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Remembering the 80s in 2020: An Interview with ‘Valley Girl’ Stars Jessica Rothe and Josh Whitehouse - mxdwn.com

Remembering the 80s in 2020: An Interview with ‘Valley Girl’ Stars Jessica Rothe and Josh Whitehouse

In perhaps one of the most prominent times of reflection we’ll have during the next century, the retro setting of 2020’s Valley Girl remake feels apt. A remake of the 1983 rom-com starring Deborah Foreman and Nicolas Cage, it tells the heart wrenching story of a star-crossed couple from conflicting lifestyles who find a way to love each other despite the odds. Despite being retold in the 21st century, this film manages to maintain its 1980s context while still embodying themes that let the narrative relativity transcend time. Lead actors Jessica Rothe and Josh Whitehouse made time for an exclusive interview with mxdwn Movies about Valley Girl’s upcoming release.

Q: In preparing for your roles, did you find yourself referencing other 1908s coming of age stories? Which ones, if any?

Jessica: I definitely did. We talked a lot about a lot of John Hughes’ films, which was definitely helpful because I think those are quintessential coming of age 80s films. You know, the movie from then, I feel like they’re so playful and that was an important thing to keep in mind in the telling of this story.

Josh: I didn’t actually. Not really. I watched Cry-Baby, which was an awesome movie with Johnny Depp. And I watched the original Valley Girl several times just to try to absorb some of the original performances and some of the grit and energy. I think in hindsight, something that really sets our version aside from the original is that ours is told through the memories of Julie as an adult looking back on her youth, which kind of puts everything in a sparkly and less gritty world. I’m sure if this remake was done through Randy’s eyes, it would be a very different movie- much darker and grittier and punkier. 

Q: Jessica, compared to your role in Happy Death Day, I felt that this film took a different direction with your character, especially the musical numbers. In what ways did you find this challenging and rewarding?

Jessica: I think a lot of the challenges were the rewards, which sounds like such a cheesy thing to say but it’s true. I love musical and I love singing and dancing, but 80s pop-rock is not something I’m used to singing. I grew up singing choir, Gregorian chants, and got to take voice lessons with Eric Vitro and work with our amazing music producer, Harvey Mason. It was really, really challenging and kind of hard to not only figure out how to sing in this style, but also to take ownership of these classic songs and kind of mold them into our story, make them make sense while having their own personalities and heart and energy. But once I figured out how to do that, it was incredibly rewarding. I also think that it’s really fun to play all different types of characters, and who doesn’t want to play a young girl who gets to fall head over heels in love?

Q: Of the musical performances, do you have a favorite?

Jessica: I really loved filming ‘Melt With You’ with Josh in that final scene, because I had this meta moment where I thought “Oh my god. I watched this movie when I was a teenage and I wanted to be the girl who was being sung to. And now I’m the girl in the movie who’s being sung to.” It was just this really beautiful, emotional moment for me.

Valley Girl (2020)

Q: Josh, in what ways did you find yourself preparing for your role, especially considering Randy’s involvement in the California punk scene?

Josh: To prepare for Randy I did all sorts of things. I went through the script, found every song in the film and I turned it into a punk version. I’m a musician myself so I have recording capabilities at home, so I was recording punk demos for every song. I also borrowed costumes from the costumes department, dressed up as Randy and went out to Hollywood talking to people, telling them I was in a band and that I was born in Hollywood- which was a complete lie- just to see if I could get away with it. On Uber Eats I changed my name to Randy and had people pulling up in the streets going “Randy!”

I did all sorts of things… I designed my t-shirt for the film. I created my guitar. I basically did as much as I could possibly think of to see what it would like to walk around in his boots.

Q: Since your characters are high schoolers, how did you draw upon your own coming of age experiences to help get into your roles?

Jessica: I think that, for me, it was making sure that Julie was always coming from a place of curiosity and inquisitiveness. I think that, like Julie, when I was younger and falling in love, I would fall hard and fast. So, getting to step back into that emotion was really fun and really rewarding. But I definitely think Julie was a little more precautious than I was, she was a little more willing to throw the rules aside and dance to the beat of her own drum.

Josh: When I was in high school, I actually had a relationship that felt similar. I was in a relationship with a girl with quite a wealthy group of friends, and my family wasn’t so wealthy. That was a factor that played on my mind, but I felt that I really understood some of the struggles you face in those moments. The thing I didn’t necessarily take in my life experience was everybody telling me that wasn’t okay, I was always welcomed and accepted by everybody.

I think when you’re growing up and falling in love and finding out who you are, that’s something everybody goes through. Being an actor is all about drawing on your own personal emotions to be able to put those onto the screen for people to see.

Q: What did you enjoy the most about the production of Valley Girl?

Jessica: I think the thing that I loved about this movie the most is that every single person who worked on it… this was a passion project for them. Everyone poured so much love and talent and hard work into this movie and I think you really see it in the energy from the cast. Everyone was cast so brilliantly. The costumes, the hair, the makeup- the movie wouldn’t be the same without any of those. Even our set deck, every single day we would come on set and there’d be these tiny little details that would just make the world so much richer, and I felt so grateful for that.

