Actress Francesca Reale joined Allison last week for a delightful chat about her career, dating history, the brilliance of Jaboukie, and her hilarious new rom-com Dating & New York. Narrated by doorman Cole, the film hits theaters Friday, September 10th, from IFC Films. It plunges us into the waters of the modern dating world via the latest app, MeetCute. Curly-haired cutie Milo (Jaboukie Young-White), who thinks of himself as a “between relationships dulah”, matches with sarcastic millennial Wendy (Francesca Reale), a girl afraid of commitment and real human connection. Their friends Hank (Brian Müller) and Jessie (Catherine Cohen) also get a decent amount of screentime with a budding relationship of their own, including a hilarious impossible hunt for an affordable NYC apartment.

We conducted a previous interview with writer/director Jonah Feingold, and actors Catherine Cohen and Brian Müller to discuss Dating & New York, which you can find here. Read on for our exclusive, insightful, and spoiler-filled interview with Francesca Reale!

Good morning! I’m Allison, for Josh at the Movies. I’m so thrilled to chat with you today. I thought this would be a cute icebreaker question—what is your worst or craziest dating story?

FRANCESCA REALE: Oh my God. My worst dating story ever would probably be in high school. I’m sure I’ve had more since then, but it’s just such an epitome LA dating story that I always find it so funny. I grew up here, and in high school I went to a Music Magnet (there’s dance, theater, all that jazz.) There was one guy who went there who was an actor, and he was like the only actor who had worked literally. I remember he asked me on a date, and I felt so excited. I was like, ‘you’re a little older, and you’ve been on a show. You had a guest star!’ It was so LA!

I got out of the car right down the street near my house; he spent the first two minutes just going on and on, on the phone with his agent and he was like, ‘sorry, I have all these things.’ But he was just so rude about it. By the time we got to the corner of my actual street, I literally just got out of the car, and started to run home from the date. I didn’t even make it on the date. I was like, ‘oh my God, I can’t do this.’ We were in the car, and he was like, ‘we’re going to a restaurant I used to go to with my ex, you’re okay with that, right?’ He was like, ‘sorry I have to text my agent really quickly’ and it’s all in the car. I was like, ‘you’re driving, you’re doing all these things like, oh my God, you might be crazy.’ And then I just had a full blown anxiety attack, and got out of the car, and ran home. It was not great. That was one of my first actual dates.

What are your thoughts about Milo’s doorman, and do you think he’s too nosy, or just nosy enough? My favorite doorman in my building has jokingly handed me notes after kissing a guy outside my apartment saying “get a room.” I picture Milo’s doorman would do the same.

FRANCESCA: So I’ve never had a doorman. I live in LA, and I grew up in like a cute little home in Mid-City. My mom would be my doorman equivalent. She would wait at the door whenever I was coming home from something. I would walk in, and she’d be like, ‘where are you? What were you doing? How was it? It’s late. Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Are you drunk?’ Just all the questions. When I lived in New York, I definitely didn’t have a doorman.

So I don’t actually know how nosy they are and aren’t supposed to be, but I feel like I would actually love if I had a really beautiful relationship with a doorman. It feels so NY. I feel like my neighbors here in LA are always very like, ‘what’s going on? Who’s that?’ What’s the difference between LA and New York? Well, here it is.

How much do you see yourself in Wendy? Like in the ice cream scene, do you personally like to “try all the flavors?” or just stick to one?

FRANCESCA: If I was in that ice cream scene, me Francesca with Milo and Wendy, they would be having their little passive aggressive chat about all the flavors versus one. I would just be staring at the flavors being like, ‘I can’t.’ I’m not going to sample anything, I’m just going to pick it. I’m just going to have to be happy with whatever I picked. That’s my gut really. I know that makes me sound like a full psycho, but I’m very picky when it comes to my dating life typically.

