Valley Girl: Jessica Rothe Talks About Recreating The Musical Cult Classic

Valley Girl became a cult classic that personified everything the 80’s were all about from the music too fashion.  With musicals becoming popular more recently it was only a matter of time before Valley Girl got its remake.  It has been quite the journey to find the right cast and crew to do the remake and honor the original.  Jessica Rothe details her journey from being casted in the lead role to her favorite scenes recreating this iconic film.

Nancy Tapia: Let’s talk about Valley Girl. Um, how did you get in it? 

Jessica Rothe: So I actually auditioned for this project a year and a half before I was cast in it. There was a different director attached. I went through the whole process of auditioning and,  got down to the final two. I even made a homemade music video to try and kind of like win them over and then we heard nothing. Then the project just disappeared. And I thought, oh, well that’s too bad, but I guess the movie is not going to be made. Then about a year and a half later, it resurfaced and I went back in and I met with Rachel. I ended up doing a read much later with Josh. It just was such a delightful surprise,  when not only did I end up being cast, but we ended up being able to make the film.  I really fell in love with the script, with Julie’s story and with the original movie, which I had never seen before. So I, yeah, I just feel really lucky that I got to be a part of this.

Nancy Tapia: So you hadn’t watched the original 1983 film after hearing about the new Valley girl? 

Jessica Rothe: Yes. 

Nancy Tapia: This is your second musical. This is no new rodeo. Do you think it helped? Was it a factor in getting into Valley girl?

Jessica Rothe: No, I’m sure it was because I, you know, I think that it’s, it’s a daunting thing to make a musical and everybody’s kind of hoping that there are people who have any kind of experience. I feel the same way that even though it was my second one that I’ve gotten to make and I am absolutely in love with movie musicals. I was so intimidated and so nervous, because this was the first time I’ve done a jukebox musical and that covers about our songs, and that’s its own strange and bizarre and challenging feat. Luckily we had Harvey Mason Jr who was our incredible music supervisor and he helped us all sound amazing. And I took a lot of voice lessons from Eric Vitro because eighties pop music and lots of belting is not where my voice normally sits. It was really fun stretching myself and gaining a new skill.

Nancy Tapia: Now with musicals, obviously you as an actor, but as a viewer it looks pretty challenging because in this case you’re acting and dancing and singing. That’s a lot of stuff to combine.

Jessica Rothe: Yeah, it is. But you know, the thing that I love about musicals is that, to me, the reason that music exists in them is because the characters, emotion is so deep at that moment that just speaking, just saying, words won’t convey the depth of their emotion. So you have to sing, you have to incorporate melody and, and length of sound and operatic range and do all of these crazy different things than dance. If the music and the songs are coming from that emotional place, in some ways it ties everything together and it makes sense as a story as opposed to being three different things you have to do at the same time, if that makes sense.

Nancy Tapia: Which song would you say was your most favorite one to have filmed?

Jessica Rothe: I loved singing Take On Me with Josh and getting to do our dance around the carousel. I think it’s such a perfect representation of what it’s like to fall in love for the first time and kind of just become obsessed with someone and want to spend all of your time with them. It was just a really, really beautiful sequence to make. Mandy Moore, our choreographer, found such effortless ways for us to move, but that didn’t feel kind of like we’re stopping and we’re dancing.

Nancy Tapia: I’m really excited to speak to you about the filming locations. Compared to the original, there are some parts where I’m like, okay, that must be the same building. But, obviously I don’t know. And one of my questions would be for the bar it looks very familiar, similar to the original?

Jessica Rothe: I actually don’t know if it’s the same as the original one. I know it was downtown and it was really grungy. But a funny story is my sister came to set that day and she actually went into the bathroom and she couldn’t get out. She was freaking out because it was so gross. But the set crew did an incredible job and I think that was another part I really enjoyed was kind of being me on colored Julian, this very grungy mosh pit setting.

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Nancy Tapia: What were other locations that you guys used?

