04/17/2012 at 09:00 AM EDT
sang and danced his way through High School Musical
and lent his voice to The Lorax
earlier this year – but the heartthrob is entering new territory with his latest film role, thanks to his steamy love scenes with costar Taylor Schilling in The Lucky One
"From his past films, [director Scott Hicks] is incredible with capturing the love in those scenes. Everyone builds those scenes up," Efron, 24, told PEOPLE at Monday's Hollywood premiere of The Lucky One
, based on the Nicholas Sparks novel.
"There is sort of a fear inherent in everyone else so me and Taylor weren't afraid at all."
Also helpful: the fact that the two costars bonded quickly on the set, according to Schilling.
"I was very nervous. I met Zac in hair and makeup and we just hit it off immediately," said Schilling, 27, who admits she had never seen High School Musical
prior to her screen test with Efron.
"It was just very easy and that sort of click is something you can't describe but you just really hope for, because then it just makes the process really easy. I feel lucky to count him as a friend."
Adds Schilling, "Scott shot all the loves scenes at the very end of the shoot and at that point we had already become good friends. ... I had never been to New Orleans and he knew New Orleans and we were able to hang out a bunch, so we were at that point very comfortable with each other. I think the harder part is doing some of the emotional scenes and then once those are done, it's like, you want me to kiss you? Meh. No big deal."
As for his character in the movie
, Efron, 24, who is rumored to be dating Lily Collins
, "You couldn’t find two more different people than me and Logan. I really admired his integrity – he’s a Marine, I’m just a musical theater geek."
With reporting by PATRICK GOMEZFor more from Zac Efron on his new movie and his love life, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now