Josh: The costumes. Especially other people’s costumes, since Randy’s costume was generally the same outfit: a dirty pair of jeans, a dirty pair of boots, and a dirty shirt. I loved seeing everybody’s costumes. The colors, the cars, the set design, everything about it was fantastic. Also, the fact that we were performing musical numbers. Learning more about performing musical numbers and being a part of that world was really exciting to me, especially seeing the dancing the energy on set.

I also loved the performances the girls put in. I got to see the film back recently and seeing the way that the girls portrayed their “Val chick” dialect, and the vibe, and the talking cracked me up so much. These were all scenes I never really got to watch when we were filming because I wasn’t in them. But I thought everyone did such a cool job.

Q: In what ways would you consider Valley Girl‘s narrative as timeless?

Jessica: As a high school love story, there are so many things we explored that people felt in the 60s, they felt in the 50s, and feel nowadays. I think that peer pressure, falling in love for the first time, questioning who you are and going on a journey of self-exploration- all of those are things everybody can relate to, no matter what time period you live in or where in the world you are. I think this is a very timeless Romeo and Juliet story, with a much happier ending.

Josh: I feel as though this is a story that relates to many romantic tales of people from different sides of the tracks falling in love under unusual circumstance, and the quarrels that come from friends and family thinking someone’s not right for somebody. But, at the end of the day, people follow their hearts and I think that’s important in their relationship. So, no matter when this movie was made, any person from any time could relate to the idea of meeting somebody that isn’t exactly who they feel they’re supposed to be with. But I think love conquers all in those situations.

Q: Do you feel this film holds an important message for the young women who watch it, in regard to the romantic relationship, and Julie’s character in general?

Jessica: I do. I think the thing that’s incredible about Julie is that she is such an independent, creative, inquisitive, bright young woman moving through the world, and she has these friends she loves and these traditions she loves. But at the same time, she feels like there’s something else out there. So when Randy comes along, it’s not that he changes her, but that him believing in Julie allows her to expand the possibilities of what she thinks she’s capable of doing. I think, for me, the morals would be “take chances and explore and fall in love, but always follow your heart, always be true to yourself, and don’t let someone else tell you who you should and shouldn’t be.”

Josh: Absolutely, yeah. I feel as though there’s a lot of empowerment for Julie’s character in that she might change her style and go against the grain, but she’s not doing that for Randy. She’s not doing that to please anybody. She’s not trying to please her friends. She’s beating her own drum and walking, unapologetically, on her own path, on her own journey of discovery and curiosity. I think that’s really important for young people to learn: that it’s okay to follow your own path in life and make your own choices.

Valley Girl remake trailer: Riverdale, Happy Death Day stars got ...

Q: How do you think the 1980s setting of Valley Girl affect young viewers? The film definitely has a millennial/Gen-Z oriented direction, but is set in a time period where most of our parents or older adults grew up, so how do you think it will reach out to younger people?

Jessica: I think that the 80s are very in right now. We have Stranger Things, we have revamps of 80s music playing, 80s fashion has come back. I think what I love the most about the 80s is that it’s unapologetic, earnest, and so full of emotion. You see it in the music and fashion; people are bold and willing to put themselves out there and make statements. I think that’s something that Gen-Zers can definitely relate to.

Josh: Like I was saying, it’s a very relevant tale for anybody in any sort of generation. I think people who were big fans of the original Valley Girl, even though they probably didn’t want the original touched or remade because it was a classic and I know it meant so much to so many people, but I still think that this is a story with the same context and ground. Therefore, people can still relate to it. I hope that people who like the original film still like our version and that young people seeing it for the first time will relate to the struggles, but also the joys depicted in our movie.

Q: Jessica, from your perspective, how similar is this film to the original Valley Girl? What themes were maintained and what was modernized in the remake?

Jessica: I think we made a huge effort to pay homage to the original one. Deborah Foreman, who played the original Julie, is in the film as well as some of the other actresses. ‘Melt With You’, which was in the original film, was the main love theme. It felt really important to me to respect what came before us. But what we were talking about with Julie being a woman ahead of her time, having all these questions and that she’s willing to stand up and be her own person is a step forward in the script. Amy Talkington, our writer, did an amazing job folding that in and making it seamless. I also think that all of the musical elements elevate and bring something new, which is fun.

Q: Just as a final question, if you could isolate on 1980s film that you love or find a guilty pleasure, what would it be? How do you connect with it?

Jessica: I really love Indiana Jones, I don’t think that it’s a guilty pleasure. The reason I love [it] is because Harrison Ford is just so sexy in that movie. It’s this elevated adventure that instantly transports you and your imagination. I love that its cheeky and funny, but still so serious and filled with emotion. I love watching it every time it’s on.

Josh: I’d probably say Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, although I wouldn’t call it a guilty pleasure. But Ferris Bueller was an 80s movie that I absolutely adored. I love the soundtrack, I love the costumes, the energy, the dancing, the humor. [Ferris] was always a character I wished I could have played. I love that he breaks the fourth wall and talks to the audience. I always think it’s so cool in film when people take advantage of the fact that you can break reality slightly, so I loved that element as well.

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