I can't tell you how many times I've sighed in frustration at the sight of a TV or movie female journalist falling for her source. It's a trope so pervasive at this point that when I saw the trailer for Tag, about a group of men who have been playing the same game for over 20 years, I just took it for granted that Annabelle Wallis' character was going to sleep with one of them.
Wallis plays Rebecca Crosby, a Wall Street Journal reporter whose original plan to write a corporate profile of insurance company CEO Bob Callahan (Jon Hamm) gets thrown off course when his best friend Hoagie (Ed Helms) barges in and tags him. As it turns out, the two are part of a group of friends who resume their childhood game of tag every month of May, and this year, they're hell-bent on breaking their friend Jerry's (Jeremy Renner) winning streak. Intrigued — and slightly disgusted? — Rebecca realizes this is the story she should really be pursuing and decides to follow them on an adventure that crosses state lines and possibly any form of common decency.
Astoundingly, this is all based on a true story, reported back in 2013 by Wall Street Journal reporter, Russell Adams. The decision to gender-swap the character for film seemed like a narrative twist tailor-made for an onscreen romance. But here's the thing: Rebecca never seduces her sources. Not once. Not even close.
"There was one version of the script where there was a love interest element to my character," Wallis said in a joint Refinery29 interview with co-star Leslie Bibb. "And all the guys were like, 'Don't do that. She has to be this outside perspective. We're not going to turn her into a gimmick' And I was like 'Why not?! You just don't want to kiss me, be honest.'"
Wallis' desire to kiss Jon Hamm aside ("I tried, using all my lecherous ways!"), it's refreshing to finally see an attractive young female journalist just do her job for a change. Now, you may argue that her objectivity is compromised towards the end (I won't spoil why), but it has nothing to do with any romantic entanglements.
In fact, it's noteworthy that the stereotype is so entrenched in our moviegoing experience that the lack of a reporter/source relationship feels like an omission, something that needs to be explained. "Now, you're like 'Oh, something's off. She must smell funny,'" Wallis joked.
Elevating the women of Tag to more than just the nagging spouse or the romantic interest was a priority for director Jeff Tomsic. "I really wanted the female characters to have this huge badass role as well," he told Refinery29. That comes across in Wallis' role, but also Bibb's. As Susan, Jerry's soon-to-be wife who doesn't really want her wedding day to be a playground for grown men, Bibb could have easily been cast as the shrew trying to put an end to the fun. And don't even get me started about Isla Fischer's character. She is, without a doubt, the queen of tag.
"A lot of times, women in comedies are the voice of reason, and wagging your finger like, 'You crazy guy, you shouldn't do this!' Bibb said. "I really feel like the women in this movie weren't that way. When I read [the script], I just loved the fact that these women were really doing something, and really got a chance to be funny."
Wallis agreed, adding that their male co-stars were very welcoming on set. "They wanted us to shine, and they wanted us to be included, and support us and tease us, and make us suffer on certain days."
And so now, all that's left is to start planning out Tag 2, the all-woman sequel. For the record, Wallis wants her journalist character to be played by Brad Pitt. And if she has anything to say about it, that version will definitely play up the romance.
Watch the full interview with Wallis and Bibb below: