Actors Vivian Oparah and David Jonsson on their new film 'Rye Lane'
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Talk about a not-quite meet cute. "Rye Lane" opens with a man weeping in a lavatory, a unisex lavatory, in an art gallery over a breakup. A woman takes the cubicle next door. She hears him sobbing and a little more.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "RYE LANE")
DAVID JONSSON: (As Dom) Excuse me. Trying to have a private moment.
VIVIAN OPARAH: (As Yas) My bad. It's not that private, though.
SIMON: The two, Yas and Dom, later meet face-to-face and wind up spending the day walking, talking together, going off by themselves, and running into one another all over again in the Rye Lane Market neighborhood. "Rye Lane" is a debut rom-com directed by Raine Allen-Miller. Dom is played by David Jonsson, Yas by Vivian Oparah. Those two stars join us now. Thank you both so much for being with us.
OPARAH: Thank you for having us.
JONSSON: Thanks for having us.
SIMON: Quite an eventful day they have, isn't it?
OPARAH: You can definitely say that.
SIMON: Let me turn to you, please, if I could, first, Vivian Oparah. Yas is nursing her own hurts, isn't she?
OPARAH: She definitely is. She has a curiosity for the world, which is boundless, but no curiosity for, like, herself or any self-discovery. And I think you learn why and sort of unearth that insecurity within her in the film, which is really interesting 'cause I feel like in a lot of rom-coms, the female character is just there to aid the dude's self-discovery. But here there's kind of a symbiosis. They mutually help each other.
SIMON: And Mr. Jonsson, what do you think drives Dom, may I say, with respect, a buttoned-up accountant, to throw his life open to a stranger so much?
JONSSON: I mean, yeah, I guess you could say a buttoned-up accountant. I'd say he's a - he's, like, a football man. He loves football. He loves his missus. And life is kind of mapped out for him in a way. And it's broken, obviously, quite early in the film. And I guess, you know, it's that sense of needing the new and wanting to meet someone who can give you something that you're missing.
SIMON: Let me ask you both as actors, how do you make the timing work in a film like this?
OPARAH: Do you know what? I think that is credit to an incredible director. Raine Allen-Miller, like, she gave us and allowed us so much freedom. She's super generous. And I think that means - but she's so specific in the world that she's creating. So as an actor, you kind of immediately know where you're situated. But then, that means you can kind of play endlessly because you know where you are. So, yeah, we were just able to play and riff and use the script as, like, a springboard to bring the characters alive, but also bring our own world that we created for each character to it.
JONSSON: You know, we did. We had so much free rein from Raine, pardon the pun. But we did, you know? She gave us so much to run with. And also, by the way, you know, films are made in edits in a way. Sometimes we - you know, me and Vivian did takes that you don't want to see. They were absolutely crazy and mental (laughter).
SIMON: I'd like to see those more than the other - than what made it, actually.
JONSSON: They'll probably make a cut somewhere.
OPARAH: Yeah (laughter).
SIMON: All right. Someday, perhaps. I want to ask you about another one of your co-stars, and that's Rye Lane itself, this street in Peckham - also a kind of co-star, isn't it?
JONSSON: Absolutely. It's - yeah, we always love to say that it's our third lead character. It's kind of an actor's dream in that scenario 'cause you're just getting, like, a - you know, a real playground.
SIMON: The markets, the yoga, the tai chi groups, the ethnic food stands - it really reminds you that London is the world, isn't it?
OPARAH: Yeah, it feels like that. You kind of can get - it's like a one-stop shop for anywhere you need to go. Like - and Peckham is very much like that. You turn a corner; you have, like, the Nigerian aunties. You turn a corner with - you're with the hoodmen (ph). You'll turn a corner, and you're with, like, yeah, the yummy mummies. So, yeah, so it's a full-bodied experience, and I'm glad that we got to capture it in the film, for sure.
SIMON: There's a scene where a disreputable-looking man makes a taco for the two of you. And I said to myself, jeez, that guy looks like Colin Firth.
OPARAH: (Laughter) He does, doesn't he?
SIMON: So can Colin Firth make a taco? Or is that all show business?
JONSSON: Do you know what? He actually - you know, he really milked that taco. You know, he like - he was talking to Raine about, like, should I put the beans on first or the sour cream? Like, what do you think it's going to be? Like, yeah, he was so much fun.
SIMON: Method actors, method actors. At this moment of your career, I hope you won't mind telling us the story behind this one line in Wikipedia. Quote, "after getting in trouble at school, Jonsson admitted to his mother that he wanted to be an actor." So what was tougher, telling your mother you were in trouble at school or telling her you wanted to be an actor?
JONSSON: (Laughter) Do you know what? That is a good question. It had to be telling her that I got in trouble at school. She was quite - kind of quite blase about me being an actor. She was like, well, stop wasting time. Like, go and do it. Go sing, dance and make merry. You know what I mean? But when I told her I was in trouble for fighting a lot, she - that was the problem because I could have been quite bad.
SIMON: You wound up at RADA - didn't you? - Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
JONSSON: Yeah, I did. By the way, you know, it's not as grand as people like to make out. It's kind of just, you know, a place that you go to - I don't know - understand more about yourself. Or at least I did.
SIMON: Well, certainly, there's a distinguished lineage coming out of RADA, of which you have joined now. And, Vivian Oparah, let me ask you, your character, Yas, is in the film business, too - or trying to be in the film business in costume design - and has to contend with a lot of noes. That's just a fact of life in show business - isn't it? - particularly when you're starting out.
OPARAH: Yeah, I think rejection is so deeply embedded into what we do. I think it's impacted my worldview. I'm so blase. If things don't go my way, I'm just like, meh (ph), there'll be another opportunity, on things I should definitely care more about. But I think it's good and it's bad. Like, I think life is super light. And so just being able to be like, you know, this thing happened and it happened, is, yeah, a good thing.
SIMON: So you've made this rom-com, which is getting - it was a big hit at Sundance and getting acclaimed around the world. Have you learned something about love, romance?
JONSSON: You know, as much as I'm really trying, like, deep down in my bowels not to get, like, existential about this question, yes. Yeah. You know, yeah, I did. Just that, you know - yeah, you can't predict it just like we kind of can't predict this film. To be very clear, this is - you know, when I took this film on, I just thought this was a challenge for me as an actor to kind of do something different. And then, you know, you're expecting it to sit at the backlog of Amazon somewhere and never be seen, in this vault, you know, I mean, of, like, risks. And then, all of a sudden, you know, we're at Sundance, and we're kind of getting just so much amazing stuff. And I think that's kind of like the existential point of love. You can't predict it. You just kind of got to go with it and trust it. And, yeah, that.
OPARAH: I agree. And also, if you can find love in your every day, like, it will attract the love that you want.
SIMON: Vivian Oparah and David Jonsson, they are the stars, along with South London, of "Rye Lane," now on Hulu. Thank you both very much for being with us.
OPARAH: Thank you so much.
JONSSON: Thank you so much.
(SOUNDBITE OF JINSANG'S "LEARNING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.