‘Vacation Friends’ stars John Cena and Yvonne Orji talk about their new comedy
The stars talk about filming in Puerto Rico and how much fun they had on set.
‘Vacation Friends’ is a new comedy featuring Lil Rel Howery and Yvonne Orji as a couple on vacation that befriend another couple played by John Cena and Meredith Hagner. But when the trip comes to an end, the latter couple doesn’t want to let the fun stop. John Cena and Yvonne Orji recently talked to us about the movie.
First, John Cena talks about his character, Ron.
Moviefone: Okay. Let's start off. I've had a vacation friend, but for people who haven't, what is a vacation friend?
John Cena: A vacation friend is someone you randomly bump into, and in a short period of time, become very close with. And, all vacations come to an end, unless you're Aerosmith. What happens then? I think that's the question that Vacation Friends poses. We had those random connections that are close, but what happens afterwards?
MF: I think Ron is a person that many of us wish we could be. Can you describe him?
Cena: I play Ron, a character that is very comfortable in his own skin, and not afraid to show his own skin. I guess the term free spirit will be thrown around. But I really like the term, he's comfortable with who he is. He's not trying to impress anybody. He doesn't revel in his accomplishments. I think he's open to emotional connection. I think he's vulnerable. He's trustworthy. He's in love. He loves love. And it was really fun to be able to play a character like that.
MF: Yeah, I mean, every day to come to set, and just be this happy person who is just happy with everything?
Cena: Well, there is some character arc in there, and there is some conflict. I think, over the story of the movie, he certainly is free-willed, but his lack of structure, it takes a really good friend to show him that maybe a little bit of that in your life might be a decent lesson. And it's not like he's a know-it-all. He goes through his own learning curve, and I think that's what's great about the story with all the four characters. They each learn something. It's not like, one person is on niche. And I think everyone grows throughout the course of the movie.
MF: Well, he is searching, I think, right? He's searching for a new best friend. And he thinks he's found it in Marcus.
Cena: Yeah. Like I said, he longs for connection, and you learn about his story as you go through the movie, and he does have voids in his life, as do we all. And we all search to fill those, and he thinks he's found a great vacation friend, best friend, in Marcus. And then, hilarity ensues.
MF: Right, because he wants this friendship to be more than a vacation friend. And the thing is, I'm not quite sure Marcus, at the onset, is the right person to target as the best friend for Ron, because Marcus is nothing like Ron.
Cena: Well, I think that the folks who are best and closest in my life, aren't exactly like me. And I think sometimes those are the best matches. We all share the same core values, but we're not alike. And I think that makes us tremendously special. And that's probably the reason that we love each other so much. So, just because someone isn't exactly like you, doesn't exclude them from the possibility of being a great friend.
MF: Speaking of somebody just alike, Kyla is a lot like Ron. Was there a backstory? How did Ron and Kyla meet and get together? Because I feel like they're kindred spirits.
Cena: Well, I think that's the case. And, I think you learn a little bit about Kyla's story through the movie. Some details are given away, that she's been searching for love for a long time. And I think Ron is the same thing. You learn a little bit about Ron's path, and then you learn how these two met, and that they just hit it off right away. And they're just kind of riding the wave of where they are and who they're with.
MF: Where did you guys shoot the tropical portion of the movie when you were actually at the resort?
Cena: It was a gorgeous resort in Puerto Rico. And we went to bar hop in Puerto Rico as well. So this was a movie about being on vacation, and it really was fun.
Next, Yvonne Orji talks about her own “vacation friend” experience.
Moviefone: A vacation friend, have you ever had one?
Yvonne Orji: I have had one, and I had been one, so yeah. I mean, good company.
MF: And did you actually not ever see that person again when the vacation was over?
Orji: No, actually, I saw them again. I saw two of them again. So, they came to comedy shows I was having at two different cities.
MF: Oh, okay. So, but not a personal meeting? You didn't go to each other's weddings...
Orji: No, no, no. I mean, every once in a while we'll do a Marco Polo talk, or they'll send me a WhatsApp message, but, you know.
MF: Okay, interesting, you did stay in contact. Because in this movie, I don't think Emily and Marcus ever thought they'd see Ron and Kyla ever again. And I don't think they really wanted to.
Orji: You are absolutely correct in that assessment. They were shocked when they appeared out of nowhere.
MF: Because they are very different, these two couples. Explain the differences between these two couples.
Orji: I think they might be a little bit more alike than they care to admit. But very different on the surface. Yes. Emily and Marcus are a bit more reserved and conservative, whereas Ron and Kyla, they are daredevils. They take life by the horns, and they enjoy the most basic things in life, and the most outlandish, at the same time.
MF: Okay. Tell me if I'm wrong. Because, I feel like Emily is more adventurous than Marcus. And Emily, when she sees Ron and Kyla at this resort, she is a little envious. Like, she wants to be there and with them and be like them.
Orji: Yeah, Ron is very much like Mr. Rules. He's that guy on the vacation, that's like, "All right. So I mapped out our day and this is what we're doing". And she's kind of like, "Oh man, this now feels like work. Can we just... Can we be as carefree as this other couple"? And that's what she sees that really gravitates to her. Wanting to be like, "Let's give them a chance", without knowing the full gamut of what that would entail.
MF: Well, a lot of fun ensues. What was it actually like on set, and your costars?
Orji: Oh, as fun as it looked, is as fun as it was. They were all a bunch of very talented, very funny, individuals to work with.
MF: What was Lil Rel and John like, in particular?
Orji: The chemistry was there. The comedy and the chemistry were all there. You have the big strapping like wrestler with the super bod. And then you have Marcus, who's kind of like... Lil Rel describes himself as a confident nerd, trying to play up with one another. John Cena brought the comedy, as did Rel. It was really, really cool to see them go at it.
MF: Well, there was a lot of things going on at the resort. A lot of physical things. What would you say was the funnest thing that you shot there?
Orji: Oh, probably the most fun was the reception and the speech. And then the mayhem that breaks out, and it was just chaos. But an organized chaos, that led to comedy.
MF: Would you say that... For me, I took away from the movie that I wished I could be like Ron's character. Because, I mean, he just seems to really know who he is. He's really happy in being who he is. He doesn't care what anybody else thinks. I mean, I know his one little thing is... I think in himself, he's looking for a friend. That's why he latches onto Marcus as another best friend. But other than that, he's just this really well-rounded person. And I mean... And even if he really wasn't, he's just happy within himself.
Orji: Yeah. He's very charming, he's charm... Even when he meets Emily's dad, and it's like they have this bond that everyone was like, "How was this guy in the... huh?" And it's just the thing that endears him to so many people, because he's able to cover for Marcus when Emily's dad is... Harold is kind of like, "I don't like you and you ruined things", and he's kind of like, "Marcus isn't so bad". You know? And so it's just... He keeps endearing himself to Emily and Marcus. So yeah, Ron is a special character.
MF: Well, I feel like most people are like Marcus. I feel like I would be more like Marcus than Ron. So, what is the takeaway, do you think, for people from the movie?
Orji: I think it's all about not putting anyone in any specific box. That people are all the time evolving and transitioning, and becoming versions of themselves that you may never know upon first meeting them. And I think all of the characters kind of go through kind of a heart check by the end of the movie, which is great.