Ever since its debut at Sundance in January, director Raine Allen-Miller‘s Rye Lane has been building up buzz. It’s a romantic comedy, in the general vein of Before Sunrise, about an unlikely man and woman who spend a day together in a city.
That city is London, and the film uses the neighborhoods of Peckham and Brixton to outstanding effect.
In Rye Lane, Yas (Vivian Oparah) and Dom (David Jonsson) are both reeling from breakups, so they decide to spend time together as they plot revenge against their exes. Both actors are veterans of the London theater scene, while Jonsson has a high-profile role on the HBO show Industry.
Ahead of Rye Lane‘s debut on Hulu on March 31 — as part of a co-release with Searchlight Pictures — we spoke with the stars (Oparah and Jonsson) and the director (Allen-Miller) as part of a recent press roundtable about the film.
We asked how they came to be cast in the film.
“Kind of like a standard process in a way,” Jonsson said. “I got this script sent through and read it, and it was completely different to a lot of the stuff that I was being sent through and offered. It was important to me to switch up and do something different, especially at this stage of my career.
“To then do that, and then meet with Raine the director who I think is absolutely brilliant and visionary, and then meet with Vivian, who is incredible, makes everything easy, it was a joy.”
“The script sort of landed in my emails, my agent said ‘I think you’re going to really like this one,'” Oparah said. “And I read it, and I was like, this is hilarious. Yas is also very weird, why is she so weird? Why does she act like that? It’s chaotic, in a way that doesn’t resonate with me but interests me. I really wanted to understand what the emotional core was there for someone who was that much of an escapist, and that curious about the world around them, while not wanting to go into themselves.
“So I saw it as a challenge, ’cause it felt kind of far away from me. And then Raine is incredible, when I saw she attached I was eager. When I met David, I was eager. Because he’s just like a wonderful, wonderful actor, super-generous as well.”
We also asked the actors what it was like transitioning from a stage background into the sort of movie where the outdoor sense of place is very important.
“On stage, every day is… obviously you’re doing the same thing, but every day is kind of different as there’s a new energy a lot. And doing a film that’s based on one day, is kind of similar because you’re revisiting the same day again and again,” Oparah said.
“But South London, and the energy, and the fact that it’s a loud third character, really kind of gave you kind of what a new audience every night would give you, there’s a different energy in the room, and you’re gonna play off that. You’re gonna sort of lean back into that. Like a cowboy moonwalking, we’re going to use that, a guy is leaning out his window smoking a huge spliff, we’re going to look at that. South London is so rich, and Raine wanted to capture its nuances. So transitioning from that space to this film specifically, it is kind of like a strange similarity in a way.”
“Echoing what Liv said, there’s no such thing as ‘stage acting’ or ‘film acting,’ there’s only just good acting, hopefully,” he said. “In a sense, what I’m trying to say, is you have to absorb what surrounds you, and South London was, like we said, our third character, so taking that in felt like exactly what you do with an audience on a stage. Have them come into you.”
Raine Allen-Miller, the director, also spoke of the sense of place.
“I just know it, you know,” she said. “I’m originally from Manchester and I moved to London when was I 12. I lived in Brixton with my dad, and I lived in Peckham when I went to university. And one of my first experiences moving to London as a 12-year-old, my grandma took me on a tour of Brixton.
“It was almost like the Goodfellas where they go around the back of the restaurant and it’s all one shot. And my grandma like walked me around, and she was like, ‘this is where you’re going to get your jerk spice, the sis where you’re gonna get your plantain, this where you get this… and it was this amazing experience of being taken around this incredible place, by somebody so important in my life, and I felt so connected to my identity, and my heritage, and to my grandma.
“It’s an important place and it was so important for me to sort of shine a light on it, a positive light because it’s a place that isn’t always great, you know? This film is about a good day in South London. But you know, it’s not always easy there, but it is a wonderful place and I thought it was important to show that.”