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 actress Jessica Rothe for this 1-on-1 interview about why she found Forever My Girl so appealing, what she most enjoyed about playing Josie, and the great chemistry she had with her co-stars. She also talked about how thrilled she was with the final outcome of Happy Death Day and the reaction from audiences, along with how excited she is about the possibilities for the sequel, as well as the Valley Girl remake and the role that ‘80s music will play in it.
Collider: This is a really sweet movie!
JESSICA ROTHE: It is! But it doesn’t feel saccharin, either. It’s grounded and truthful and real and heartbreaking, but it makes you feel good. It’s not only about love and falling in love, but also about family and communities and people, and their ability to change and grow and learn. Change is hard. A lot of times, at the end of films, even if they’re amazing, I look back and I’m like, “I don’t think anyone changed,” and that’s an important thing to see.
Even though this is a second chance romance, Josie has to have that moment where she lets Liam know how much he hurt her, when she punches him, because how could she not?
ROTHE: Yeah, of course! You need to realize that there are repercussions for your actions. Also, who doesn’t want to throw a killer right hook, in the middle of a movie? I was so pleased that they kept that moment. I think it’s important.
It makes Josie a little bit of a bad-ass.
ROTHE: Yeah, right?! She drives a trunk, can punch, and drinks beer. All the good stuff.
What was it about this character that most interested you?
ROTHE: I think it was how complex and complicated of a person she is. But really, the biggest thing that drew me to her was her strength. She is such an incredibly strong, smart, intelligent, fiery woman, who underwent such heartbreak, early in life, but didn’t let that define her. She not only has forgiven herself and forgiven him and moved past that trauma, but she’s built an amazing life for herself. She’s an incredible mom. Her daughter is wonderful and spunky. She has a thriving business. She lives in a community that may be small, but they’re supportive. She has everyone’s back and they have hers, and I think that’s really important to her. So, when Liam comes back, it’s him that needs to prove himself to her, and not the other way around. So often, in romantic comedies or romance films, it’s the woman chasing the man. Even if the lesson at the end is that she was enough all along, she feels like she’s trying to change herself. Josie never feels that way. Josie is very confident in who she is, and I think that’s something important for young women to see.
When you tell a story like this, you don’t know what the child actor is going to be like. What was it like to work with Abby Ryder Fortson, while she stole every scene?
ROTHE: The thing is that I didn’t mind. She was a gift to me, not only because she’s incredibly talented and sweet and intelligent, but because Josie’s first thought is always, “Is Billy okay? Where is Billy? How does Billy feel about me and Liam? Did she go to school? Did she get a good grade?” Josie wants Billy to be at the center of attention. That was the thing that I always fell back on, if I was unclear about what I was doing in the scene or what my motivation was. If the answer was that Billy was okay, then I could move on to the next question. If Billy is asleep, then maybe I can deal with Liam, but if she’s not, then that’s my first priority. It ended up being such a gift and I think it really helped out dynamic on set, with the three of us in the film.
The three of you have such a natural chemistry together. Did you get to spend any time together, prior to this shoot?
ROTHE: Alex and I have mutual friends. We had never met each other, so we met up a couple of times before we left for Atlanta. And I went to a juice bar with Abby and her mom, a couple of times, just so that she would feel comfortable around me. Once we were in Atlanta, we had some rehearsals. Alex and I had about two weeks where we were rehearsing and we just spent a ton of time together, getting to know each other, talking about what we thought Josie and Liam’s relationship was before he left, what the things they love about each other are, what the things they hate about each other are, and just being comfortable with each other, in the same room. We had to fast track that very intimate closeness that they had from knowing someone your entire life. I was very lucky that both Abby and Alex were kind, sweet, talented people, and that Alex and I have a very similar work ethic and way of working. Because I respected him, it made it a lot easier. If he hadn’t cared, I think it would have been a lot more difficult for me because I’m a stickler for doing my homework.