over and said, ‘Julianne! You’re playing Sandy! I couldn’t think of a better person to play her. You’re going to be perfect!’
“Wow! It was so exciting. She gave me her blessing, without me even asking for it!”