Anna Kendrick never fantasized about playing a princess. “As a kid I would dream about saving boys from cliffs–not the other way around,” she says. But her take on Cinderella in Into the Woods, out Dec. 25, is no damsel in distress, and the film is no fantasy. The Stephen Sondheim musical is filled with infidelity and violence. “When I first saw it as a kid, it made me uncomfortable,” she says. “But that’s what makes it so compelling–the characters have to face consequences.”
Kendrick has a history with musicals. She earned a Tony nomination at 12 for her performance in High Society and starred in 2012’s Pitch Perfect, a movie about an a cappella group. She’ll be singing next year in both the Pitch Perfect sequel and the film version of the musical The Last 5 Years.
“It occurred to me that doing four musicals was maybe not a great career plan, but when certain opportunities come along, you throw the rules out the window,” she says. One such opportunity was working with Meryl Streep in the Disney-produced Into the Woods. “She has this incredible talent of making you forget how totally intimidating she is.”
Though Kendrick is technically a Disney princess now, she’s not squeaky clean. Her funny tweets on topics like her post-Oscars hangover are far from PG. “My brother showed me Pulp Fiction at 11, and I turned out O.K.,” she says, laughing. “I think my followers can handle it.”
This appears in the December 01, 2014 issue of TIME.