When unknowns Jenna Dewan and Channing Tatum got matched up in 2006′s dance movie Step Up, they couldn’t have predicted that the movie would gain a small but loyal following, that Channing would someday be responsible for making a Stephen Soderbergh male stripper movie one of summer 2012′s biggest hits, or that they would fall in love and get married. But all of these happened, and this young couple has proven themselves to be one of young Hollywood’s most successful showmances.
Part of what you would imagine keeps them together is that they have very different career paths. Channing has stuck to a variety of movies (Dear John, 21 Jump Street) while Jenna has appeared in several TV shows and TV movies. But now they’re reuniting in the indie drama 10 Years, about a group of high school alums on the eve of their ten-year reunion who realize they still have a lot of growing up to do. Channing is Jake, a mortgage broker wrestling with whether to propose to his girlfriend, when he unexpectedly runs into his first love (Rosario Dawson). As Jake’s girlfriend Jess, Jenna plays the outsider trying to respect her boyfriend’s need to reminisce with friends without losing sight of her place in his life.
We spoke with Jenna about the difficulties of living with Channing versus working with him again, how much of their on-screen relationship was improvised, and how they kept her character sympathetic.
Going in, I had my doubts, since the “10-year high school reunion” movie has been done before. But I really liked 10 Years, because it had surprising depth.
[laughs] It’s great to think that low expectations work, and then people are happily surprised!
Why do this movie together now, six years after Step Up? As a couple who acts, do you often get a lot of scripts?
It just sort of organically happened, to be honest. Chan and the writer/director [Jamie Linden] had this great idea—we were all talking about our high school reunions coming up, whether we were gonna go… Chan and I have wanted to do something for a while; it just hasn’t been the right project or right script. This was easy and fun; we were lucky to be able to work together.
How is it working together versus living together? Was it weird to have the director telling you how to act on-set?
No, it wasn’t, which is funny, I guess. It felt very natural and it felt very easy. We love working together, so we naturally have that chemistry to begin with. The way that Jamie directs and the way that he wrote it, was very natural and very at ease. We could improv a lot and add things that we wanted to add. In the five years since we did Step Up we were like, Hopefully it’ll be fine! [laughs]
So was it just you and Channing improv-ing, or the rest of the cast as well?
There was a lot of improv; we had a script that would become the basis of the scene, but we were given a lot of freedom to improv. I think Jamie learned early on that there was a big strength in having this many talented actors—and especially talented comedians—in one movie. Especially Chan and me, Justin Long… just a lot of freedom happening on set.
Can you tell me specific scenes that were improv-ed?
For example, in the beginning when [Channing and I are] in the car, I think I shoved gum in his mouth—that was definitely an improv moment. Everyone was cracking up, like “Only you guys would do that.” Little moments like that we found that we would just do. But a lot of the scenes with Rosario, and us having our conflict in the car, were pretty written.
In a movie like this where there’s a bit of a love triangle, it’s easy to make your character a bitch or unsympathetic so the viewers root more for Rosario. But one of my favorite things about 10 Years was that that wasn’t the case at all. Were you aware of that while filming?
We talked about that relationship and love triangle a lot because we didn’t want it to feel so love triangle-y. It’s a real relationship and a real problem that people in life have; and generally you don’t make decisions based on the other person, it’s about all the other stuff and issues you have going on. That’s what we focused on. It had nothing to do with me and Rosario, it had to do with Jake and where he was in that place in life. That’s what caused his indecision.
Rosario wasn’t a bad person trying to do anything bad, it just happened to be that she was the sort of catalyst for him to realize what it is he does want. We were very careful about how we wanted to portray that, and it took a real while for us to figure out how to do it. It’s a fine line to walk: You want to have some drama and reality, but you don’t want to have “the good girl” and “the bad girl.”
Photos: Anchor Bay Entertainment