Jennifer Lopez's character in Second Act is someone she could've been
Second Act star says her character in movie is someone she could have been
In an updated version of the classic 1988 comedy-drama Working Girl, Jennifer Lopez returns yet again to her persona of Jenny from the Block - this time from the borough of Queens, who makes good in Manhattan - in the fairytale chick flick Second Act.
Opening here tomorrow, it is the 49-year-old US actress-singer's return to the familiar romcom genre she once excelled in, since 2010's The Back-up Plan.
At age 43, Maya Vargas (Lopez) is passed over for a promotion at the Value Shop superstore by a man as she has no college degree even though she has been a successful assistant manager for 15 years.
But she lands a new job after a fluke interview with a major beauty and skincare company courtesy of the online identity and fake resume she is given by her godson - complete with a Facebook page touting her Wharton degree, Peace Corps stint and fluency in Mandarin.
Will her street smarts allow her to keep the corporate career she got under false pretences? Didn't I say it was a fairy tale?
The habitually late Lopez turns up 35 minutes past the time of our interview at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills.
As usual, the single mother - who has 10-year-old twins with her US singer former husband Marc Anthony and is currently dating US former baseball star Alex Rodriguez - is beautifully dressed, and there is certainly no working girl vibe in her rust-coloured turtleneck and silky wide-legged pants.
How did the project come to you?
This script was something that my producing partner brought me. It was her idea. She got a writer and they wrote it together, and it was really tailor-made for me. We made Maya come from Queens because I had done the Bronx thing before. It was very much something that I could understand very well and people would really relate to me and believe me in.
I really feel like Maya at 24 is exactly who I could have been if I hadn't decided to be an actress. I was like, "Who would I be right now and how would my hair be and how would I look?"
I would be working in this store and trying to get ahead if I didn't go to college. And then the other big part of this character was that pain she hid throughout every scene. I knew that would ground the movie in a way (unlike) most romantic comedies. There is a real-life story here that you feel.
Do you think being brought up in the Bronx gave you street smarts?
Yeah. I do think it gives you a certain tenacity and drive. When you grow up with nothing and you don't grow up with the privileges of going to a great school, and your parents don't have money to send you to those things, it gives you a different upbringing. It makes you a little scrappier and savvier in different ways.
In the streets, you have to find a way in, even if slipping in the back door. I wouldn't trade it for the world. If somebody said, you could go back now and go to Harvard instead of doing what you did, I would say no way.
It has been 20 years since your breakout role in the 1998 crime comedy Out Of Sight. How have you changed as an actress since then?
I was proud of the work I did in that movie and at that time. But I am just such a different person now. I have had kids and gone through a divorce since then, and it's a lot of stuff that has changed my way of life and my thinking and my emotions and depth of understanding of the world. All of that makes you a better actress at the end of the day, (in the) understanding of people and behaviour.
How hard was it for you, being a Latina in the business as you were starting out?
It is a huge challenge, even today. It is much better, and you have a lot more Latin actresses who are really having a lot of success. But when I first started 20 or 25 years ago, it was like, "We want a Rosie Perez type", that was it. Everything was a caricature or stereotype of what Latin people were. And that was a place I had to break though.
I just want to be the girl in the movie. I don't want to be the Spanish girl who is the friend or the maid, even though in one of my biggest movies (2002's Maid In Manhattan) I played a maid (laughs). But you know what I mean, where you are the protagonist and it doesn't matter what nationality you are.
Another breaking of boundaries for me was, there was a real specific type of woman that was in magazines and movies and they were usually white, tall, size one, zero, two, and I was not like that.
You are a single mum, you have a Las Vegas residency, you are a producer and you have launched a cosmetics company. How do you make time to take care of yourself?
We make time for what we want to make time for. Sometimes I don't want to go to the gym but I force myself to, because I know I want to feel good about myself, and when I don't do it, I don't feel good about myself.
I have done my show the past three years and that's kept me in really great shape. That is a two-hour, demanding high cardio intense workout.
But yeah, I can find three hours in a week to do what I need to for myself to feel good about my body and to have my mind feel good and I think everybody is worth that.
Would you consider getting married again?
Yeah. For sure. I have been married three times and I have had two under-a-year marriages that I don't really count as marriages. But I was married to Marc (Anthony) for 10 years, and it was good.
It didn't work out, but it didn't destroy my vision of marriage. I just always thought because of the way I was raised that when you fall in love with somebody, you get married and you try to have a life together.
I learnt along the way that that's not really how it works and it takes more than that. And so you have to choose well.
I love the idea of growing old with somebody and being committed to them and declaring that, not so much to the world, but to one another.
The writer is the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a non-profit organisation of entertainment journalists that also organises the annual Golden Globe Awards.