Ten years ago Jenna Dewan-Tatum hadn't yet broken into Hollywood, landed her first acting role, or starred in her breakout film, 2006's Step Up, the dance romance that spawned a franchise and introduced her to future husband Channing Tatum. The then-"diehard dancer" had a case of tunnel-vision, Dewan-Tatum recalled as she rang Movieline to talk high school reunions and the wisdom that comes with looking back on life as she, Tatum, and the deepest cast of Young Hollywood stars this year do in Jamie Linden's indie ensemble pic Ten Years.
Tatum stars as Jake, a 28-year-old who brings along girlfriend Jess (Dewan-Tatum) as he waxes nostalgic with old friends — and an old flame (Rosario Dawson) — at his ten year high school reunion. Joined by Justin Long, Kate Mara, Oscar Isaac, Anthonie Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Max Minghella, Lynn Collins, Nick Zano, Aubrey Plaza, Aaron Yoo, Ron Livingston, Scott Porter, Ari Graynor, and Chris Pratt, the real life marrieds anchor the multi-strand comedy-drama as old crushes, beefs, and bonds resurface over the course of one nostalgia-filled night.
Dewan-Tatum took Movieline through the DIY origins of the film (It was "born on the set of Dear John"), the cast's various degrees of separation, why her Jess doesn't turn into the ugly jealous girlfriend you might expect if your man had an ex who looked like Rosario Dawson, which cast member's boy band past made it into the film, and how different ten years ago-Jenna Dewan is from the Dewan-Tatum of today.
As for the dancer-actress's big karaoke secret? "I'm a closeted pop star," she admits. (Aren't we all?)
What made you guys want to pitch in and get all your friends together to make this?
It was basically an idea that was born on the set of Dear John. Reid, Chan, myself and Jamie were sitting around and we thought this would be really fun, to do a movie about a ten year high school reunion. I think we were all wondering if we were going to go to our own and had a lot of thoughts on it. Jamie went away and wrote a script, we filmed a short film of it and had funding and then we were in Albuquerque filming. That’s how fast it happened.
The ensemble cast here is so deep, and so inter-connected. Reid Carolin and Channing [Tatum] also produced, and Channing worked with Jamie Linden on Dear John. You were previously friends with Kate [Mara], Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty were in The Hurt Locker together, Rosario Dawson was in A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints – how did everyone come together?
We all sort of had a connection to somebody, or there was like one degree of separation. I was good friends with Kate, and Kate and Jamie know each other pretty well, and I believe Justin Long is friends with Chris Pratt… and Chris and Aubrey [Plaza] do their show together. Weirdly enough we all kind of knew of each other, but it was really good timing — we filmed around the holidays, which is a pretty slow time for acting anyways, and I think people really liked the idea that they could create their character. There was a lot of freedom and improv, and it felt like an experimental, playful movie to be a part of.
My own ten year high school reunion was a bit of a nonstarter, because it ultimately didn’t really happen, but leading up to it I found myself thinking, “My God, am I going to have to go to this? Do I even want to?” There are so many hilariously conflicting feelings about going to something like that.
I was actually working at the time so I wasn’t able to make it to my own reunion, but I had the same thought. I thought, Should I go? I sort of see the people I want to when I go home to Texas, but it would be nice to see the other people… I just wanted to see how certain things changed. I believe that Facebook and that kind of stuff have changed the game, you kind of find out what everyone’s doing. [Laughs] But then you get your own up close and personal experience when you actually go.
Your character avoids playing into the expectation of being the jealous girlfriend — the relationship between your character and Channing’s character is very strong in itself. And yet we still understand the history between his character and Rosario’s, that they also share something strong. What specifically did you want to bring to your character, and what did you want to avoid?
With the dynamic between myself, Channing, and Rosario [Dawson] I didn’t want it to be one girl is the good girl/one girl is the bad girl. I wanted it to be very realistic. We wanted some conflict and some drama, but not stereotypical drama. I didn’t want to give him an ultimatum, and we didn’t want Rosario to be over-sexual, putting the moves on him. We wanted it to be a realistic, natural portrayal of life. I think Jamie wanted to fight every stereotype, and we try to make it more about Jake’s inner turmoil — about him being okay with where he is in his life and where his life has taken him, and if he’s at peace with the things he’s created at age 28. In turn, Rosario turns out to be a catalyst for him to realize what he really wants, and this life that he wants with Jess. We wanted to make it a bit gray because that’s how life is — not everything is so cut and dry.
At the reunion Jess and her fellow significant others watch their partners revert back to who they used to be with their old friends. Did you have any similar revelations when you first met Channing’s old friends?
Like, you are different! That changed, and that stayed the same… but not really! He had told me a lot about his friends before I met them so I totally got it, understood why they were all friends. Chan’s very much what you see is what you get, so there weren’t a lot of surprises.