I’m still one of those people that’s like, ‘I’m gonna meet someone at a bar, or at a coffee shop or they’re just going to trip over me on the street’—you know, something organic. If that one little moment doesn’t happen to intrigue me, I’m just like ‘head down.’ I’m a very anxious dater; dating gives me anxiety. I’m not good at it. So I would probably be like the one trying to pick a flavor, and then I’d get so stressed that I’d just leave the ice cream shop and be like, ‘I’m gonna get a cookie.’

There’s a ton of wacky dating terminology thrown into this movie. You have ‘freelance relationship,’ ‘foghorning,’ ‘targeted offensive orbiting.’ What is your favorite of these terms invented by the film, and have you experienced any of these firsthand?

FRANCESCA: This is a hard question, because I have to remember what all of these mean! ‘Targeted offensive orbiting’ was like where you break up with someone, but they still follow you, right?

They still post everything on Instagram about what you did when you were in that relationship. They would go to a bar you used to go to together just to shove it in your face. Hi, I’m here with the new person at this bar. Screw you.

FRANCESCA: I think that’s the one I feel most triggered by. Obviously, social media is such a big part of our jobs now. If I’ve gone on a date with someone and then they stopped following me, I’m like, *gasp.* If I hang out with someone and they stop following me. I’m like, ‘oh God.’ Social media orbit versus your reality is the most triggering thing that I think our movie talks about, because it really is such a big part of relationships.

Are you followed? Are you tagged? Is it on your Instagram, is it not? What’s real? We also talked about that line Jaboukie has: “actions mean more than captions.” Those terms are funny, but it’s also so funny because it’s so ridiculously relatable. I have to uncomfortably laugh about it.

There was so much chemistry between Wendy and Milo. How close did you become with Jaboukie after filming this? Are you still good friends?

FRANCESCA: I adore Jaboukie. I was literally just texting him—I got all tongue-tied in one of our other interviews and said something wrong. I was like, ‘oh my God, did I just offend you Jaboukie?’ I know that I get to have him in my corner, like certain press outlets with me when I wasn’t alone. That was the same for set.

This could be said for the whole cast because they were all so amazing. Most of my days and work were with Jaboukie. Set can be so hard…You have long days, you’re in a bubble, you’re exhausted, you’re working outside, and cold weather… There’s so much that can go wrong in a day.

It was just so nice to have someone there every day that I could just make jokes about it, and laugh with. He truly is one of the most kind, funny, and incredible people. I cannot wait. I know he’s having a big moment right now, and I’m proud of him. He had New Yorker article, he’s working with Issa Rae. He’s killing it. I couldn’t wish for anything more for a better person. He’s the Crème de la crème of costars.

I adore him. I wouldn’t have been able to do this movie without him. He definitely made my performance better, and I only want the best for that man.

Why do you think Wendy and Milo ultimately do not work out, and do you think “best friends with benefits” is something that can actually work in the right circumstances?

FRANCESCA: You know what I’m actually learning is that I’ve seen the movie three times now. Me and my mom actually totally missed the part at the end where they say they live happily ever after… for like two weeks. I honestly just learned that they break up.

There’s a little piece of information… My mom was talking about it. My brother was like, ‘yeah, but did you see that part at the end where they break up?’ And me and my mom were both like ‘what?’ There’s literally a part right at the end where it says this. And my mom was like, ‘no, that doesn’t happen.’ In rom-coms, they get together… they’re together. I was like, ‘wait, that’s brilliant.’ Whoa.

Why do I think they didn’t get together? I think they’re interesting. They’re such an interesting couple because they are in a weird way, so compatible for each other. But in my opinion, it’s a wrong time, you know? Which is why we always joked about making a sequel. I always envisioned Milo and Wendy as those people that are gonna be in and out of each other’s lives forever, either as friends or as partners or whatever fits in that time span. I always found them to be right in that moment, but ultimately wrong time. So when I saw that they actually don’t stay together, I thought, ‘wow, that’s amazing.’ Good on Jonah!

Does friends with benefits work? I think in any relationship you have to have such a clear communication with the other person. So if friends with benefits is something that you’re after and something you want to pursue, that’s great! That’s what you want. That’s where you’re at right now in your life. I just think that if you’re going to do that, then you have to make sure that the other party very vividly understands that. 

