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Interview: Jessica Rothe on Happy Death Day 2U- More Humor and Horror

The star of the Happy Death Day sequel loved returning to her character.

Feb 11, 2019

By: Lynn Barker

Actress Jessica Rothe grabbed our attention in 2017 when she starred in Happy Death Day as Tree Gelbman, a freaked-out sorority girl forced to repeat her birthday, dying over and over at the hands of a masked, baby-faced killer; sort of Groundhog Day meets Scream. She played the small-town girl a country superstar left behind in Forever My Girl as well but Jessica is happily returning to the land of déjà vu thrillers in Happy Death Day 2U.

Jessica in Forever My GirlJessica in Forever My Girl

Happy Death Day 2U Trailer

Jessica said she was glad to be able to bring more depth to her character this time around as Tree appears in some truly emotional scenes alongside the horror, stunts and humor. In “2U”, Tree is again menaced by a masked killer but so are her friends as she passes through other versions of her life in other dimensions. The young actress also talked a bit about her upcoming role in the re-make of the popular ‘80’s film Valley Girl and revealed what her go-to comfort films are. Check it all out!

Q: Was it fun for you to come back to this character? A lot of times you don’t get to do that.

  • Jessica: Going back was kind of like going back to summer camp. Everybody came back. Most of the crew came back for this as well. I was also really excited about the chance of exploring a totally different element of Tree’s personality because, in the first one, we watch her transform from this kind of snobby, bitchy sorority girl to badass and, in the second one, she starts out as a badass but then finds herself in a very difficult and emotionally wrought situation and she has to make some pretty big decisions.

Tree is prepared to defend herselfTree is prepared to defend herselfCourtesy of Universal Pictures

Q: So, did you have a sense of déjà vu like Tree does?

  • Jessica: (laughs) Totally because we were back in New Orleans on a lot of our same sets and even the bed was the same and the posters were the same and it was a huge sense of déjà vu which only helped my character. The thing that’s so lovely about this movie is even though it is a loop and we’re returning, all of the situations Tree finds herself in are so different that there is freedom to behave differently.

Babyface is still after Tree (Jessica)Babyface is still after Tree (Jessica)Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Q: Was there a lot of discussion about the logic in the film because, unlike in the first movie, there are multi-dimensions and your character goes from one to another.

  • Jessica: Yeah. (Director) Chris (Landon) and I talked about it a lot because we wanted to make sure it was something that scientifically was feasible and should there be two Ryans and two Trees? How does all of that work?  The thing that was really cool is that Chris did a lot of research and found explanations for everything and because he talked through it all with me, I understood it and could get behind it and the storytelling of it.

Tree worries that her friends will be victimsTree worries that her friends will be victimsCourtesy of Universal Pictures

Q: There are subtle changes, even in wardrobe.

  • Jessica: Yeah. A lot of little Easter eggs are hidden throughout the film like the graphics on the shirt being different. On the first shirt it’s a concert in Texas and on the second one, it’s in New Orleans. So, it’s little changes like that I think for people who love to freeze frame movies, it’s gold. All of the changes also are very consciously made. Our props department our set decoration, our wardrobe were so on top of every single choice being a choice as opposed to just throwing something together.

Tree and Ryan have become buddiesTree and Ryan have become buddiesCourtesy of Universal Pictures

Q: What was the logic of not having a Tree in the other reality?

  • Jessica: It’s explained in the film. Ryan’s quote (is something like), ‘Oh, because it’s a quanti-cyclical dimension, instead of you going into a dimension where you existed, you almost body-hopped in a way. You almost took over the space of this person’. We talked about it. I wanted to have two Trees. ‘Let me play my double. I really want to’. Every actor wants to do that I think but we realized that it would cause a lot of problems because then Tree would either have to kill herself in order to be the only Tree which is very morally complicated and totally mind-bending or she’d have to deal with her (double) every single time or spend her entire time avoiding her and dealing with the repercussions of that.

Babyface is as creepy as everBabyface is as creepy as everCourtesy of Universal Pictures

Q: Did you think about what it would be like to pop into another version of your own reality?

  • Jessica: Yes. When the movie Sliding Doors came out, it almost sent me into existential crisis because I think about that all the time. Like, ‘Wait. If I left my house five minutes later, maybe this would have happened and I’d be on this different track of my life. How would that affect me?’ So, it’s definitely something I’ve thought about before. It’s nice that, right now, in my life, 90 percent of what I have, I would want to go find those places and those people and things (if she were in another dimension or timeline) which I feel very fortunate saying because that’s not always the case. I’m really lucky to be surrounded by some pretty spectacular people and I have a super cute dog. So, I’d want to find the dog.

Tree and Carter still have a relationshipTree and Carter still have a relationshipCourtesy of Universal Pictures

Q: Of Course!  So do you welcome new filmgoers who didn’t see the original movie? Will they “get” this one?  

