For Netflix, 2018 is the year of the romantic comedy. Over the last few months, a wave of original romantic comedies have landed in our queues, to the delight of rom-com lovers everywhere. However, none have been as lauded as Set It Up, starring Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell.
The former Everybody Wants Some!! co-stars play Harper and Charlie, two supremely exhausted and overworked assistants who use their encyclopedic knowledge of their respective bosses — played by Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs — to manipulate the pair into falling in love. They do this in hopes that with their bosses off and away, the two will get just a *little* bit of down-time. And hey, if Harper and Charlie happen to fall in love along the way, so be it.
The film, which has been widely praised (currently holding an impressive 92% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes), is an overwhelmingly fun ode to the classic rom-coms of decades past, putting a modern spin on the beloved genre. Critics and fans alike have marveled at the off-the-charts chemistry between Deutch and Powell, whose back-and-forth banter flows so naturally, you’re rooting for the pair from the get-go. That they have electric on-screen rapport is not lost on the pair, who, according to Deutch, have been conspiring to team up for a rom-com since meeting on the set of the 2016 Richard Linklater film.
HelloGiggles recently hopped on the phone with Deutch, who opened up about her fight to be cast as Harper, working on an incredible women-led set, and the really, really unsexy story behind one of the movie’s most romantic scenes.
Hellogiggles: Set It Up has been getting a lot of really great reception from pretty much everybody. What’s it been like for you seeing how much people love the movie?
Zoey Deutch: You know, it’s so cool. It’s so special. Just to get some context, Glen and I met while making a movie called Everybody Wants Some!! And I swear — it’s not just a talking [point] kinda thing — the first day we met, we looked at each other square in the face, and we were like, “We have to find a rom-com to do together.” Our energy was inherently nightmarish in-person, but we could tell that maybe it would translate on the screen, that our banter and our weird sort of relationship would translate. We just knew it. So, the fact that this was a real wish-fulfillment, a real thing that he and I wanted to do for so many years, and it happened, was already, to us, a win.
We just were stoked to be there every day, and to be making a fun, updated rom-com. And I don’t know, it’s such a cool thing to see how many people are enjoying it, and mostly how happy it’s making people feel. That is such an awesome feeling, to be like, “Oh wow, people are happy and smiling and enjoying it.”
HG: What was your reaction when you first read the script?
ZD: My reaction when I first read the script, was, “I have to play Harper. I will do everything it takes to play Harper.” And I did. I auditioned for two different studios. They didn’t really want me, and I had to force my way in there. A bunch of other people had been attached prior to me, and I fought so hard. I wanted this part so badly. I thought [screenwriter] Katie Silberman wrote one of the smartest, funniest, best scripts I’d ever read in my life. And I was determined to fight my way in there, ’cause I just loved the part so much! You know, once I met Katie Silberman, the writer, I ended up pretty much stealing her for the part. I dyed my hair her color. I stole mannerisms of hers. She has a little hair tie she wears around her wrist that she always plays with on her index finger. I did that almost the whole movie. I stole her cadence, her mannerisms. I fully was a creep and a weirdo, and if you haven’t gotten already that I’m obsessed with her, here’s the truth: I’m obsessed with her. I think she’s a brilliant genius from the Heavens above.
From the first time I read it, I was reading her, and I knew that I needed to be her. And I thought I understood the character, and then when I met Katie for lunch a couple months before we started shooting, I was like, “Oh, that’s her. I have to play Katie.”
Harper is a combination, I think, of instinct and intuition of who she was, and then stealing some stuff from the writer, and also from a lot of my friends who are assistants. It was fun to be someone who was inherently so positive. She’s just so positive, and it was fun to be in her shoes for a second. She’s this positive creature who always looks on the bright side of things, which to me is such a lovely body to live in for a bit, coming from someone who maybe is a little cynical.
HG: So, in addition to the movie being written by a talented female writer, it was also directed by a woman, Claire Scanlon. Was it the most magical experience on set?
ZD: What was crazy about Claire was seven to nine months pregnant while we were shooting the movie. Seven to nine months! She had her baby a week after we were wrapped.
HG: Oh my gosh. That’s wild.
