From writer/director Bethany Ashton Wolf and based on the novel by best-selling author Heidi McLaughlin, Forever My Girl is a story of romance and inspiration that follows what happens when country music superstar Liam Page (Alex Roe) returns home and reunites with his high school sweetheart Josie Preston (Jessica Rothe), after leaving her at the altar eight years prior. As he tries to rebuild the bridges that he burned years earlier, Liam reconnects with his small-town roots, the girl he left behind, and the daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson) he never knew he had.
At the film’s Los Angeles press day, Collider got the opportunity to sit down and chat with actor Alex Roe for this 1-on-1 interview about why he wanted to sign on for Forever My Girl, his character’s journey, the romance between Josie and Lima, working with his scene stealing co-star Abby Ryder Fortson, and having to sing on film for the first time. He also talked about his new Freeform series Siren (premiering on March 29th), a thriller in which mermaid legends come to life, and the underwater work he’s done, as well as what he looks for in a project.
Collider: This is such a sweet movie!
ALEX ROE: I think it’s great. It’s so feel-good. I think a lot of that is in Jessica’s representation of Josie. When Liam comes back, she could have played it in a way that was a little meaner, but I think it’s a really strong statement that she makes by having done the forgiveness and having lived a life that is full. She’s got her own flower shop, she’s raised a kid, she’s got an amazing community around her. Because there isn’t that level of meanness and she’s been strong and been able to create this life for herself, when Liam comes in, you start to believe in them, as a trio, in some way. He seems to be the missing piece to a puzzle that was full already, but you see why it works, which is a nice thing.
What was it about Liam that made you want to play him?
ROE: Liam’s a real man-child when we meet him, and that’s interesting for me to play. He starts off as incredibly flawed and he can’t look after himself. He’s made so many bad decisions in his life, and I liked seeing him try to figure it all out.
What was it like to work and collaborate with your writer/director Bethany Ashton Wolf?
ROE: Bethany was so full of love, and I think the movie has this real integrity because it was made with integrity. She really is full of love. It’s kind of impossible to hate someone or something that’s full of love.
Along with Liam and Josie, the third piece of that puzzle is Billy, played by Abby Ryder Fortson. What was it like to work with her and to not have her steal absolutely every scene that she’s in?
ROE: She did steal the show, in every scene, but rightly so. The movie is, in so many ways, about her. Josie and Liam’s rekindling of their relationships only happens because of her. I think Liam expects Josie is never going to forgive him again, but he wants to be a part of this young girl’s life. Josie definitely isn’t ready to get into anything with Liam, but she feels like her daughter deserves a chance to maybe get to know her dad. Through that, a window gets opened and a romance between the two of them blossoms. Abby is such an incredible talent. She’s really smart, and way smarter than me. She’s down to improvise. It’s was really eye-opening, as an actor, to remember what it is to enjoy this. Nerves are not a factor with her. She just has fun on set. I think it happens often, when people work with children, that they rediscover why they’re doing it. It’s fun.
This movie has a lot of aspects to it that could have been challenging on their own, with the emotional levels, the accent and the music. Was that part of the appeal, and did you ever have a panic moment about any of it?
ROE: I definitely did, yeah. The things that draw you to a project, like the challenge of never having sung before and learning how to sing, as a country singer, and also learning how to play the guitar, was a crazy challenge. I have so much respect for the country industry and country musicians and country fans. The more research I did into it, the more I realized how much of a challenge it is and how important it is that I do a good job with it. There were definitely moments where I was like, “Have I bit off more than I can chew?!” I was just lucky that Brett Boyett, our music supervisor, was down to practice with me, every day for close to three months. We figured out his sound, and he told me country music stars to listen to and interviews to watch to try to emulate the way that they are and their accent. I’m so glad that I jumped head first into it, and I hope that the country audience enjoy it and believe it, in some way.
What was it like to have to perform and sing, in front of an audience?
ROE: So scary! I spoke to Little Big Town about the feeling of having 50,000 people, all singing the words to the song that they wrote and how incredible that feeling is. I got to have a little taste of that, playing Liam, and I feel really, really lucky to have had that. It was definitely nerve-wracking. We had to build our way up to it. We got a band together in L.A. and did a few performances that were just close friends that would come and watch, just to get used to performing in front of other people. And then, luckily, the crowd that were watching me perform got into it. I believed that it was actually happening, even though they were being paid. I feel like there are so many amazing singers out there and really, really talented people that I’m so happy that I’ve had a chance to do that.
You also have the upcoming Freeform series Siren, which looks like a very different take on mermaids.
ROE: Yeah. I’m really excited about it and that’s what drew me to it. Initially, they were like, “It’s a mermaid drama,” but your idea of Ariel (from The Little Mermaid) is completely flipped upside down. There is some really interesting mythology. Mermaid folklore and mythology is all over the world. Everyone has their own different take on it, and there are dark stories about the sirens. What this series tries to do is really ground it in reality and this idea that 95% of the oceans are unexplained. If that is the case, there could have been some kind of human evolution in the water. The mermaid society that you start to find out about is a matriarchal society. I’m excited about it. It’s cool.
Do you have to spend a lot of time in the water?
ROE: There’s a little bit, and we’re shooting in Canada, so the water there, during the water, is really, really cold. I’ve had to jump in the water a few times, and they have a stunt double ready, but I’m always like, “No, it’s gonna be me. I’m gonna do it.” It’s actually really refreshing to jump into really cold water, but I’m lucky that people rush over to me with towels. I’ve had to go in the water a few times, and we shoot some of it in a tank. During the season, there’s actually quite a lot of underwater stuff, which is exciting. I’ve learned how to hold my breath for four and a half minutes for this. I’m really proud of that fact. [My character is] actually a marine biologist, as well, so I’ve had to do a little bit of work on that.
What is it that interests you in a project and gets you to really pursue something?
ROE: When you read something and you feel like you just know, in some way. Some of those things, you fight for and it doesn’t go your way, and then sometimes things do come your way a little easier. I really just get drawn to playing something different from the thing before. I’ve gotten to play an alien and a country singer, and now a marine biologist, and in the one after that, called Hot Summer Nights, coming out in the summer, I play a drug dealer from Cape Cod. Often, the roles choose you. Especially in this part of my career, I can’t say that I’m sitting with a million choices and picking one. I’m just trying to make the best out of what’s achievable for me.
Forever My Girl is now playing in theaters.