For the past decade, movie star Rebel Wilson has been the funny girl we’ve come to expect to get the last laugh up on the big screen, but these days, the Australian-born actress is taking her Hollywood career to the next level.
In fact, back on her March 2 birthday, Rebel, 42, celebrated being able to call Hollywood and all that surrounds it her new home, sharing on Instagram her U.S. permanent resident card. When I congratulated Rebel on that recent news at the start of our interview, she replied, “Awe, thanks! I’ve always loved America and it was always my dream to like work here and live here. I’m excited that it finally did it all officially and stuff. It’s awesome.”
You can now see Rebel starring in Senior Year, her latest film streaming on Netflix. So, what was it about this comedy, heavy on the nostalgia effect of the early 2000s, that made Rebel want to get involved?
“I got given the script and it was in its earlier stages and I just thought – wow, the premise of a girl going into a coma in her senior year for 20 years and then waking up and trying to re-do her senior year 20 years later was a really fun thing to play with, especially considering how ‘woke’ and everything society is and how ‘fluid’ the kids are. There are so many differences between 2022 and 2002 culturally and in society and as a comic premise, that is going to be pretty good.”
Rebel goes on to share that Senior Year marks the third film she has produced, previously with her comedies Isn’t It Romantic and The Hustle. So, I wondered how Rebel might enjoy her producing responsibilities in ways that her on-screen performances simply do not do.
“Most people don’t know I have a law degree and so, I kind of use some of the business side of things in the producing and it’s a different set of skills to acting. Acting is like so fun! I just rock up on-set and say funny stuff, but the producing – there’s a lot of work behind the scenes and a movie like this takes years to come together and put together and to bring in the whole team of talented people. I don’t know, I just really like it. I feel like some of my leadership stuff when I was young and graduating from law school, it just really helps with the producing and I like exercising those muscles, as well.”
What Rebel’s Senior Year film highlights best is the difference between how we as a society communicated back in 2002 compared to the highs-and-lows of the technological advances we have now in 2022 with social media, a timely topic Rebel and her co-stars can relate to in our real world all too well.
“My character Stephanie says social media is like a popularity contest but instead of now just your school, it’s like the whole world now,” Rebel continues. “There are a lot of things with social media that must be really hard for kids to navigate. I couldn’t imagine – I mean, someone getting bullied at school is worse enough but then if you’re getting bullied through your phone as well, things like that, it can be really awful and just a whole other set of issues.”
Actress Zoë Chao plays Tiffany in Senior Year, the grown-up version of Stephanie’s 2002 high school nemesis, where despite them growing with age two decades later, their competitive ways have not matured so well.
Zoë shares with me her social media mindset today, saying, “I am very sporadic. I take a lot of hiatuses away from social media because as soon as it starts to take over, I try to step back. It’s such an easy thing, you know, when you start being like Oh, this would be a good video to post. I just don’t want to think like that, but it’s hard. I think social media is really tricky. I think it can be used powerfully and yielded responsibly – it can be effective, but I think whatever you got to do to stay safe and healthy in the brain, I respect as well.”
Actor Joshua Colley plays Yaz in Senior Year, a supportive member of Stephanie’s 2022 group of new friends. Being a part of the younger generation on social media himself, Joshua tells me, “I definitely have experienced times where I’m like Oh no, I didn’t get enough ‘Likes’ on this picture or my engagement is going down or something like that – it’s so stupid. It really is. I’m on social media a lot, looking at social media, but I don’t post that often. I think honestly, if you’re just like posting things that you love and make you happy and you want to share with the world, that’s all you really can do. If you think about it like that, it’s way better.”
Actress Avantika plays Janet in the Netflix film, a close friend of Yaz and another very welcoming friend for Stephanie, post-coma. Only 17 years old herself, Avantika addresses what social media is like for her as a modern teenager. “My opinion of social media is I think I thank my parents for this, but I got onto social media very late, at least comparatively to a lot of my friends. Once you’re introduced to social media, you feel like you can’t live without it, you know what I mean? Rebel’s character has clearly lived without it perfectly fine for like so many decades but all of a sudden, it’s a source of validation and honestly, it kind of sucks. It really does help to limit your hours on it.”
With Rebel’s breakout roles in Hollywood starting with a small but memorable performance in the film Bridesmaids in 2011, followed by her early leading role in 2012’s Pitch Perfect which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, I wondered what Rebel’s thoughts are about how the entertainment industry has evolved from her perspective since her first major roles in Hollywood.
“I remember like when I got in Bridesmaids, my goal was to just to come to Hollywood and get in one American movie. I was like God, if I could just get in one, then people in Australia will think I’m legit as an actress and then Bridesmaids was such a huge hit. When I first came to Hollywood, there was this big novelty about Oh, women are funny now with the movies of Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect. Now, the kind of vibe is diverse actors and diversity and inclusion is the big thing – and so, I’ve noticed a lot of changes in Hollywood. I feel like maybe the next push might be different body types or something like that and more inclusivity in that area.”
With Senior Year having quite a large ensemble cast creating laughs on-screen alongside Rebel, I wondered what these co-stars of hers might say about their experiences working with Rebel.
“Oh my gosh, I mean, Rebel is so fun,” Zoë shares with me. “She was really ‘captain of fun’ in real-life during that production. She made sure that it felt like summer camp when we were in Atlanta. We would go to movies and baseball games and dinners and she corralled us all and was such a great leader.”
Joshua says next of Rebel, “She really honestly exceeded my expectations on Senior Year. She is so humble and so generous with everything. We improv a lot in this movie. The space she creates, it’s very welcoming of everybody just throwing whatever they want into there, you know what I mean? She really sets you up for success, I feel, and that’s something I really admire about her.”
Avantika says of her co-star, who is 25 years her junior, “Rebel Wilson is everything I dreamed of and more. She’s literally so amazing. She’s someone I adore and she’s someone I’ve admired for so long. It’s very rare unfortunately that when you meet someone that you idolize, that they actually live up to those expectations. She was so wonderful from the second I met her, she recognized the fact that I was the youngest on-set and that it was a little bit difficult and a little bit intimidating. She took me out to dinner all the time, she was literally one of the most lovely people I have ever worked with, period! She’s just truly such an incredible human being.”
With Senior Year skipping a theatrical release and going the increasingly trending route of premiering on video streaming, Rebel says of her comedy’s Netflix release, “To me, to release a comedy, it’s like the best platform because this movie will go wide in 200 countries on the same day and will be seen by millions and millions. It’s insane – it has become so much more accessible to so many people all around the world. Now, the streamers are dominating.”