We speak to star Gina Rodriguez and director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson about their must-watch movie Someone Great.
The particular superpower of female friendship is the ability to read one another like a book. When something is going wrong in a woman’s life, it’s her friends who will pick up on it instantly.
“Jenny is in horrible shape,” Erin (DeWanda Wise) tells Blair (Brittany Snow) in a scene from Someone Great, Netflix’s latest romantic comedy. “She needs us. Our bestie is out there drinking champagne from a green juice bottle that still has green juice in it.” The camera pans over to Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) slumped over in sweatpants, mainlining a bottle of the green stuff.
“Oh fuck,” Blair sighs. “Wait, it’s like a green juice mimosa. That’s kinda genius.”
“The green juice was born out what you get when you can’t get a brand cleared,” Rodriguez says, laughing, on the phone from Los Angeles.
It was supposed to be a Snapple mimosa – just imagine how delicious that would have been – but Snapple demurred, and that’s how Rodriguez ended up drinking bottle after bottle of sludgy green juice topped up with sparkling water. She wasn’t even allowed to spike it with bubbles.
“I drank the whole thing, then I got the runs for three days,” Rodriguez jokes. “But what we realised is that it has inspired the next wave of mimosas. We set a trend. It’s going to be the next brunch at Soho House: green juice mimosas.”
In Someone Great, Jenny isn’t drinking that green juice concoction perched at a restaurant most frequently patronised by Instagram models. She’s drinking it in an hour of despair after Nate (Lakeith Stanfield), her boyfriend of nine years, tells her that he won’t relocate with her from New York to San Francisco. Jenny has been offered her dream job, but it means leaving behind her dream man. Which is what she decides she has to do.
This isn’t your average romantic comedy. For one thing, there’s no boy-meets-girl in this movie. By the time we meet Jenny and Nate they’ve already blazed through nine years of ups and downs. This is a romantic comedy about the bit that comes after the meet cute, by which we mean life itself.
“I think that what was missing from the genre, for me, was a woman having agency,” director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson says. “And, also, the idea that it’s not the next romantic relationship that’s gonna make you whole, and that’s gonna make you feel fulfilled, and that’s gonna be able to drive you forward in your life. It’s about self-love.”
Someone Great is about making the kinds of tough decisions that every woman in their late 20s has to make, and making them with your girlfriends by your side.
Onscreen, Rodriguez, Wise and Snow have an intimate chemistry that feels lived-in and squishy around the edges. That is in part because Snow and Robinson have been friends for a long time, and so have Rodriguez and Wise.
“We were the only brown kids at NYU,” Rodriguez says. “We were literally the only two minorities in our theatre group, so we were glued to each other immediately. We’ve seen each other grow and I’ve seen her get married and she’s gonna watch me get married. It’s been a long journey with her.”
But Rodriguez credits Robinson with creating a safe atmosphere for the three actors to play and improvise with the fun – and filthy – script. “She created such a phenomenally warm, protected, safe environment that we all fell in love with each other,” Rodriguez explains.
She continues: “For me, the biggest thing is that you feel you can make a mistake but no one is gonna be mad at you. That is a huge thing. Especially for young women. You know, we’re not doing brain surgery, we’re making a movie with green juice mimosas – it should be fun!”
It was shine theory in action on the set, a supportive network of women pushing each other forward that helped to create a romantic comedy with a similar message.
There are love interests galore in Someone Great – Blair even has two, one of whom she has sex with in an office meeting room – but they’re resoundingly secondary. Luckily, co-star Stanfield was more than happy to stay one step behind Rodriguez at all times. “He was like ‘It’s all about you, ladies, and that’s badass,’” Robinson recalls. As Rodriguez puts it: “I was very proud to work across an actor that would uplift a woman’s story and not be like, ‘Hey, where’s my line and my magical ending?’”
Similarly, Robinson says that though the movie is loosely based on a horrific breakup of her own, the film isn’t about that relationship or that man. “I got dumped when I was like 21 in New York and instead of being upset about it, I got very drunk with my friends and had a great night. So it was born out of that,” she explains. “But there’s nothing about the guy that’s in this movie. He broke up with me and I’m not going to put him on screen like that. This is a story about me.”
As a result, Someone Great is maybe the next great romantic comedy about female friendship. The love story in this movie isn’t about a guy, it’s about three best friends; the grand gesture isn’t a woman running into a man’s arms, but into the embrace of her closest confidantes.
“We’re reversing it,” Robinson says. “We’re taking the rom com and we’re saying that this movie is about these three women and that’s a different romantic comedy. And just because it’s not a man and a woman falling in love doesn’t mean it’s any less of a romantic comedy.”
She adds: “That’s what I think we need to be putting more on screen, because that’s what young women want. They watch these things and they’re like, OK, that’s my–”
“Sisterhood,” Rodriguez finishes.
Someone Great streams on Netflix from 19 April.