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Ah, the wedding proposal. It’s an age-old tradition that is often elevated nowadays into theatric a lot more involved than simply getting down on one knee and presenting a ring. Whether it takes place aside breathtaking scenic views, attached to a fun surprise, or during a romantic night out, more often than not there’s a bit of a showmanship that comes with the question. And when Harry Shum Jr. and Jessica Rothe shot a proposal scene for Universal’s All My Life, they tried their best to make it feel like the genuine thing.
Interestingly enough for All My Life, the actors got to pay tribute to actual couple Solomon Chau and Jennifer Carter, who got engaged shortly after Solomon orchestrated a flash mob proposal that seemed straight out of a movie (before its adaptation). When I had the chance to speak to the stars, they explained how they were able to make the scene come to life. Said Shum,
We rehearsed, and I pre-recorded a song, and then we had figured out, 'Do I do it live? Which method should we go?' And then I was like, 'How do we surprise her to get a reaction?' And Jess just had a brilliant idea, which I think is brave as an actor: ‘Well I don’t want to go to rehearsals to see it. I would rather just be surprised and live in the moment.’ I think that’s what allowed kind of that energy to happen on that screen. We as a group, all the rest of the cast just wanted to surprise her and find ways to get a reaction out of her because she’d never seen it before. So it almost felt like a real proposal in a lot of ways. And also, to not make it dancey and musical. It’s just a real, intimate moment.
It’s an interesting scene to see Harry Shum Jr. in specifically because the actor is well known for his six-season role in Glee as Mike Chang, a role where song-and-dance numbers were just another day at work. The adorable sequence involves the actor belting out a tune, but it’s done a lot more naturally than a Glee fan might remember it. As he told us, the idea to make the proposal a real surprise was Happy Death Day actress Jessica Rothe's, who almost regretted it later when she didn’t get to be with her cast planning it. She explained,
I knew from reading the script, but I really tried to stay away, and I have huge FOMO, so when they would all go off to rehearsal I'm sitting by myself in the production office being like ‘I want to be with my friends.’ But I knew there was kind of an electric energy that can come with things like that. Harry is right, it is a very scary thing as an actor to show up on set and have no idea what’s going to happen, and I really like to be prepared and do my homework. But I wanted there to be real magic in the air, and hopefully when one is proposed to they have no idea. It was a delightful surprise for me and they knocked it out of the park.
It definitely shows in the scene. Jessica Rothe and much of the cast in All My Life know a thing or two about practicing for large scale music numbers. Rothe played one of the roommates of Emma Stone’s Mia in her Oscar-winning role in La La Land for the “Someone in the Crowd” number. Also on board in the film for the scene was Chrissie Fit of the Pitch Perfect and Teen Beach movies and Saturday Night Live’s former Barack Obama Jay Pharoa, as the couple’s friends. In my interview with Fit, she talked about bringing the scene to life after doing largely musicals:
I would have to talk to the director and be like, ‘I’m not really singing, right?’ And with Harry, I’m like, ‘Wait, is he like going to do a dance move?’ because innately we want to put on a show because of all of our experience. It’s a little uncomfortable or awkward to make it natural because we’d want to perform, so yeah you had to kind of switch your brain up and say how would just Amanda do this instead of what kind of move I want to do right now.
All My Life, which adapts the true story of Solomon Chau and Jennifer Carter after Solomon is diagnosed with liver cancer and they prepare for their wedding day, coming to theaters on December 4. Check out what is coming to theaters and on streaming next year with CinemaBlend's 2021 release schedule.