  • Jessica: A big thing we tried to do with this one was make sure that people who had never seen the first one would watch it and enjoy it enough that they’d want to go back and watch the first one or just be total avid fans of the new one. This movie takes a lot from the first film that was so wonderful and raises it up but also takes a completely different turn. Chris upped the ante and brought in this whole sci-fi element. He answered questions that were left unanswered in the first film all the while keeping the heart and the moral complexity and the wonderful characters that we fell in love with in the first one.

Jessica with her director Chris LandonJessica with her director Chris LandonCourtesy of Universal Pictures

Q: After all the action and upheaval in a film like this, is there a go to movie that you watch a lot as a comfort movie?

  • Jessica: I love The Princess Bride. That is a movie that no matter how I’m feeling, I can turn it on and it makes me feel good. Same with The Sound of Music. That is the huge comfort movie. I’ve watched it I don’t even know how many times. Honestly, right now, for me, it’s been re-watching all of “Friends”. It’s on Netflix now. When I want something that just feels comfortable and homey, it’s “Friends” which is almost a testament to that show.

Tree is at her wits' endTree is at her wits' endCourtesy of Universal Pictures

Q: There is an emotional scene with Tree’s mom in this film. Was that challenging for you?

  • Jessica: It was really hard because I’m incredibly close with my mother. I got in my own way at the beginning of the day because I was so worked up and I really wanted to do it right. I really wanted to do my mom the honor of expressing what that would mean to me. The homework Chris gave me was ‘Sit down and make a list about all the things you love about your mom’ so I actually have two pages of my script that just have all these notes. I have to give it to my mom at some point. I feel that (the scene) is such a unique opportunity to get to say the things that people always wish they had said.

Tree goes to bat for her friendsTree goes to bat for her friendsCourtesy of Universal Pictures

Q: Yeah. Let’s talk action. You were running up the stairs with your hands cuffed behind your back. What did it take to do all the stunts?

  • Jessica: Lots of time on the elliptical before. The handcuff stuff was really hard. I really actually like being involved in my own stunts. Our stunt team empowered me to do a lot of my own except for the stuff that was just too dangerous but Kelly, my stunt double, would show me a few things and how to not get hurt and how to look more badass. Running with your hands behind your back is so hard. I was running forward and looking in back of me, running off a ledge. That’s one of those things that, to this day, I feel like I could have done better. At the end of the day, they were like ‘We were actually asking you to do something that’s physically impossible’.

Tree has changed her look!Tree has changed her look!Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Q: There is definitely a superhero character role in your future.

  • Jessica: I hope so!

Is Lori the killer this time around too?Is Lori the killer this time around too?Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Q: I know you are in the remake of Valley Girl. Where are you in that process now?

  • Jessica: We shot it. It’s all done. I think they’re just looking for the right release date which is really exciting. I got to wear some unbelievable ‘80’s clothes, lots of shoulder pads, lots and lots of big hair and she’s such a different character from Tree because (my character) Julie is so curious and in love. There is no snark to her at all so there is this very different energy but I had a really fun time working on that.

Q: Did you spend time in the actual (San Fernando) Valley?

  • Jessica: We did. We shot it in the valley in the summer and it was hot but so much fun.

Q: When you’re around there you really do start talking like that a little bit. Was it fun to visit the ‘80’s? Did you keep any outfits?

  • Jessica: Oh yeah. I kept a couple of things. I wanted to keep more and they were like prized, vintage and way too expensive. The ‘80’s are amazing. Also, power ballads are the best thing ever. I was like ‘I’ll stay here. It’s great. There aren’t cellphones, no social media. It’s not stressful. It was a simpler time. Sign me up.

Q: Do you get to do any singing at all?

  • Jessica: I do. It’s like a juke box musical. We get to sing “’We’ve Got the Beat”. I don’t sing it but Ashleigh Murray does an amazing cover of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”.  Josh Whitehouse sings “Crazy for You”. We get to sing a love theme that’s woven throughout the film which was also really fun because that song, the original “Valley Girl” movie was its break. Back in the good ole days you would watch a movie and artists would release their songs in a film.

Q: What’s next on your agenda?

  • Jessica: I am collaborating on a T.V. show right now that I can’t talk about yet but that I’m really excited for and also collaborating with some friends on a couple of other projects. The T.V. show I would be producing on which is insane and so much fun. I’ve been learning so much just by being around all of these people. I’m just excited to see what comes next.

Happy Death Day 2U Movie PosterHappy Death Day 2U Movie PosterCourtesy of Universal Pictures

See Jessica in Happy Death Day 2U Wednesday, February 13th

We Want Your Opinion

Did you see the first Happy Death Day? Were you hoping for a sequel? What if you had to relive a day in your life? What if you had to travel to an alternate version of your life? Could you survive? Tell us with a comment and/or write about it on your Kidzworld profile page.