CS Interview: Jessica Rothe on Remaking Valley Girl
ComingSoon.net got the chance to chat with Jessica Rothe (Happy Death Day 2U) to discuss her role in the upcoming musical remake of the 1983 cult classic romantic comedy Valley Girl, now streaming on Digital and available to order here!
When she first got the script for the project five years ago, Rothe recalled “instantly falling in love with it” and that as soon as she went in for the audition, she went back and gave the original a watch and loved the new project’s take on its “Romeo & Juliet story set to the backdrop of this crazy ’80s musical” with a “neon, high-energy background.”
“I think I also really loved and related to Julie’s journey of self-discovery and learning to believe in yourself and growing into who you are,” Rothe said. “Even though part of what brings her to this journey is her relationship with Randy, it’s not a story about a girl who falls in love with a boy and changes for him, but a story about a girl who is coming into her own power and during that time has a very important relationship that helps shape who she ends up becoming. I think that is such an important story to be told.”
Prior the starring in the film, Rothe had previously dipped her toes into the musical genre, most notably on the big screen in the six-time Oscar-winning La La Land from Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), and found it “amazing” getting to come back to it.
“I grew up on musical theater movies, on Singing in the Rain and The Sound of Music, Showboat, South Pacific, so it’s always been a dream of mine to get to make musical movies, one that I did not think I would get to do,” Rothe warmly recalled. “Up until recently, they weren’t really being made but I’m really lucky there’s been this resurgence and that I got to be a part of that. This was definitely a much different experience than La La Land both because we were singing jukebox covers of famous songs instead of original material, but also just where the music sat and my voice was really different. I’m not a belter, so I took crazy amounts of voice lessons with Eric Vetro, who’s amazing, and Harvey Mason Jr., an incredible music producer, helped me find my own sound through the process of this, and that was a very challenging but very rewarding experience.”
With its extensive soundtrack of ’80s jukebox hits, Rothe’s Julie got to perform a number of fan-favorite songs, but the 32-year-old actress herself had two favorites of her own for getting to perform on camera.
“I really loved singing “Melt With You,” I just love that song and I loved that in the history of the movie, it was in the original film and because the way music was introduced to audiences in the ‘80s through movies, that was the way a lot of people heard that song for the first time,” Rothe explained. “I feel really lucky that we got to perform that song as well. I also really loved singing “Take on Me” with Josh, I think that song and that sequence really capsulated what it’s like to fall in love for the first time and lose yourself in someone else, which is really fun.”
With the film’s Los Angeles setting, Rothe and co. got the explore a lot of the City of Angels as the film was exclusively filmed on real locations, everywhere from the titular area to the seedier bars of Hollywood Blvd. to the Hollywood sign overlooking it all.
“It was really fun, I think that it really reminded me of how huge the city is because I’ve lived here for a couple years, but you kind of stay in the area you’re in and that your friends are in, which is so what the movie is about,” Rothe noted. “It’s like ‘Step outside of your comfort zone, go somewhere new.’ We didn’t shoot any of it on a stage, all of it was on location, so we were going from the Valley to Hollywood to downtown to the Valley to Van Nuys, we were jumping all over the place and it felt like a little slice of L.A. history.”
With the majority of her previous roles being contemporary stories, Rothe found it “delightful” getting to step back into the ’80s for the film, finding she “loves movies that transport you” and that it’s “such a gift as an actor when you’re on something that the costume design and the set decoration and the hair and makeup not only inform you character, but also transport you to a different time and place.”
“The costumes on this were out of this world, Maya Lieberman, our incredible costume designer, just went above and beyond in creating all of these amazing looks that Julie has,” Rothe said. “I also love that we get to track her emotional arc through the film as you get to watch her dip her toe in to a more punk style and then finally land on something that’s a little Valley chic plus punk. I think that Maya did an incredible job.”
In building her rapport with co-star Josh Whitehouse (The Knight Before Christmas), Rothe found he was “delightful” and that he’s an “incredibly talented actor and musician” and “just couldn’t be a more lovely human being,” making it easier to build their on-screen relationship.
“He is such a goofball and so endearing and sweet and thoughtful,” Rothe described. “We spent a lot of time off set getting drinks one night after shooting, we got waffles, and I think all of that time we spent together bled into the movie in a positive way for our relationship. I also think the reason that our chemistry works so well is because we both are incredibly hard workers and I think we saw that about each other and respected each other and it’s so much easier to have on-set romances with someone when you like them.”
The film was originally set to hit theaters two years ago, but following controversies regarding co-star Logan Paul was delayed to a May 2020 release, which was once again hit with a release pivot as the world was hit by the global pandemic, keeping its May 8 release while skipping theaters and going straight to digital platforms. While Rothe notes that “big theatrical releases are fun and exciting,” she believes that the “world needs Valley Girl now more than ever.”
“I love the thought that families at home can watch this together and walk away with a smile on their face, feeling a little better about the world,” Rothe brightly reflected. “I know that I personally am drawn to watching things right now that make me happy, I don’t really have the mental or emotional space for heavier, more dramatic things. I just hope that we make everybody’s day a little brighter.”
Julie (Rothe) is the ultimate ’80s Valley Girl. A creative free spirit; Julie’s time is spent with her best friends shopping at the Galleria mall and making plans for senior prom. That is, until she falls hard for Randy (Joshua Whitehouse), a Sunset Strip punk rocker, who challenges everything the Valley and Julie stand for. Despite push-back from friends and family, Julie must break out of the safety of her world to follow her heart and discover what it really means to be a Valley Girl.
Set to a rock ‘n roll ’80s soundtrack produced by legendary Harvey Mason, Jr. with dance numbers by choreographer Mandy Moore, Valley Girl is a musical adaptation of the classic 1983 hit film that changed American teenage life forever.
The film stars Rothe as Julie Richman, Whitehouse as Randy, Chloe Bennet (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) as Karen, Paul (The Thinning) as Mickey, Jessie Ennis (Mystic Quest: Raven’s Banquet) as Stacey, Ashleigh Murray (Riverdale) as Loryn, and Mae Whitman (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World). It will also feature Clueless alum Alicia Silverstone as the adult version of Julie along with Mario Revolori, Rob Huebel, Judy Greer, Camila Morrone, Peyton List and Danny Ramirez.
Valley Girl remake is directed by Emmy winner Rachel Lee Goldenberg (A Deadly Adoption, Between Two Ferns) from a screenplay written by Amy Talkington and story by Andrew Lane and Wayne Crawford. It is produced by Matt Smith and Steven J. Wolfe.
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