Vital Thrills got a chance to talk to the Vacation Friends cast about their new comedy, premiering August 27 on Hulu in the U.S. and as a Star Original on Star on Disney+ internationally.
The Vacation Friends cast includes John Cena (The Suicide Squad, F9), Lil Rel Howery (Free Guy, Get Out), Yvonne Orji (Insecure, Night School), Meredith Hagner (Search Party, Palm Springs), Robert Wisdom (The Alienist, Ballers), Andrew Bachelor (The Babysitter, Holidate) and Lynn Whitfield (Greenleaf, Madea’s Family Reunion).
Vacation Friends is 20th Century Studios’ first film to have a global release on the Hulu and Disney+ streaming platforms.
In this raw and raunchy comedy, straight-laced Marcus and Emily (Howery, Orji) are befriended by wild, thrill-seeking partiers Ron and Kyla (Cena, Hagner) at a resort in Mexico. Living in the moment, the usually level-headed couple lets loose to enjoy a week of uninhibited fun and debauchery with their new “vacation friends.”
Months after their walk on the wild side, Marcus and Emily are horrified when Ron and Kyla show up uninvited at their wedding, creating chaos and proving that what happens on vacation, doesn’t necessarily stay on vacation.
The Vacation Friends press conference began with a question about the best drugs the cast and crew had done on vacation, which should give you a sense of the film. John Wisdom who plays the father of Yvonne Orji’s character Emily said, “Anti-inflammatories,” and “over-the-counter amphetamines,” while Orji said, “Malaria-prevention pills.”
Wisdom said of his character, “I think as performers, we always try to take either extensions of ourselves or possibly the opposite of our personality… if you see Ron and you see me, Ron’s probably not going to wear a waist coat and a half Windsor.”
Director Clay Tarver said of the film, “I think we all go on vacation. You meet somebody and you sort of get close with them for a week, maybe a little too close, you know?
“Then, when you return to the sober light of day, you’re like, wait, were we friends or were we not friends? How close of friends are we? You sort of have this freedom to go a little bit out of your comfort zone because you think you’re never going to see them again… well, this is a movie where the premise is sort of what if you do see them again?”
Orji talked about their last night filming in Puerto Rico, which doubled for Mexico in the film. “It was just kind of like, wow. We were like cobble stones, it was late at night, people were like, what’s going on? There’s yelling,” she laughed, “…and then there’s a scene where they’re carrying Meredith out of the bar. It was just mayhem, but in the best way possible.”
Orji also said that this was filmed right before the pandemic started. “We also didn’t know that the other side of the world was shutting down… so we were in our little bubble.”
Of their chemistry as vacation buddies and how they played the roles, John Cena said, “The cast is very gifted, and all in their own discipline… Meredith has so much presence on screen, and her comedic personality. Yvonne and Rel are both established standups, so I think I kind of let everyone do what they do, and it’s very obvious in how to play comedy with me…you use a big guy and the first piece of low-hanging fruit is go against the physical stereotypes or you lean into them.
“A lot of this was leaning in there, because this guy is… on his resume he’s such a badass, but in life, he’s really such an emotional person, and I love the contrast of that. Because Rel is so wound up, it really gave great balance. And then you see this wound up dude with all this energy trying to take it out on this large, hulky man who just really wants to give him a hug… I think that’s a lot of hilarity between Rel and I.”
Meredith Hagner wasn’t at the press conference, but Orji praised her, saying, “You just let her go,” in terms of performance. “She’s just this fast-talking, full of energy, just hyper woman, and she’s really encapsulated the character.”
Tarver said that there was a lot of improv, especially because he comes from an improv background. “You just find the windows to really open it up a lot, and I wanted each actor to make the characters into their own.”
Lil Rel Howrey joined the press conference a bit late, but he joked about a vacation in Puerto Rico gone wrong. “…the girl I was dating at the time… she wanted to get on one of those horses that be – you know, the guy with the rope and like, six horses walking the beach? And I’m like, nah, ‘I don’t want to do that, man. I don’t think these are trained correctly,’ and things like that.
“By the time we got to the end of the beach, my horse started acting crazy, right? And then the guy was speaking Spanish, so I didn’t know Spanish, so I don’t know what he was saying to the horse. And then they start arguing, the horse and the man. And then we were going back to where we came from, and the horse just went crazy and therew me off. I got thrown off a horse.”
He laughed saying that he had to take “those horse classes” because of the film, and that he had to make sure his glasses didn’t fall off. He did get thrown again. He also joked that, though he loves the line from the film, “Everything you touch turns into drugs,” from John Cena’s character, that was actually in the script.
“That’s one of the funny things about doing a well-written comedy…the words were there – all I did was just make the words come to life…It was where I felt like my character, every time Marcus had anything from John’s character, it turned into drugs,” he joked.
Tarver said the time was right for this film because, “I think everyone’s ready for a good-vibe movie, you know? But we started this before all of this stuff happened, so I guess we sort of got lucky with the timing.”
Cena said of his hopes for the film, “I hope audiences are entertained and they laugh. That’s what I hope they take away. If they want to get anything else, that’s great. But I hope they’re entertained, and they laugh.
“I just think ur subject matter is so relatable and so desperately needed right now, especially with people having to come up with plan B vacations and alter plans yet again. Here we are 18 months into the world changing. I think it’s going to be good for people to just sit down and enjoy a film that-that might make them remember a moment of their life and-and smile a little bit and laugh a little bit.”