Vanessa Hudgens Reveals Why She Is 'Grateful' She Dated Zac Efron Early in Her Career

The pair first started dating in 2005 after starring as Gabriella Montez and Troy Bolton in Disney's High School Musical together

Vanessa Hudgens has nothing but good things to say about her past relationship with Zac Efron.

The actress, who starred in the High School Musical franchise alongside Efron, opened up on The Hollywood Reporter‘s “Awards Chatter” podcast this week about their five-year relationship and how it helped her navigate fame in the early days of stardom.

“It started off really organically,” Hudgens, 30, explained of their off-screen romance, which began in 2005. “I could not have been more grateful to have that relationship at that time.”

In the Disney film, Hudgens played smart-but-shy new girl Gabriella Montez, while Efron, 31, portrayed popular jock, Troy Bolton, who both follow their passions for singing — and each other — despite pressure from classmates to “stick to the status quo.”

After the first film, which launched the cast into stardom, Hudgens and Efron reprised their roles in the second and third installment in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens
Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens. Michael Bezjian/WireImage

Before the couple started dating at the “very beginning” of High School Musical, Hudgens noted that their chemistry during auditions was very evident.

“We created a bond right from the start,” she recalled. “We were like, ‘We’re doing this, it’s us or nothing.'”

Though it’s safe to say the film changed the course of the pair’s acting careers forever, Hudgens said the instantaneous fame was a lot for her to process — and having Efron by her side helped her work through it.

“We kinda blew up. It was this massive phenomenon all of a sudden and [all] eyes were on me,” she explained. “And it’s just a really weird foreign thing to go through, and by being in a relationship, I feel like it kind of kept me stabilized and grounded, and I had someone to lean on who was going through it as well.”

Zac Efron Vanessa Hudgens High School Musical

Despite working alongside her real-life boyfriend for several years, Hudgens admitted that it wasn’t “always happy and dandy,” as there were times where things became problematic for the pair.

“Of course, everything is not always happy and dandy,” she revealed. “I remember one time we did have a fight and it was while we were at rehearsals.”

“And I remember Kenny Ortega coming around the corner with the most concerned look on his face like, ‘Oh no, is our movie going to fall apart right now?'” she recalled.

High School Musical
Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens in High School Musical.

Hudgens, however, noted that she never let their off-screen romance drama get in the way of work.

“I pride myself on being a professional, so I was like, ‘That aside, we are just going to move forward and do what we need to do’ and we sorted it all out,” she continued, before reiterating, “I think because I was so young, having that relationship really stabilized me.”

Though they were a Hollywood fixture for quite some time, Hudgens and Efron decided to end things in 2010. At the time, a source close to the pair said the split was mutual with no bad blood.

“They are 100 percent still good friends,” the source told PEOPLE of the High School Musical sweethearts.

The 81st Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
Steve Granitz/WireImage

This is not the first time that Hudgens has opened up about her past with Efron.

The Rent Live actress previously explained how she and Efron felt an instant connection for a June 2010 issue of Glamour. “Right off the bat, we had a connection, I think everybody could see it,” Hudgens told the publication.

Years later, the star opened up about the jealousy she felt while dating the actor, who was often bombarded with female attention.

HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3: SENIOR YEAR, foreground from left: Vanessa Hudgens, Zac Efron, 2008. ©Walt Di
Walt Disney Co

“I went through a phase when I was really mean because I was so fed up,” Hudgens revealed in a New York Times article in 2015. “Girls were running after him, and I was giving them death stares. Then I realized that’s not what that’s about.”

After going their separate ways, Hudgens began dating actor-model Austin Butler. They have been together for eight years.

Efron, meanwhile, has been linked to Alexandra Daddario, Lily Collins, and most recently, Sarah Bro.

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