From She’s All That to Josie and the Pussycats and now Love, Guaranteed, Rachael Leigh Cook has been the iconic, mesmerizing lead in some of the most memorable movies of the past few decades. While most know her as a loveable leading lady, Cook has also been producing films since 2001, including executive producing five romantic comedies in the past four years (!!). As a longtime admirer of her work, I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to chat with the stunning Rachael Leigh Cook over Zoom video recently. The following is a condensed and edited transcription of our fun chat.
Brief Take: Hi, Rachael! How are you doing?
Rachael Leigh Cook: I’m good!
BT: For those that don’t know about it, tell them about Love, Guaranteed and how you came up with the premise?
RLC: Absolutely. I’ve been so lucky with this whole process with the movie. The concept for it came to me all at once. I heard about a false advertising lawsuit that was pretty intriguing to me and I thought to myself, “what would be a cool romantic comedy way to spin an interesting legal case into a love story?”. I thought “it would technically be false advertising if one of these dating sites, who charge for their services, went out on a very foolish limb and guaranteed that you would meet the love of your life?”, because a guarantee, as we all know, is legally binding. So I thought “well, there’s got to be a lawyer” and “I think it would be more interesting if the male character is the one who feels more burned by love”, I just thought that was a more interesting take. So the whole movie sort of came to me at once. I brought the idea to my Manager and we went onto meet with the incredible team of Elizabeth Hackett and Hilary Galanoy. People who love the genre will be familiar with their work on Falling Inn Love, and both of their excellent Twitter accounts. I was already a fan, I couldn’t believe that they wanted to work with me. They were excited about the concept and they went on to completely round out the world and wrote every wonderful line in the movie and just delivered such a great product, even in treatment form, that Netflix bit on and we were filming the movie eight and a half months later. It was the most smooth process ever, I’m positive it will never happen to me again, but in the meantime I’m incredibly grateful.
BT: What did you like best about playing Susan Whitaker?
RLC: The best part about Susan as a character is my same favourite thing about the whole damn movie, which is the dialogue. I live for great banter in a movie, what can I say?! I’m the biggest rom com nerd you can ever meet and getting to feel like you can say the most clever thing at the right moment, only because someone has written it for you, oooh! It’s just a good feeling!
BT: You have the most palpable and adorable chemistry with Daman Wayans Jr. in the movie. How did you two establish that rapport?
RLC: Thank you. Oh my God, I just love that human. Daman is one of the most dimensional and wonderfully strange people I have ever worked with. He is so deeply silly and also so intelligent at exactly the same moment of every day, it’s kind of mind boggling. He loves some of the most juvenile humour you have ever seen and he can tell you facts about ancient civilizations or sub-species of insects with the very best of them. I love him.
BT: Did you have a favourite moment or scene to shoot?
RLC: [giggles] I can’t think of a scene that wasn’t fun to shoot because we had such an incredible cast. I still can’t believe that we got Heather Graham to do the movie, Jed Rees, Caitlin Howden, Lisa Durupt, Sean Amsing, oh my gosh! I could go on and on about the incredible cast. My friend, Kandyse McClure, did this for us and I will owe her forever. I can tell you what my least favourite scene was, that’s your answer there. The director (Mark Steven Johnson) thought it would be hilarious for Daman and I to sing the sort of title track of the movie as a lullaby, in lullaby form, to my nephew in the movie who we’re trying to get to go to sleep. So Mark, who clearly being a prepared director has not done his homework in this moment and does not realize that Daman and I are not singers. We are decent actors and humans, we can probably both dance a little, but we cannot sing. [laughs] We warned him of this! So I said “Daman, you’re going to be carrying us in this. You’ve got this. Can you sing?”, and he said “not even in the shower”, and I said “we are screwed”. But we tried it anyway and we are both just mad dog-ing the director, like “we love you but we both friggin’ hate you right now”. We were so bad, it was not in the movie. We did our best, we really did, but sometimes your best is not good enough. That’s the moral of that story. [laughs]
BT: Some people may not know but you’re an accomplished producer. You’ve produced several films, you’ve produced this film, so tell me about some of the moments you’re most proud of producing?
RLC: Oh my God, thank you so much for asking! It always makes me feel fancy when people call me a producer, to be honest with you, because there are so many definitions of what that means. So let me be clear, I did not rent the cranes, if it rained and we lost where we parked the trucks, nobody calls me. It’s just what happens. But my favourite producing moments always exist in casting, if I’m honest, because those are the moments that as just plain actor, if you will, that I’m not privy to. So I love being in on casting calls more than anything in life, that is my favourite part. But also just thinking about what I want to speak about, like finding where my interests lie and putting all these things into a cup, if you will, and shaking it and throwing it and saying “oh, that’s the story”. That is the coolest part of producing to me. I love it, I hope to do a lot more.