Audiences have known you two since the Step Up days. Was there any hesitation about acting again together, especially playing another romantic couple, knowing that fans might read into whatever they see onscreen?
The funny thing is, not really — which is probably what saved us because we didn’t really put that kind of pressure on us or overthink it. It is such an ensemble, so we got to play with it instead of thinking, “Oh my God, what if people don’t like us as a couple again?” None of those thoughts went through our head while filming. We just thought, this will be really fun. Let’s go play! So it worked out in our favor.
The last portion of the film takes place after the reunion at a bar named Pretzels, which is a bar I wish I had in my life. Tell me how much karaoke there was on set between scenes [Pratt, Porter, and Isaac each perform songs].
That scene in the movie was a real karaoke scene — they really sang it. [Laughs] I’m a huge karaoke fan. Oh my God. I’m one of those girls who don’t give the mic away. It’s a problem. I’m a closeted pop star.
I’m a little bit addicted to karaoke myself.
What’s your go-to song?
I always like Madonna, any Madonna song is good for me. Old school Janet Jackson is always good. I usually go old school, it’s very rare that I pick a song from nowadays.
I’m a big fan of ‘90s R&B, which is funny because Ginuwine’s “Pony” was my jam and then they used it in Magic Mike and all of a sudden everyone was all about it.
[Laughs] You’re like, they stole it from me! That’s amazing.
I was actually pretty impressed with Scott Porter’s rap skills in the film.
Oh my gosh, wasn’t that funny? He’d love to talk to you about this because he loves to talk about it, but he was in a boy band, in real life, and he can beatbox extremely well.
So that’s his real boy band photograph on the wall of memories at the reunion in the film?
Yes! All of those are real pictures.
That must have been fun, going through everyone’s old photos every day on set. Who among the cast were you most surprised by as you got to know them better?
I really enjoyed Lynn [Collins]. She was somebody I hadn’t met before and I thought she was such a sweetheart and such a solid actress. I really enjoyed her energy and being friends with her on set. Ari [Graynor] was a nice surprise, she’s hilarious. She was so much fun to work with. Really honestly, there was not a single person who was not fun to work with.
Whose character in the film do you think most accurately reflects their real life personality?
I’d say Kate Mara – her real life essence comes through a lot. She’s got a very mysterious, seductive vibe to her in general, a very flirty vibe, and I thought she nailed it. A lot of her own essence came out.
You, Channing, and Reid started a production company together. How gratifying has it been to cultivate your own projects, with your friends?
I love the creative process, of getting to create your own show or your own movie, whatever it is you want to do, and have the resources to try and make that happen. We’re very lucky to have gotten into that early. Chan obviously has had huge success producing, and we hope to do it much, much more.
The other day he said he might even direct Magic Mike 2.
I think he definitely wants to direct in the future, and he definitely knows that world and how to capture that. But nothing is solidified, and I think he was just throwing it out there. But he’ll be a fantastic director when he decides to do that.
I would like to see you in Magic Mike 2. How do we make that happen?
Everyone’s saying that! I feel like I need to call him and say, “Hey, female stripper if you need one!”
Or lady patron, maybe. Get your dollar bills ready.
Exactly! I agree.
Ten Years had me feeling nostalgic, thinking about how similar and yet changed I am from the person I was in high school. How do you feel you’re most different from who you were a decade ago?
I think I was a bit naïve when I was younger. I don’t know what it was, I sort of felt tunnel-vision — I didn’t really have peripheral vision or see the world and what was happening. I’m much more worldly and I believe that I’m much more grounded in my body than I probably was when I was younger. But at the same time there’s a peace and a trust that comes when you get older, and knowing that I was in a rat race — you know, I’ve got to do this, and I have to accomplish this, and I had all these goals — and I still have goals and things I want to accomplish, but it comes from a place of surrender and trust rather than this hustle. It’s more “I’m going to live out my purpose” than “I’ve got to go out and make this happen!”
And you’ve had a pretty busy career in a relatively short time.
I have. I’ve had a very diverse career; I never would have thought I’d be an actress ten years ago. I was a diehard dancer. I thought I was going to do that for the rest of my life, and I was found by an acting manager. It all happened really randomly and that’s why I have a big trust in life, because even when you’re not looking things just kind of develop and happen.
And now those worlds have merged, dance and film and television.
Totally. When I first started it was so not that way. When I first started acting it was almost like I had to separate myself from dance because people would be like, “Is she an actor, or is she a dancer?” Now it’s so great, people love multi-talented performers — singing, acting, dancing. I love when you can do all of that.
Still: It's pretty impressive that you toured as a pro dancer.
I did! I toured with Janet Jackson, toured with Puff Daddy — P. Diddy, whatever. [Laughs] I danced with a lot of musicians. I did a Grammy performance with 'N SYNC and a promo tour with Justin when he went solo.
Was that about ten years ago?
I want to say it was 9, 10 years ago. [Pauses] Isn’t that nuts?
Ten Years is in select theaters.