By Connor Dziawura
Although the English actor had never sung in public, and he had to learn to play guitar for the role, his lack of a true musical background didn’t stop him from pursuing this film.
“I was a massive Elvis fan, so I feel like this is the closest that I’ll get to living my childhood dream of being Elvis,” Roe says.
Although the film bears no relation to the legendary rock singer, Forever My Girl does, however, tell the story of Liam Page (Roe), a country singer who leaves his fiancée, Josie Preston (Jessica Rothe), on their wedding day to pursue his music career. After reaching superstar status, however, Page returns to his hometown of St. Augustine, Louisiana, eight years later. Still in love with Preston, he has to earn a second chance, proving he has changed and connecting with the daughter he never knew he had. The film was adapted from the novel by Heidi McLaughlin.
Considering he hails from Westminster, London, England, Roe wasn’t exposed to country music, a strong basis of the film. As such, he had to study the genre and perfect the southern accent of his character. Executive music producer and composer Brett Boyett gave him the task of listening to artists like Dierks Bentley and Brett Eldredge to familiarize himself with the genre, Roe says.
“It was about research and then trying to get rid of my English accent – not only as the character but with your singing voice,” he explains, “because you don’t really realize, but you definitely sing in whatever accent you talk in naturally.”
To better his musical talents, Roe immersed himself, following through with what he describes as an “intense” guitar regimen.
“As far as the chord structure of country music, it’s quite simple,” he explains. “It’s usually three chords, four chords and a variation of those in the verses and choruses. So that was pretty simple.
“What was difficult was,” he continues, “we went and recorded the songs for the soundtrack in Nashville, and then these amazing musicians just take the chords that you’ve done and they just make amazing embellishments and different picking patterns and stuff like that. So then that’s what I need to try and emulate. So, that was tough to try and copy the picking patterns and how they move from chord to chord, not just in a simple strumming style; they kind of embellish it. So, that was definitely really difficult.”
The music and setting is just a backdrop for the plot, though. Roe was also attracted to the coming-of-age element behind the romance on the surface.
“I think there are various coming of ages in life, but I think you kind of go off and you live what you think that you wanted to live, and for (Page), that was to be famous and to be a singer and to get involved in that world,” Roe explains. “But I think he realizes in this movie that his hometown, his family and his roots are really, really important to him, and he reconnects with those.”
As a romance, family and coming-of-age story, Roe had to have chemistry with his costar, Rothe, to sell the tricky relationship between the two characters.
“With Jessica, it’s really lucky that she’s incredibly beautiful and also really smart and funny,” Roe says. “So, it was about us getting to know each other … it was really easy for me to imagine falling in love with her and being in love with her.”
Roe also worked easily with Abby Ryder Fortson, who plays Billy, the daughter his character never knew he had.
“Chemistry is such a strange thing; it’s like you either have it or you don’t,” Roe says. “We’d just joke around from day one. We’d kind of brought that on to set. We’d improvise quite a lot, and I think a lot of the scenes that made it into the movie were us improvising and messing around. She was just down to play and really in-the-moment, which is amazing for a child actress to be that in-the-moment.”
Through the romantic elements, and the maturation underwent by Page, Roe feels viewers can connect with “the idea of forgiveness and the idea of making up for your past mistakes and it never being too late.”
“I think it’s a really great thing that hopefully people can relate to,” he continues, adding they can connect with “the importance of home.”
“I think me, as an actor coming out to America and having a lot of family that I don’t get to see as much as I wish that I could, I definitely relate to the importance of staying true to your roots.”
There are notable differences between the film and the 2012 book, though. One of the major changes is Page character is a country singer, instead of a rock star. For this reason, Roe made it his job to keep the script as a separate entity from the book.
“The script is a lot different to the book, so I didn’t want to familiarize myself too much with the book because I didn’t want to be on set and be thinking, ‘this should be like this,’” he says. “I just wanted to approach the script on its own.”
Despite the changes, Roe says reception has been positive, and he has felt the love of the book’s fans.
“There have been people at screenings that have been big fans of the book that initially were worried about the differences, but when they come out of the movie, they seem to be really positive about it and they’ve had a great experience watching the movie as a whole,” he says. “So, I think that the fans of the book definitely enjoy the movie, too, for some of the same reasons and some different reasons.”
Roadside Attractions’ PG-rated Forever My Girl opens nationwide Friday, January 19.