Jessica Rothe: Yeah, we were all it was, that was one of the things that was really fun, it is such a love letter to LA and all of those different places. We didn’t shoot on a stage for any of this. We shot on location for everything. So when we were at Julie’s house, we were at a house in the Valley when we were at the punk club. We were downtown. We went out to the mall, which was in Sherman Oaks. We were at the school, which was in the Valley. They did such a wonderful job finding locations that were very true to the movie.

Nancy Tapia: Did you have a favorite spot in the Valley before this film or do you happen to have one now after the film?

Jessica Rothe: Well, we went to this incredible Tiki bar one night after filming that I think is the oldest Tiki bar in LA that’s in the Valley and I can’t remember what it’s called. But I think that that might be it. I honestly don’t spend a ton of time in the Valley though. Every time I go, I have a great time.

Nancy Tapia: Let’s talk a little bit about the costumes, the hair, the makeup, how fun was that?

Jessica Rothe: It was amazing. I love being in films that give you some kind of transformative element as an actor, whether that is costumes or makeup or accent and this movie kind of had all of them. And so it was really easy and fun to jump into this kind of eighties world and to jump into the world that Julie lives in. The costume designer, Maya Lieberman did an incredible job. Some of my costumes were designed for the film and made like the prom dress that Julie designed. She spent a lot of time working on and I got to kind of give my opinions on how to perfectly blend Julie’s style with this kind of punk rock influence. I also really loved how Julie’s arc as a character is mirrored through her clothing throughout the film. I think it’s a really cool visual device. One of the things I’m the saddest about is that I didn’t get to keep all of those amazing clothes because they were just to die for.

Nancy Tapia: I was going to ask you about that. Were you able to keep at least one thing as a souvenir?

Jessica Rothe: No, I wasn’t because a lot of the pieces were actually vintage eighties pieces pulled from studio balls. Uh, so we had to give everything back, which is too bad. But, I can dream maybe one day a break in.

Nancy Tapia: So one of the things I found interesting in this film is that it covered a little bit of the structure of what it was expected of girls. Expected to finish school, become a housewife, find somebody and live comfortable. But, your character was the contrary. It was like, no, I want to be me. I want to be able to do something else. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Jessica Rothe: Yeah, I think Julie really is a girl who’s ahead of her time. She’s so curious about the world around her and she’s not one who’s just gonna fall into step because her friends or her parents tell her too. And I think that that’s such an important lesson for people of all ages to remember is that you, at the end of the day, you have to find the thing that makes you happy. It’s important to go out there in the world and have experiences and try things that maybe you’ll like. Maybe you won’t, but at least she’ll know. It won’t be that you’re just kind of falling into step with expectation. It’s one of the things actually that I loved the most, that is kind of a change from the first one is that they gave Julie a lot more agency in that change and that she’s not a girl who is going through a transformation because she falls in love. She’s a girl who is in transformation and falling in love with Brandy, kind of opens her up even more to all the possibilities that were already in front of her.

Nancy Tapia:  After watching the previous Valley Girl, what scene were you looking forward to filming?

Jessica Rothe: Oh, that’s a really good question. I think I was looking for, you know, the fight that they have where at the end, Nicholas Cage and Josh Brighthouse’s character yell “Like for sure, Like totally”  I think I was really looking forward to that scene because I loved that even though so much of the film is so lighthearted and silly and funny that they’re all in these real emotions, these real kind of emotional stakes that these characters have. And that young love is important and it is devastating and wonderful and so complicated and the opportunity to explore that was such a dream. 

Nancy Tapia: Well, I’m glad I made you think a little there. To finalize here, any chance you can tell us a little bit of what we may be seeing you coming up after Valley girl? 

Jessica Rothe: Yes. I’m not sure of the release dates, but I am in a TV show on Amazon called Utopia that I think will be coming out sometime this summer or fall. Earlier at the beginning of this year, I wrapped on a movie called All My Life, which is a romantic, like kind of a romcom drama, based on a true story that I shot with Harry Shu Jr. 

Nancy Tapia: Great. Well excited to see more of you. Congratulations on Valley girl. I’m sure everyone’s going to love it. 

Valley Girl will be available on digital demand May 8th.

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