Amazon Prime Video’s I Want You Back hits the platform just in time for Valentine’s Day weekend and brings a story of finding love (and yourself!) while navigating a major heartbreak. Starring Jenny Slate and Charlie Day, the ensemble cast is rounded out with Manny Jacinto, Scott Eastwood, Gina Rodriguez and Clark Backo. Ahead of the movie’s premiere, LA Confidential had a chat with Jacinto about his character Logan, an artist turned middle school theater teacher who is preparing students for a Little Shop of Horrors performance while romancing fellow teacher Anne (Rodriguez).
What did you enjoy most about playing Logan?
I've never really played a character like Logan before— that kind of artsy, devoted-type, obsessed-type, so that was really fun to explore and discover as a human being. Talking to Jason [Orley], our director, when I first met with him, he said Logan is an archetype. We've seen this character before. But with Jason, he didn't want to push it too much. He still wanted to keep it grounded and have the audience still empathize with Logan and not him just be this d****** auteur of movies and acting. So that was the best part about him— to play this guy as an actual full-fledged human being rather than just an archetype.
How did you avoid falling into that archetype?
Logan has this obsessive personality about the craft of acting and to a fault, right, because he throws it onto students, he throws it on to the people around him. And with that, you can become very much a d********, you can become a jerk, and very much just super selfish. But with Jason, what we ended up doing was it was not just about him creating a great play. It was about serving the kids and being loyal to the children, to the little ones and letting them shine. We shifted that thought process and that made him more empathetic.
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Was the long hair a creative decision?
It was just good timing. The pandemic happened and I wanted to grow my hair out. I did a project beforehand that required a bit of longer hair so I could grow it out even more. So it just worked out. And I was able to find a character that was able to use those locks.
Do you think Logan considers Little Shop of Horrors as a high-brow musical?
To him, apparently, yeah. I remember watching the movie before we hopped on to filming this and it's not an easy play or those songs are not easy to do. I think Little Shop was just the best, weird— I just, I can't believe that that's a play, to be honest. I think that's one of the reasons why. It's just the most random play, but has so much heart, and to watch little kids do it and commit to it is so, so funny.
What was it like working with Jenny Slate? I imagine her character Emma’s unashamed flirtiness and Logan's self seriousness that could make it easy to break.
It was the best time getting to play with Jenny. She's whip smart. She is so funny. And the biggest thing is she listens. Like when I throw something at her, she'll take it in and throw something back, rather than other performers that can just throw things at you and not listen. Jenny's always listening. She's just down to play. She's there with you. It was so fun getting to play with her.
Did you have a favorite scene overall in the movie?
That threesome scene is a solid pick. It definitely stood out in the script when I read it, and it stood out when I filmed it. I think a big part of the reason why it was so great was because I had two amazing scene partners that I could be vulnerable with and super bizarre. And that always amounts to a good time.
In recent years, the streamers have had truly great romantic comedies. How does I Want You Back stand out from the pack?
With I Want You Back, we are really trying to take it back to those classic rom-coms, those Nancy Meyers rom-coms, As Good As It Gets those Yeah, those Sleepless in Seattle-type of nostalgic rom-coms. Jason had a clear view as to what he wanted to do and achieve, so I think that's what makes it unique with some of the rom-coms that are coming out right now.
Do you have a favorite classic rom-com?
Serendipity is a solid one for me. Something about fate and leaving it to chance a little bit and all things coming together is always so interesting and lovely to me.
This interview has been edited and condensed. I Want You Back will be available to stream on Amazon Prime on Feb. 11.
Photography by: Zack Whitford/BFA.com for Academy Museum of Motion Pictures; Amazon Studios