(Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/2021 MTV Movie and TV Awards/Getty Images for MTV/ViacomCBS)
Anyone who’s been watching Insecure for the past four seasons knows just how low-key funny Yvonne Orji can be. As Molly, Issa’s BFF on the show, the Emmy-nominated actress has proven time and time again that she can wring a laugh out of a mere eyebrow raise. With the HBO series coming to an end later this year, Orji has been wasting no time finding ways of flexing her broader comedic muscles. See, for instance, her comedy special Momma, I Made It! And now, Vacation Friends.
This Clay Tarver-directed comedy finds Orji’s Emily and her soon-to-be-fiancé Marcus (Lil Rel Howery) having their perfectly (and so-painstakingly-planned) tropical holiday first ruined and later saved by a reckless, devil-may-care couple (John Cena and Meredith Hagner), who know nothing of personal boundaries and everything about coke-rimmed-margaritas. Offering a couples twist on a buddy comedy, Vacation Friends finds humor and heart in Ron and Emily’s journey toward embracing what Cena and Hagner’s Ron and Kyla bring out in them, even during their increasingly derailed wedding weekend. Like a true ensemble comedy, Vacation Friends lets its four leads shine; Cena and Hagner may get the more outlandish moments (involving, say, a bong on a jet ski) but shouldn’t detract from the deliciously hilarious straight-man act Howery and Orji get to play.
Ahead of the movie’s release, the Insecure actress spoke with Rotten Tomatoes about her favorite films. It’s clear Orji has a soft spot for romance and comedy – and for brilliant actresses who can make you swoon and laugh in equal measure. This is a list, after all, that features Janet Jackson, Julia Roberts, Sanaa Lathan, Regina Hall, Kristen Dunst, Lupita Nyong’o, and Regina King, to just mention a few!
Love & Basketball (2000)
I know every single word. That was the first movie I ever watched the director’s commentary for. And then, Gina Prince-Bythewood! When I met Gina Prince-Bythewood I was like, “I love you, and also, can we work together? And also, if you ever lose your original footage, I can be Monica!” She was like, “Uh… let’s hit pause.”
(500) Days of Summer (2009)
I really love it because it shows male heartbreak, which I don’t think is something we get to see a lot. And then, it was also that thing of, sometimes people can be really good but there’s something still missing. And you’re allowed to not know what that something is but just know that something’s missing and then when you find it there’s no word for it. You just know it’s right. So I really like that delineation of character.
Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
I love it because I am the Julia Roberts character in this movie. I am such a proponent of like, what else do you want to do? And what I love about the movie is that even though it was empowering to be like, you can be more, there is something also freeing about choice. It’s like, I understand I can do more. I’m also very satisfied and happy with what is presented to me. But I am definitely the Julia Roberts character, pushing people: what do you want to do with your life?
Black Panther (2018)
[Makes “Wakanda Forever” gesture.] I mean, Chadwick (may he rest in peace), he was amazing. Just brilliant.
Poetic Justice (1993)
We really needed more Tupac Shakur movies. We did. He was gone too soon. As a Black person watching these amazing musicians come together and have this road trip and dissect love and the nuances and the intricacies – this was great.
Manuel Betancourt for Rotten Tomatoes: Just from the looks of it, it seems you all had a great time shooting Vacation Friends. What was your favorite part to shoot?
Yvonne Orji: All of the stuff we shot in Puerto Rico. You know, I was just finishing my last comedy tour, and I was like, I need a break. And then I was like, Oh, this isn’t really a vacation because I’m still working. But at least we’re somewhere tropical and it looks beautiful. But yeah, all the Puerto Rico stuff was definitely fun to shoot.
Vacation Friends begins streaming on Hulu from Friday August 27, 2021.
Thumbnail image: Matt Winkelmeyer/2021 MTV Movie and TV Awards/Getty Images for MTV/ViacomCBS, ©Fox Searchlight, © Columbia, © Marvel / © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures