Jeremy Jordan Talks About Making Sweet Music With Anna Kendrick

Photo: Picture Perfect/REX USA.
Music makes you feel feelings. Relationships do, too. Put 'em both together in a unique retelling of a modern-day love story, and you've got the perfect setup for an emotional journey that finds a way to resonate with every person who sees it. That's exactly whatThe Last Five Years, which stars Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan, will do to you. 

The Last Five Years began as a stage musical born out of the dying embers of a real relationship — that of writer Jason Robert Brown. He was inspired to write the tale of literary hotshot Jamie and aspiring (albeit struggling) actress Cathy after the end of his marriage. The story is closely based on his own — and one so many twentysomethings experience today — but it's told in a completely unique way. Jamie's story is told chronologically, starting from his and Cathy's first romantic encounter. Cathy's tale is told backward. We first see her crying as she leaves her wedding ring behind as she prepares to move out of their apartment, leaving the failed marriage behind. 

We spoke to Jeremy Jordan, who you may recognize from the TV show Smash, Newsies on Broadway, or his recent cover of "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" that went viral, about bringing the beloved musical and cautionary tale to the big screen with pitch-perfect Anna Kendrick as his Cathy.

What's the Internet’s collective crush, Anna Kendrick, like in person?
"I was surprised because she's a very quiet person. There's a lot going on inside that tiny little head of hers that we don't quite understand right away. As you get to know her more, she opens up to you. But, at the same time, she is that person that tweets all those goofy, quippy things and has that unfiltered quality to her and that firecracker personality. She's also really, really, really smart and knowledgeable about the camera and the film world. She's a filmmaker."

How did you two bond to play Cathy and Jamie?
"You just kind of have to dive in. We had a few drinks together the first day we met and kind of opened up like that, but sadly we couldn't really be drunk on set all the time. The work may have suffered or been something very different. Luckily, the material is really well-written, and so you just kind of dive into the material and try to give it justice. We tried to have fun with it, but at the same time really lift ourselves to the expectations of the piece."
Photo: Courtesy of RADiUS-TWC.
Do you think this is an honest portrayal of a modern-day relationship?
"I think this is as honest as any portrayal of a relationship I've ever seen, especially in a musical. Everything is told through song in this piece, and it allows you to go to that deeper emotional place that lyrics and songs kind of evoke. I think Jason, the writer, really touched on the little things and the details in a relationship that a lot of people go through...the little fights that we have, and the things that sort of separate us, and not listening to each other. It feels like a very intimate story that just happens to be sung."

How does switching up the chronology add to that?
"It offers a very fresh perspective on the story. It's bookended by two really sad moments of two people who are very disconnected from themselves and from their relationship with one another. In the middle, we see them fighting to try to understand and stay together and loving and falling apart...We're in each other's timelines, and it feels like a sort of jumbled Scenes From a Marriage kind of a thing. You'll find motifs — musical and also visual — throughout the whole piece that sort of tie it all together."

You got married fairly young, too. Did playing Jamie inform your relationship in any way? 
"Honestly, I think so. I've known this musical for a long time, and doing it, there are a lot of things that hit very close to home. I've been lucky enough in the past few years to have a lot of success. And, to see how Jamie deals with it, and how that negatively affects his relationship, is certainly a cautionary tale as to how I could possibly deal with it, and how I have not gone down that sort of path that he has. I think there are elements in the story that everybody can relate to, from feeling inadequate to falling in love to having that fight where you're just yelling at each other, but nobodY's actually listening. That's such a relatable thing that so many people go through. I think that's ultimately what breaks them apart. They form very different expectations of their relationship."

Where do you think Cathy and Jamie go from here?
"Our director [Richard LaGravenese] said it perfectly when he told us that sometimes we need to fall in love in order to learn things about ourselves and move on. This love was necessary for both of them, and just because it didn't last, it doesn’t mean it wasn't true and full and passionate and real. It also helped them to grow."

Did Anna share any Twitter secrets with you for earning some Internet love?
"Have a number-one hit single of you playing with one cup, and then calling it 'Cups' even though there's only one cup involved. That's always baffled me. It's ONE CUP. Just call it 'Cup.' Done."

The Last Five Years is in theaters and on VOD now. 
This interview has been edited and condensed.

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