California School of the Arts

Q&A: Jessica Rothe on starring in the upcoming musical remake of ‘Valley Girl’

If every day feels the same or you’re feeling stuck in time during this quarantine season, the remake of the iconic 1980s cult classic “Valley Girl” is sure to take you on a trip back in time through this new nostalgic, colorful musical remake, directed by Rachel Goldenberg and Amy Talkington.

The film’s original release was set in the summer of 2018, but was delayed due to the controversy sparked by cast member and YouTube star Logan Paul, due to his video filming a dead body in Aokigahara, the ‘suicide forest’ of Japan.

The movie features Jessica Rothe as the main character Julie, with Josh Whitehouse as Randy, a punk from the city. Before the film’s release, I had a chance to ask Rothe some questions over email. 

Jessica Rothe and Josh Whitehouse. (Newhouse PR)

Valley Girl was an iconic and huge film for people in the ’80s. However, its datedness limits how people can view the film now. In your opinion, what do you think this film does best in comparison to the original?

The original film is so, so brilliant and unique. I love that our adaptation gives people of all ages the chance to rediscover this timeless Romeo and Juliet story but with the added elements of a brilliantly fun singalong 80’s soundtrack and a more developed character arc for Julie. 

Amy Talkington, Rachel Goldenberg, and I wanted to make sure we were telling and exploring the story of a strong, curious, independent young woman who is forging her own way, not one of a girl who is chasing after a boy.

It is a film about self discovery, empowerment, and being true to your heart. I love that these messages are a huge part of our film.

What was it like first knowing that you carried the responsibility of helping uphold the legacy of a cult classic?

The thought of remaking anything, especially something so beloved, is terrifying. But when I read Amy’s script for the first time I saw the amazing ways she had taken the essence of the original but given it a fresh fun and heartfelt twist.

The goal was never to replace the original, but rather pay homage to it and find the parts of this incredible story that could be explored further.

That’s why myself and the rest of the cast focused on the ways we could dig deeper into the characters and story in the hopes of uncovering something unexpected and new.

What do you hope people take away from the film, for adults who experienced this film in 1983 to teenagers who are only experiencing the story now?

It is such a strange time right now, a time where I know a lot of people, myself included, could use a bit of an escape. I think our film is just that.

A high voltage, neon, 80’s love story that will bring a smile to your face, call on you to believe in your own beauty, unique flair, and strength,  and remind everyone of what it’s like to fall in love for the first time.

How do you think the decision to make this a musical adaptation adds to or detracts from the film as a whole?

To me, the beauty of musicals is that the characters begin singing when words just aren’t enough to express the depth of their emotions. And what better setting for some emotional, unapologetic ’80s power ballads than a high school love story?

 With your role as Julie, how did you work on keeping the authenticity of the original character? How much creative freedom did you have?

I was given a huge amount of creative freedom. It’s one of the reasons I loved working with Rachel. It was always about finding the most authentic version of our Julie, never about fitting her into a box (which, in a funny way is what the film is all about).

The additional new elements of Julie’s passion for fashion and her desire to explore the larger world definitely helped in that exploration.

The framework of the film matches with the original. However, from the larger sets to more opportunity for character development, what differences do you think impacted the remake the most?

I think the opportunity we had to add complexity to the characters, the added story arc of Julie and her mom and grownup Julie and her daughter, and the fun challenge of making an ’80s film in 2017 with all of the outside perspective we now have all added layers, and texture to the adaptation.

As a high-schooler and reporter for a teenage demographic, what do you think the significance of this movie is in today’s culture for the younger generation?

I hope that this film will speak to younger generations and inspire them. This is a story of a girl who was ahead of her time who isn’t afraid to be different and chase after her dreams but always with an open heart.

The iconic original grew to become one of the most brilliant, unique films of its times, being one of the first to break through stereotypes in the teen comedy genre.

Originally, it was meant to exploit the fad of movies named after novelty songs; instead, Coolidge managed to flip the script on hallmarks of teen comedies with emotional honesty and substance.

With this remake, Goldenberg and Talkington continue this legacy by paying homage to the original while delving deeper into each character and their emotional journeys as teenagers.

 

“Valley Girl” is out on digital on Friday, May 8.