Jennifer Lopez’s new movie Second Act is in theaters now and if you love JLo like I do, you will want to see it. I’ve been a huge fan since way back in the day when she was a fly girl on In Living Color. I’ve followed her career from pop star to movie star to television star and marveled at how she’s managed to continuously reinvent herself.
Needless to say, I dropped everything when I found out I was invited to a screening and roundtable interview for Second Act with JLo and Leah Remini. The roundtable ended up being as much about reinvention and empowerment as it was about the movie.
Lopez plays Maya Vargas, a manager of a box store who isn’t satisfied with her career. After being passed over for a promotion, she makes a birthday wish for things to turn around. In true JLo fashion, things spin like Cinderella getting ready for the ball and she lands her dream job.
She described Second Act as a cross between Working Girl and It’s a Wonderful Life about an outer-borough New York woman in her 40s who is rethinking her life.
“And then kind of infusing all of these beautiful themes of – Your life is not over. You get to reinvent. You get to evolve. You get to have another day every single day you wake up.”
It’s not just Maya who is experiencing her second act. Lopez has had a long career and it’s not over.
“I feel like it’s just beginning, ” Lopez said about her life. “There’s things that I haven’t accomplished yet, and things I haven’t done that I feel like this is going to be the best time of my life. I know so much more, things I couldn’t even have done in my early twenties or thirties that I can do now, things that I understand in such a different way …”
Leah Remini, who plays Maya’s best friend Joan, and Lopez are close friends in real life. The life advice they give women is to know your passion and don’t rely on other people to give you permission. You’re not always going to have a best friend, sister or spouse there to encourage you , Remini said. And they might even tell you what you’re doing is crazy.
“… It’s your own passion and your own persistence that’s going to get you there. You don’t need approval, and once you’ve realized that – you know, they don’t mean you harm, your family, your friends – not always, some do. But you have to just believe in yourself that much more, and just take the first step towards what you love.”
One of Lopez’s loves is romantic comedy. She’s been in a few – Maid in Manhattan, The Wedding Planner, The Back-up Plan – and likes the genre because it’s the most to her like real life.
“I’m a romantic. I don’t know if you’ve heard,” she laughed. “…But there’s something that speaks to my soul about this because, to me, it’s the most like real life. Life is funny, and it’s sad, and shit happens, and in romantic comedies, you really get to see somebody break through a really deep fear, usually, that they have inside. And I think I’ve struggled with that in my life, and everybody does, and it’s so relatable.”
She also loves the comedy part of the romantic comedies, especially for Second Act, which she was able to do with Remini one of her best friends. “… how many times have we been talking about something and gotten angry at each other, and then gotten – started crying, and then make a joke, all in the same moment,” Lopez said. “And that’s what these movies are like, and that’s what I love about them, and because that’s what life really is.”
There’s a funny scene (that’s also in the trailer below) where Joan tries to pump up Maya to stand up to her boss and slaps her around a bit saying, “Who’s the champ?” inspired by Raging Bull.
Maya needs pumping up because she doesn’t believe in herself. The man who gets the job she deserves at the store gets it because he has an Ivy League education. It’s so relatable, Lopez said, because not everyone has those type of opportunities and it doesn’t mean they’re less valuable.
“But, just because you don’t have that type of education doesn’t mean that you don’t have the same type of smarts, or experience, or know how, or creativity, you know, instincts, that can be just as valuable…”
“And so, it’s just about finding your passion and your talent, and putting it out there, and that’s what the movie is about. It’s about understanding that the only thing moving you back is not that you don’t have a degree to you, it’s you. And you can do whatever you want to do, you can accomplish whatever you want to accomplish, you need only work hard at it, and not give up. The people who don’t succeed are the ones who give up. The people who succeed are the ones who never did,” she said.
If you need a silly comedy with a lot of woman-power over the holidays, Second Act in Theaters now.