Glen Powell Talks Netflix Rom-Com ‘Set It Up’ and Working With Zoey Deutch and Pete Davidson
Few positions are as soul-sucking as that of assistant, especially in a bustling place like New York. In the Netflix original romantic comedy “Set It Up,” two very different young people, Harper (Zoey Deutch) and Charlie (Glen Powell), are brought together late one night after they both find themselves scrambling to find food for their respective bosses in the same high-end NYC office building. Harper works for Kirsten (Lucy Liu), a high-strung sports reporter, while Charlie is in the employment of Rick (Taye Diggs), an explosive venture capitalist. After sharing their woes, the pair come up with the perfect plan to improve the personal lives of their work-obsessed bosses, thus making their own jobs (and lives) more bearable.. Through some clever maneuvering, Harper and Charlie see that Rick and Kirsten meet and strike up a romantic relationship, effectively, as Harper puts it, playing “Cyrano” for the couple. It’s a sweet plan, but it’s not long before they find themselves in over their heads.
For Powell, an actor who known for roles in films like and “Everybody Wants Some!!!” and “Hidden Figures,” as wells the series “Scream Queens,” his journey in becoming Charlie began three years ago when the script first came his way while he was in Jordan.
“You read a bunch of scripts when you’re sitting around in the desert, and it was one of my favorite scripts that I ever read. Obviously, that’s a testament to Katie Silberman, the writer,” Powell revealed to Entertainment Voice.
Originally, “Game of Thrones” actress Emilia Clarke was attached to play Harper, but had to bail after she landed her role in “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” Zoey Deutch, Powell’s co-star from “Everybody Wants Some!!!”, stepped in, which suited him just fine.
“She couldn’t have been more perfect for it,” he gushed. “These movies can kind of go off the rails if you cast incorrectly, and Zoey is just effortlessly charming and effortlessly wonderful, so it worked out.”
Also effortless is the chemistry between Powell and Deutch. Charlie and Harper not only have struggles in their budding careers, but also in their personal lives, struggles that are relatable to the typical millennial Netflix viewer. Charlie is dating model Suze (Joan Smalls), and while the sex is great, conversations fail to land. Harper, meanwhile, gives Tinder a go, with lukewarm results.
“Oh, yeah,” replied Powell when asked if he related to Charlie. “I just had my ten-year anniversary in L.A., and most of that has been a lot of failure and lot of getting beaten down by the man. Only very recently are we very slowly not getting beaten down.”
Powell, who never worked as an assistant or in a VC firm, although he did major in economics, did his homework to play Charlie, beginning first at his talent agency, where he not only answered phones for a few days, but also took the time to pick the brains of all the assistants in the office.
“I shipped lunch into a conference room, and we all had lunch in there and they dished on their most nightmare boss stories they had,” he recalled.
Powell also spent some time at a VC firm, which is where he found inspiration for the “horrible haircut” he sports as Charlie.
Part of the charm of “Set It Up” is its old school feel. Powell spoke about how the film deviates from the more more contemporary, Judd Apatow-style of romantic comedy.
“I’m a huge fan of those movies, but I think with this one, everybody kind of wanted to go with ‘The Philadelphia Story,’ ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ more of a classic rom com, the ones that kicked off [the genre] in the first place… In terms of the banter, the will-they-won’t-they feel, I’m not sure modern movies really play on that sweetness anymore. I think this movie definitely is a lot sweeter than most modern rom-coms.”
That’s not to say that there aren’t some truly hilarious moments in “Set It Up.” The film showcases the talents of some great New York-based comedic actors. “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” star Tituss Burgess’ cameo as elevator operator Creepy Time is a highlight of the film, while “Saturday Night Live” player Pete Davidson delivers the laughs as Duncan, Charlie’s straightforward roommate.
“Pete and I have become friggin’ best buds,” Powell revealed. “That dude and I probably FaceTime four times a week. He’s so funny; he FaceTimes me at the weirdest times, too. I got to see him recently at ‘SNL,’ that was a really cool thing.”
And while Charlie and Rick’s relationship is somewhat toxic, Powell assured us that he and Diggs struck up a warm friendship. He also spoke about Liu and the day he found himself acting as her “bouncer.”
“We filmed this one scene on the street and, I was basically playing bodyguard for her all day, because people would just beeline for her.” On the realities of filming in NYC, he said, “There’s no security. You’re just out in the middle of the open.”
A poignant moment in “Set It Up” occurs after Charlie and Harper find themselves at the engagement party of Harper’s roommate, Becca (Meredith Hagner) and her goofball finacé, Mike (Jon Rudnitsky). The bride-to-be gives a speech in which she states that, “You like somebody because of their qualities, but you love someone despite some of their qualities.”
Said Powell of this sentiment, “The great part about this movie is that it preaches that nobody’s perfect, [although Charlie and Harper] are trying to create this perfect relationship based on qualities, but it’s not real. The hard part about romance, which I think everybody gets bogged down with, is perfect, and there is no perfection, but when you find someone who is willing to be the best version of themselves for you, that’s the dream right there. At the end of the day, perfect is pretty boring. I think that’s what this film’s sort of doing… I think it’s a great message for romance in the world today, and I also think it’s a nice way to spread that message.”
“Set It Up” premieres June 15 on Netflix.