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The press are usually the ones asking the questions at movie premieres, but at the debut of Second Act in New York City on Wednesday night, Alex Rodriguez had a question for his girlfriend, the film’s star: Jennifer Lopez.
“Jen, this reminds me a little bit of Maid in Manhattan part two. It has that feel and that energy. Why did you take this role? You have so many opportunities. Why this team and why this role?” Rodriguez asked in front of the audience at Regal Cinemas in Union Square.
“He interviews me at home too,” Lopez responded to laughter.
Lopez took the stage with her producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas. Goldsmith-Thomas credited Lopez with bringing the movie to life and being a real-life embodiment of the character.
“To me it was just really about this idea that Elaine had, many years ago, to do a story about not giving up, about knowing your own power, about putting that message out into the world,” Lopez said, “about being 40 and people telling you you should stop. Or that you don’t matter anymore and about you saying, ‘That’s not true; I have not even yet begun. And that is what for me that movie’s about.”
“She started out as a dancer who became an actress who became a singer who became a brand and who has been marginalized, I think, and never valued, I think, for everything that she’s done,” Goldsmith-Thomas said. “Without her, there would be no inspiration. There would be no Second Act, because she embodies second acts.”
Lopez plays Maya, a 40-something assistant manager at a grocery store in Queens who gets a job as a consultant in product development when her godson fabricates her resume and social media profiles. Vanessa Hudgens stars as a vice president at the company who is skeptical of Lopez’s qualifications but comes to admire her tenacity and talent.
“I just remember watching her movies on repeat, you know how kids do. Wedding Planner was definitely my favorite,” Hudgens told The Hollywood Reporter, adding that she wasn’t acting when her character says that she wants to be like Maya when she grows up. “Literally in my audition when I was doing that scene, I was like, ‘I’m not even acting when I’m saying that; it’s the truth.'”
Lopez’s real-life friend Leah Remini stars as her friend in the film, marking the first time the two have collaborated on a movie. “We didn’t collaborate, because she was my boss,” Remini said, adding that the relationship onscreen is an accurate depiction of their friendship. “She just let me do whatever I wanted to do,” she added, noting that there was lots of improvisation. “That is our relationship. You see it.”
Milo Ventimiglia plays Maya’s partner, and he was excited to work with Lopez after the two became friends while she was working on Shades of Blue and he was working on This Is Us. He thinks their characters’ relationship in the film is one we should see more of onscreen.
“I think it’s important to show supportive couples,” Ventimiglia said. “If you love someone, you should want them to do great. You should want them to soar as high as they can go. For me it was really nice playing a good, supportive, loving guy who wanted nothing but the best for his girl.”
“It’s everything I could have hoped for in a movie,” Lopez said about the film. “I’ve done 40-something movies, and from the script to filming to seeing it in front of an audience like this, there’s always something a little bit different. And sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it’s great, and sometimes it sucks, and then sometimes it’s this. It’s magic.”
After the screening, guests ventured across town to West Edge, an intimate loft space flooded with purple light. Lopez spent most of the night huddled with Rodriguez in the corner, as Remini obliged and took photos of her and partygoers, though there was never a security guard far away. Lopez and guests also sang “Happy Birthday” to her mother, Guadalupe Rodriguez.
Second Act hits theaters Dec. 21.
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