Originally from the North of England, Josh Whitehouse is the songwriting actor who plays Randy in the new remake of Valley Girl: Like, Totally, A Musical. It’s a spin on the eighties classic, this time starring Alicia Silverstone as an older Julie, telling her daughter the story of her youth and entanglement with edgy, angsty love interest, Randy.
Randy is the guy we all went to high school with who we avoided bringing home to our parents – even if just as a friend. Sweet but a little misunderstood, Randy thrives in the Hollywood punk scene, which Julie takes a fond interest in. The two play tug of war between their two worlds in this flashy and upbeat love story, driving home a theme of connection amidst diversity. Valley Girl the remake pays homage to the original film…while upping the stakes a little.
We caught up with Randy – er, Josh – and discovered that he himself is in a band. ‘More Like Trees’ is a fusion of all the great genres, and they released a full length album. Read our conversation below to find out how his band is getting along now, what the Valley Girl set was like, and why his audition tapes are so legendary.
Valley Girl is so colorful, so fun – what was the vibe like on set?
The vibe on set was exactly what you see on the screen! Everybody was so prepared and so excited to be there. People were working really hard on the show and putting every ounce of passion they could into it. There was so much dancing, so much to learn, and singing; it was a really fun project. And everybody on set seemed to be really grateful for that! And that, as an actor, is a really delightful vibe to be walking into.
That’s wonderful. And it’s obvious you’re a musician, too; I just listened to your new album! I’m curious about your history with musicals, what was your reaction when you found out it was going to be one?
Well I knew it was going to be a musical when I got the script. Printed on the front page of the script it says Valley Girl: Like Totally A Musical! I was like “Woah! Ok Cool!” It was definitely an interesting thing to read, and something that was really exciting to me…being in a musical. [It’s] something that I’d never done before. But having been playing music since I was twelve years old, and acting for six years at that point, it was a really welcomed bridge to connect the two together. It was certainly a challenge, trying to do justice to that, as well.
What’s your relationship to your character Randy? Do you find similarities to him and maybe the way that you were in high school?
Yeah! Sure. I feel like a lot of my character prep was done already when I got Randy. The main thing I needed to work on was being an American and being in a musical. I feel like a lot of my youth growing up was very similar to Randy; although I would say I was a little bit more put together, a little more considerate of a human being, perhaps? But I certainly related to his drive for his music and his friendship circles. I went through my punk phase when I was seventeen…I felt as though I could draw on that when I was playing him.
Did you play punk music, too, then?
Yeah, I had a punk band! Chipping Campden, when I was about fifteen years old.
What was your favorite scene in the movie to shoot?
One of the ones I enjoyed the most was ‘Take On Me,’ partly because we were three quarters of the way doing the shoot and by that time, you really feel grounded in the character you’re playing. But also, a lot of the scenes I did musically with Randy, he doesn’t really get to do choreography…in the same way as the rest of the cast because he’s mostly moshing around and playing his guitar, so it was really fun to get to work on that beautiful old fashioned carousel and we choreographed step by step. That, for me, was a lot of fun.
And the most difficult?
Probably the most difficult scene to shoot was with the song called ‘You Might Think’ By The Cars. I go to the Valley Girl party with the punks; I find Julie in the bathroom – which was recreated from the original – and a musical scene starts. There was so much going on in that scene. First of all I’m sliding down the rooftop, and jumping off; jumping across cars; doing a whole dance with Julie; then I’m juggling with a guy in the street; then we walk into a club…that was definitely a challenge to do all of those things and maintain swagger and calm and cool. But it was also heavily beneficial to me. I learned a lot and it was very enjoyable and very memorable.
What a ride!! With this quarantine, obviously things are more difficult, but are you still writing with your band, ‘More Like Trees’?
It’s funny because about a year and a half ago my bass player moved back to New Zealand and I was heartbroken because I thought it was the end of our band. But we just put out our album that we managed to work on before he left; it’s funny, through the quarantine, I realized I’m in Los Angeles, my brother’s in London, and my bass player is in New Zealand so we’re all separated! And surely there’s a way we can work together weirdly quarantine inspired us to make videos together. So recently, we’ve been more productive when we’re furthest apart…in different corners of the world. We’ll keep putting out more videos. Certainly while in quarantine, I’ve been writing a lot of new music so I’m going to start sending them new demos.
Would you maybe share one unreleased song title?
Yeah! I’ve got a song called ‘Let You Down,’ ‘Take Me Anywhere,’ and I most recently wrote one called ‘Hit That Ball’ — it’s based on a joke that me and my girlfriend have. You know sometimes, there’s a joke you might make that nobody would ever pick up on: it’s like you throw the ball but no one else would hit it *laughs*
Oh I can definitely relate. So, one of the other cast members told me that you have these legendary audition tapes? What was your tape for Valley Girl?
Yeah! Honestly, the first tape that I sent, I played it kind of cheesy because that’s what I thought they wanted. But right at the end of the tape, I kind of threw my head back and went “Yeeeyeyeyee!” The director called me back and said “You know, I was watching your tape and I wasn’t sure about it; but then right at the end, you threw your head back and I thought ‘That’s Randy!’ Can you inject that into the whole scene?”
So I did another series of tapes just like that. I got a go pro and I attached it to a microphone, right up close so it was in the lens; and I thrashed around in the studio and filmed myself singing along to ‘Bad Reputation’ and then I edited it together and put really high contrast and brightness so it was almost black and white, sort of punk looking. I nearly got whiplash, thrashing my head around like that. And I think it was little touches like that that caught the director’s attention.
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story / Ariana Tibi