ZD: I know. While we were shooting I kept rubbing her belly and being like, “Your child is gonna meet me later in its life and be like, ‘I know that voice!’ “ Poor thing had to listen to me run around and scream and be Harper for two months while it was brewing! But that was a really unique and special experience. I really am a firm believer that you can’t be what you can’t see, and it’s one of the reasons why, of course, representation is so important. And for me, to be able to see a woman seven to nine months pregnant directing a movie, was so inspiring and empowering. And again, you can’t be what you can’t see, what you don’t see, and I was like, “Oh! You can do it. I can do it. She can do it. We can all do it!” And it was awesome.
HG: Did you ever have any chance to improvise, or was it mostly just sticking straight to the script?
ZD: We definitely played around a lot. I think Claire’s really smart and great about making sure we have a couple exactly as written. No matter how tight on time, she always gave us one for ourselves, and I think that’s because she’s someone who’s so heavily prepared and so on it. She’s already set aside time for you to have one for yourself. So there’s definitely room to play, and there was a ton of improv, but we always got it as written, because the script was, of course, so tight.
HG: So, I just have a couple questions about your pizza scene, which is amazing. How many times did it take to get that scene right?
ZD: No one’s asked me about this, so I’m glad I finally get to tell someone, because it’s really not okay. For the pizza scene, which I was so excited about — one, because I knew it was gonna be special, and I was just stoked about it. And also because it was an awesome opportunity to eat pizza, which, if you know me, you know I love pizza and I love pasta. I love carbs! I was very excited, so I talked to the prop master and I said, “Hey, just plain cheese from Joe’s. Just Joe’s Pizza.” And he was like, “Great.” So he got four pizzas, and Glen got gluten-free pizza from a place around the corner, because he’s healthy and takes care of his body, unlike [me].
So, Glen was smart. He was careful. He was wise. I ended up eating four full pizzas — four full, large pizzas — from Joe’s Pizza, and I threw up violently halfway through the scene. And then I had to proceed to be very close to Glen Powell, who now, I think, looks at me in a very different light. So that was something that happened. I threw up from eating four pizzas…and I still like pizza. But you would think I would be deterred after that experience. But alas, I’m still not taking care of myself.
HG: I feel like honestly, that’s more impressive than anything, that you can go through that experience and come out of it still loving pizza.
ZD: I actually agree with you! I was impressed by myself, that I still wanted pizza! That I looked at it and I didn’t want to cry! So, that scene there’s some real undertones of pain, physical pain.
HG: And so then, during the baseball scene, when [Harper and Charlie] are at the game, really trying to get Kirsten and Rick together, they played an iconic song: “The Power of Love.” That song is also in one of your mother, Lea Thompson, most iconic movies, Back to the Future. Was that intentional?
ZD You know, what’s so funny is that I literally didn’t process that until we were at the premiere and my mom was like, “Did you [know]?! That’s so funny!” And I was like, “I didn’t put two and two [together], but we have to ask! We have to ask Claire!” I don’t think so, but it was awesome! It’s hilarious.
HG: So it’s like a fun Easter egg to people who are also fans of your mom.
ZD: I know! It’s a fun little Easter egg, I guess.
HG: So, what was it like working with an iconic actress like Lucy Liu? Did she give you a ton of wonderful pieces of advice?
ZD: Yes, she’s obviously so iconic, and she was so great, so funny in the movie. I couldn’t keep my shit together; I was laughing so hard in the “Don’t be one of those girls who can’t say the word ‘cunt’ “ scene. We couldn’t keep our shit together. It was so funny. We had a blast. Yeah, it was awesome.
HG: What would you imagine the sequel to Set It Up would look like?
ZD: I don’t know! Maybe there’s something with a ring? Maybe there’s something with an engagement? Maybe there’s something with a third one, with a baby? Who knows? There could be a whole smorgasbord of potential ideas for sequels. I don’t know! There’s a lot! But I don’t know. You’d have to ask Glen if he’d be willing to work with me again after that pizza scene experience. I don’t know if he’s so keen.
HG: Well, I know I’d personally love to see a whole Set It Up franchise, so I’m on-board as a viewer and a loyal Netflix subscriber.
ZD: I love that! That would be amazing! Yes! Let’s put that out into the universe. We’ll see what happens.