BT: Have you had a favourite casting accomplishment where you were proud of bringing a particular person in?
RLC: Ooh, I feel so lucky that Kandyse McClure wanted to do this movie. [laughs] This is the second time I’ve called her up and said “Hi, do you want to work for no money?” and she has said yes, so I owe her big time. Well not none, let’s be fair, but her quote is higher than what we could afford at the time. She’s incredible. She plays Daman’s ex and the one that sort of sends him on this quest, and the part is really difficult because the character read as tremendously sphinx-like and unsympathetic, and somehow the depth of who Kandyse is as a human and the nature that she gave the character of being someone who was simply in a time of transition…she made something work in person that didn’t necessarily work on the page. I owe her big for that. So that was one of my top casting moments for this one.
BT: You’re currently homeschooling your kids, co-parenting, in addition to producing and acting, and you have this radiant, positive, beautiful energy about you. What’s your secret?
RLC: Leora! How am I doing it all? With mixed results, that’s all I can say. I’m doing my best. [laughs] I don’t know, it’s tough. You tell yourself that you will feel like you’re crushing it if you could just narrow it down to one thing, and that’s just not even true. Someone who has become very important to me in recent months, a very nice guy who I’ve kind of been seeing, he told me something that has really been resonating with me which is ‘don’t beat yourself up when you fail, just budget for it. Just accept that if you do pretty darn good 80 per cent of the time and you expect to fail 20, that’s a perfectly good ratio. Just don’t be surprised when that 20 per cent comes, you plan for it.’
BT: Can I ask about this special someone?
RLC: Sure! I brought him up, it’s my own fault. It’s fine.
BT: How did you two meet?
RLC: A mutual friend introduced us. Our shared friend is Judy Greer, and I was talking to her and our other friend Monica at a party complaining to them about whatever online disaster date I had recently been on, and Judy said “well, when you’re ready to meet someone nice, you should meet Kevin”. And Monica said, “oooh, Kevin!”, and I was like “alright, I’m sure your friend is great but that’s a lot of pressure. What if he doesn’t like me and feels bad or I don’t like him? I don’t know. It just seems like a lot, you guys, I don’t know.” So I went on three more disastrous dates and then said “introduce me to nice Kevin! Bring him to me. I will take the risk!”. And they were right. They were right. He’s amazing. He’s just one of the kindest, most lovely humans. Yeah. I’m buying what he’s selling. I just think he’s tremendous.
BT: I know your kids are young now, but when they come to the right age, what will you tell them about dating? What sort of advice will you give them?
RLC: It’s funny because at 12:30 today, my son had a scheduled FaceTime with this girl, and I mean this very young lady, they’re both five, who I think he kind of fancies. [laughs] I bet I could learn a lot from my kids about how you quasi date / relate to people because they’re just so candid about what they want, what they need, what they like, and what they don’t like. I bet if we were all a little bit more like our five year old selves, it would go a lot better.
BT: It’s been 20 years since She’s All That and Josie and the Pussycats. What are some of your favourite memories from those films?
RLC: I remember it being an absolute enchanted time. There were just a million adventures to be had, I feel like I had some incredible opportunities and I do now. I feel incredibly grateful to still be in the business. I really did not know what will become of me after I hit 30. Women in this business, all of us in one way or another, worry about coming of age in the industry. I still have to push down those fears, but what do I think when I think back on those times? I remember thinking ‘acting is fun. I don’t know why people think it’s so hard’, and you can tell by my work because I think I was OK. I think I was mostly there to have a good time and that probably showed. But let me see, in terms of specific memories, there were a million. I can tell you a crazy coincidence that happened. I was filming Josie and the Pussycats in October of 2000 when I turned 20, and I remember because it was just a lot of things that were lined up about that. When I was turning 40, I ran into Gabriel Mann, who played Alan M. in Josie and the Pussycats, exactly 20 years to the week from filming that with him in the same hotel, exactly 20 years later when I was filming Love, Guaranteed. I feel like there’s something a little bit enchanted about that fact and I still can’t believe it. The thing that I love the most about having grown up in the industry is the friendships that I’ve made and still have to this day, that’s the best part.
BT: What have you been quaranstreaming lately?
RLC: Part of what drew me to the subject matter for this movie and my content viewing is, there’s no fancy or highbrow way of putting it but I like to chalk it up to my fascination with people, but I am very into dating shows and the world of dating. I think their desires and insecurities, they show them shining under the brightest light, and that’s always going to be great viewing to me. I am binging 90 Day Fiancé, I am binging Indian Matchmaking, I am binging Love is Blind. I always want a front row seat to watch people make terrible life choices, that is my favourite kind of entertainment.
Love, Guaranteed is currently streaming on Netflix