Taking 18 months to film, starting and stopping over the course of the Pandemic, Clay Tarver (Silicon Valley) directs VACATION FRIENDS starring John Cena and Lil Rel Howery. Centering on a couple (Lil Rel Howery and Yvonne Orji) who go on a getaway to Mexico to get married. Along the way they encounter a wild couple (John Cena and Meredith Hagner) who crash their plans, becoming a bigger part of lives than they could’ve imagined! VACATION FRIENDS really gets its audience to think about that it meant for us to be on vacation at a different time in our lives.
We were lucky to join the Global Press Conference for VACATION FRIENDS and in attendance were:
John Cena – Ron
Lil Rel Howery – Marcus
Yvonne Orji – Emily
Andrew Bachelor – Gabe
Clay Tarver – Director
Clay Tarver tells us about VACATION FRIENDS‘ relatability.
Tarver: I used to be a musician and still sorta am. The touring life was that every time you’d meet some new friends, doing a big bonding experience that was almost every night. But I’ve met people on vacation in Mexico where I thought we were gonna be friends forever, but once we got to the airport I thought ‘Umm, maybe not’.
John Cena, admits he’s met people in real life like his Ron and Co-Star Meredith Hagner‘s Kyla, and how he responds to that.
Cena: I’d think to take the experience in. The effect is a boomerang, you get what you give. I don’t think there’s anything disrespectful about the two of them. I just think they operate under a construct that doesn’t necessarily adhere to what we think is structural society. They’re fast and loose and really enjoy the present. That’s a very rare commodity. I’ve met people like that in real life and had a blast. I don’t know if I’d ride that wave or how far I’d go out with them, but I’d certainly enjoy their company.
Comedian Yvonne Orji recalls her most memorable experience filming VACATION FRIENDS.
Orji: Was it our last night filming in pseudo-Mexico, but actual Puerto Rico? It was a large sequencing. We did the barhopping, the wrestling scene and it was kinda like wild. There’s a scene they’re carrying Meredith out the bar and it was mayhem, but in the best way possible. We also didn’t know that the world was shutting down on the other side of the ocean. So we were in our own bubble and that was fun!
She comments on what makes for a great performance on Film, being a Comedian.
Orji: The best performances come when you’re not in your head about performing and you’re just being present and enjoying the ride. Rel and I are both Comics, so being spontaneous and being in the middle of the moment and finding whatever spontaneity comes out of that, we just go with it!
Andrew Bachelor talks about some of his intense – although comedic – scenes with Lil Rel Howery.
Bachelor: I’ve known Rel for a while, so when you’re working with your friends, it’s easier to be mean to them. It was no problem at all!
Wisdom, who has worked on THE WIRE, tries his hand at Comedy here and talks about the fun he had.
Robert: There’s a big ballroom scene where I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but it was fun! They pulled-off some real R-rated stuff with a lot of fun. And then there’s a scene… I had a ball let’s just say. I was a little tipsy and it was fun.
Lil Rel Howery and John Cena talk about their chemistry.
Cena: I think it all starts with the professional respect we have for each other. Both of us were excited about the Script and wanted to do the Film and Clay being kind enough to let us go and be us. As Rel puts it, the words and Comedy were on the page and we just leaned into what we wanted to show. I’d love to do it again!
Howery: I’m a big Wrestling fan and I was like ‘Yo! He really loves what he does!’. Working with someone else that loves what they do, it made it really easy for us to play. I love that fact that John was open to the idea of trying new things and having fun with it even if it was the silliest thing. So hopefully we can be Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor!
Cena and Howery talk about what they hope the audience will take away from VACATION FRIENDS.
Cena: Had we been on a normal schedule, this is when it would’ve been released anyway. Because we’ve had to modify what vacation means to us, all of us know what vacation means and all of us remember our vacation moments and people we may have met on vacation. If they get anything else that’s great, but I hope they’re entertained and that they laugh,
I think the subject matter is so relatable and so desperately needed right now that especially people are having to come up with Plan B vacations and alter 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 might might make them remember a moment of their life and smile a little bit.
Howery: I think the audience is going to enjoy seeing, it’s almost like a blueprint of what was fun and this Movie is so funny, which is why I applaud Clay. One of the things Comedy is missing is just being straight-up funny. This really is just a straight-up funny movie and laughter is so important right now. Laughter is just good for the soul.
Cena: Being a physical performer in the WWE, the reason we transcend so many borders is that you get the action. I think what they brilliantly did in the Script was provide a ton of Physical Comedy so it’s also a movie you cannot necessarily know what’s going on with the audio but see the Movie and laugh along with it, because of the tremendous amount of Physical Comedy. And I think that’s gonna help us around the world and hopefully we can make a lot more people laugh.
VACATION FRIENDS arrives on Star on Disney+Friday, August 28, 2021.