The Orange County Register
In the comic thriller “Role Play,” sweetly naive Dave learns that Emma, his cheerful wife and the loving mother of their two young kids, is a world-class assassin. Suddenly, he’s thrown into an unfamiliar world of danger.
Dave, played by David Oyelowo, gets beat up, shot at and tied up after following Emma, played by Kaley Cuoco, and discovering just exactly what very special skills are required in her line of work.
It’s essentially the world’s worst-ever Take Your Husband to Work Day, an idea that makes both Oyelowo and Cuoco burst out laughing when it’s posed to them on a recent video call.
Cuoco, who found stardom on “The Big Bang Theory,” shifted to edgier fare with “The Flight Attendant” and “Based On a True Story,” both of which had a similar mix of action and comedy. Oyelowo, who played Martin Luther King Jr. in “Selma,” as well as starring roles in such films as “The Butler” and “Nightingale,” is mostly known for dramatic roles.
The movie also features Bill Nighy as a drolly hilarious hit man named Bob and Connie Nielsen as a very bad stepmother named Gwen.
In an interview edited for length and clarity, Kuoco and Oyelowo talked about what drew them to “Role Play,” how they found the tone of the film, and why learning your spouse is an assassin, and then working through it, can be helpful to viewers going through rough patches in their own relationships. Also, we talk about a future for the characters in the last two questions, so consider this a spoiler alert.
Q: Kaley, this movie fits in with a couple of your other recent projects. Talk a little about the appeal of comedic thrillers.
KC: You know, I love this space. I love the tone. I love a tone that hits everything. One minute, you’re making a silly face and laughing, the next minute you’re crying, and the next minute, you’re kicking ass. Like, that’s kind of a gift to be able to tap into all those things in one.
And obviously, I enjoy the kind of cat-and-mouse, wink-to-the-camera type of thing. This one was cool, too, because I’d never done kind of the physical, the fight sequences, and playing that sort of a badass. I was really, really wanting to do something like that.
And then mixing it with the family aspect, and being this wife who’s keeping the secret, but loves her family. Then, when David came on, it just was like this piece that had been missing for so long, because I had been sitting with the script for many years before we met. So it was kind of cool to finally see what it was meant to be.
Q: David, it feels like you do dramatic things more than this kind of project. What was it like for you to shift into this world?
DO: It was a lot of fun. I’m always looking for exploring new avenues. Yes, I’ve done a lot of more dramatic things, but in life, I’m a bit of a goofball, and people have seen less of that.
But I think that’s what really drew me to this. The fact that he is a family guy like me. The fact that, like me, he’s someone who would do anything to fight for his family.
I also love the fact that, yes, I’m known for more dramatic roles, and Kaley’s probably known for more comedic roles. And there’s a bit of a role reversal here. She’s the straight guy to my guy who’s sort of flailing in the wind and trying to figure it all out in the midst of the film.
To be honest, secretly, I just wanted to be in her orbit just to learn some of that stuff, and hopefully be able to exhibit it on screen. Little did I know that we would have the degree of chemistry we had. I love her as a human being, and so to get to do this with her was a joy on top of what I anticipated it would be.
KC: We’re big fans of each other and then became really true buddies. As cool as it was to do this film, that’s been the really neat thing that’s come out of this.
Q: I want to go back to something you said a minute ago, Kaley, about the different tones in this movie, and how you and David found the right balance between a realistic portrayal of a family and a very unrealistic one where the wife is going off to do hits around the world.
KC: I mean, it’s a little bit, at moments, you know, excitable.
DO: Good word, excitable.
KC: There were a lot of conversations about that, I remember when we first were doing ‘Flight Attendant,’ that was the constant conversation: ‘What’s this? What’s the tone?’ That’s all we’d be discussing. So I was laughing when we were shooting this. I’m like, ‘Yes, I understand asking these questions.’
Because it was not confusing, but it shifts constantly. It wasn’t just one thing, and that’s the kind of thing that I love. I feel like that’s also like real life. I find it to be more relatable.
Obviously, her career choice is not relatable, but we’ve been saying earlier that this marriage, they love each other and she loves this family and obviously so does he. And it’s kind of a metaphor for going through something very difficult. Whatever that is in your own life, that you’re fighting to get through, that is really what this commitment is about.
Q: David, your role is also difficult in that you have to kind of convince us a little bit that you would stick with your wife even after you find out what she does. That you wouldn’t just take the kids and go and go hide somewhere.
DO: Well, in my own life, it’s less unrealistic for me. My wife and I, we’ve been married 25 years now, and we’ve done things that other people deem unrealistic. Like, we started out before we got married, and we said we were never going to be apart for more than two weeks, which is insane given that she’s an actress as well. But we’ve managed it. And I do think that those are the things that really do keep a marriage together in the insanity of this world.
And so for me, Dave’s choice is exemplary of what it sometimes takes to keep the family going, keep a marriage together. Obviously, it’s outsized, it’s fantastical. It’s a movie. But I think we want to entertain the audience while also bringing them into something that might reflect something that they may be going through.
It was fun to explore something grounded whilst doing it in this sort of very fantastical, aspiration kind of way that hopefully the audience can relate to as well.
Q: [NOTE: This next question is a bit of a spoiler, so don’t read on if you want to remain completely unaware of plot points.] At the end of the movie, we don’t see [character redacted] dead, and in movies we often know that when characters are not shown dead there’s the possibility they might not be. Is that the case here that [character redacted] maybe appears in a potential sequel with you two?
KC: That’s very interesting. It’s actually the first time anyone said that, so that’s an interesting idea.
DO: You may have seeded something. I thought [character redacted] was dead.
KC: I did, too. So very interesting.
DO: Well, we will see.
Q: Give me a thanks in the credits when it happens.
DO: Done deal.