Entertainment

Jessica Rothe, rising star of Forever My Girl, wants to do it all

Jessica Rothe, who last appeared in the time loop murder mystery Happy Death Day, now hopes to catch Guillermo del Toro’s eye.

Alex Roe and Jessica Rothe star as ex-couple Liam and Josie, and Abby Ryder Fortson is Billie in Forever My Girl.

contributed / Toronto Star Staff

Alex Roe and Jessica Rothe star as ex-couple Liam and Josie, and Abby Ryder Fortson is Billie in Forever My Girl.

Jessica Rothe is used to being called a 'starlet.' The thirty-year-old actor appeared with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in the Oscar-winning La La Land, and last year was the best thing about the time loop murder mystery Happy Death Day.

She’s landing lead roles, but is still building her career, trying out various film genres and characters.

“One thing that feels very important to me as an artist is to continually challenge myself and push myself to do all kinds of different things,” she says. “If it is good storytelling, it is good storytelling. I just want to do it all.”

Her latest is Forever My Girl, a romance in the mould of Nicholas Sparks. She plays Josie, a young woman left at the altar by boyfriend Liam, a musician who ran off to find fame as a country music star. When he returns to their small Southern town years later, his presence reignites old feelings— but things are different now. There's Billy, the daughter Liam never knew about, played by Abby Ryder Fortson.

Rothe says working with her precocious eight-year-old co-star helped her make Josie a fully-rounded character.

“I met with Abby and her mom at a juice bar so she would feel comfortable with me,” Rothe says, “but we didn’t get a lot of prep time because she was still in school.

“In some way the fact that I was her mother in the film really benefitted our relationship, because every time I didn’t know what I should be doing in the scene, or what Josie would be thinking about, it was always, ‘Where is Abby? Is Abby safe? Is she hungry?’ Having that be the backbone of Josie and her thought process was incredibly helpful. As somebody who is not a parent I can only imagine that is how you would function. It helped that our relationship on set and off set was very similar. I came to feel protective of her. Film sets can be crazy, but I think it worked to our benefit.”

The actress, who will next be seen in an all-singing, all-dancing version of the 1983 romantic comedy Valley Girl, relates to her young co-star’s acting ambitions as well.

“If I, as an eight year old, could have been that worldly and on top of my game I would have been amazed with (myself),” she laughs. “I always knew I wanted to do this but I didn’t think it could be my real job. I’m lucky my parents are incredibly supportive and generous people who have put so much faith in me as I jump into this crazy business. It really is so far outside their comfort zone in terms of what a profession can be.”

Speaking of straying outside of comfort zones, Rothe already knows who she wants to work with next: horror master Guillermo del Toro.

“I just watched The Shape of Water the other night and thought that was absolutely stunning. It is almost the perfect movie. I could talk about it a lot but I won’t because I’ll get in trouble. Everyone reads the Forever My Girl interview and it is just me raving about The Shape of Water and trying to get a job on his next film. That would not go over really well!”

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