I think any type of relationship, whether it’s monogamous or friends with benefits or just casual sex, can go so wrong if there’s not a clear communication between both partners. So yeah, if you’re good at talking and expressing your feelings and being honest, friends with benefits could probably work for you. It would probably be the worst choice for me.

What are your favorite rom-coms? Are there any classic romantic comedy leads you used as inspiration for formulating Wendy?

FRANCESCA: One of my favorite rom-coms is Crazy Stupid Love. I loved so many different stories in one. Oftentimes, I feel movies can really screw up that algorithm of relying on a bunch of different characters having these different journeys. This one just did it so beautifully. I’m obsessed with Steve Carell, I’m obsessed with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. The entire cast is all just so good.

I think I definitely unintentionally tried to make—at least in how direct she is—make Wendy a little bit Emma Stone’s character, but only in that one mere moment where she’s like, ‘I’m going to go sleep with the guy from the bar.’ I think I definitely tried to incorporate her a little bit there. 

I definitely tried to use inspiration for her from Elaine from Seinfeld, which isn’t a rom-com, or it is depending on how you watch it. They’re in love with themselves in the show. Another one of my favorite rom-coms…Oh my God. There’s so many I’ve watched that I can’t even think… obviously the classics, like When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail—all of those are obviously big inspirations. There’s plenty of homage in the movie to those, but Crazy Stupid Love is definitely one of my favorites. I think all the women in that movie, I definitely tried to either knowingly or unknowingly connect them to Wendy.

I love your earlier work in Wireless on Quibi and Yes, God, Yes, and of course Stranger Things, so I was excited to see your name in the Tribeca details for the film before release. What is your favorite role you’ve done thus far in your career? Are there any future roles you’re excited for fans to see?

FRANCESCA: Oh God, it’s super exciting things. I don’t actually know. Well, Wireless just got a re-release on Roku channel, which is really exciting. I’m really happy about that. That means more people will see it. That script really did just move my soul. It was so well-written, and Tye Sheridan is an amazing actor and great co-star as well.

Outside of that, we are just kind of hopefully getting to the tail end of this pandemic. Hopefully I’ll have more exciting things to announce soon, a lot in the works. We’re kind of working within the realm of still basically being in a pandemic, and trying to move forward safely, and what that looks like. 

As far as my favorite role… Oh my God. I’ve been very lucky. I really have enjoyed every single role I’ve gotten to do. I don’t know if I have a favorite yet. They all are hitting the same level. Haters Back Off was such a unique experience for your first job. Again, a great cast and great creatives and so much freedom to play and make Emily cool. Yes, God, Yes. I read that script and I was like, ‘I need to be in this movie!’ I just got to make so many great friends on that set.

Then obviously, Stranger Things. I was like, ‘I don’t even care what the role is—put me in the show! I need to be in the show!’ That was an iconic experience. It’s one of the biggest shows in the world, and very intimidating. Wireless was cool. It was a different platform and a different way of making TV. Obviously Dating is an incredible experience because it’s my first leading role, and Jonah was so kind to let me really make Wendy my own character.

I don’t really know if I have a favorite yet. They’ve all just been really amazing experiences, where I’ve learned and grown and hopefully become a better actor each time. Who knows? I could just be dying.

I had such a great time chatting with you and I can’t wait to see all the new stuff that you’re going to put out after the pandemic starts to hopefully improve, and we don’t get stuck in another lockdown!

FRANCESCA: No, I hope not, from our lips to God’s ears, you know. No more lockdowns, please. Please wear a mask, get vaccinated! Do all the things you gotta do. Wear a mask, get vaccinated. That’s what you have to do.

Thanks again to Francesca Reale for her time chatting about Dating & New York! The film screened as part of the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, and comes to theaters and digital platforms on September 10th from IFC Films. For the full video chat with Francesca, see our YouTube channel!

Read our full review here.

Read our interview with Jonah Feingold, Catherine Cohen, and Brian Müller here.

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