Rye Lane's David Jonsson And Vivian Oparah Talk About Breathing Life Into A New Rom-Com [Exclusive Interview]

Compelling romantic comedies may be few and far between these days, but they can still be effective incubators for promising new talent. Raine Allen-Miller's upcoming "Rye Lane" is no exception. David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah star as Dom and Yas, two recently dumped twentysomethings who commiserate over their lost love and open their hearts to the prospect of something new while spending one fateful day walking across South London. Jonsson and Oparah may not be household names just yet, but their performances in "Rye Lane" will likely change that for the better. Both are doing phenomenal work in the film: Their endless charm and phenomenal chemistry injects an already stylish story with a delightful amount of substance.

Watching these two holding down the rom-com feels like a reminder that anything is possible, especially knowing what these two are pursuing post-"Rye Lane." Jonsson has been outspoken about creating space for more nuance in Black stories. That all starts with the characters he embodies, like Gus Sackey, the investment banker he's portrayed for two seasons on HBO's "Industry." Music is another passion for Oparah, who's been steadily producing music under the pseudonym Bunny (and aspires to compose film scores in the future). For now, though, the actors are content with the work they put into Allen-Miller's debut feature — and for good reason. Below, I chat with Jonsson and Oparah about the challenges, opportunities and joys of working on "Rye Lane."

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

'It was really about doing something that just felt different'

What excited you guys the most about your characters, or even about the project at large?

Jonsson: Well, I think for me, it is playing something that you haven't played before. This, and the script was entirely funny and actually really — Raine is a brilliant director who's made some amazing shorts. But equally, for me, it was really about doing something that just felt different. And as a young actor, you want to switch the dial and explore more. So that was it for me, I think.

Oparah: Yeah, same, to be honest. Bringing to life someone that felt like it could be a challenge to bring them to life. And playing Yas is like running a marathon, because she's so quick and impulsive and curious about everything and it's exhausting to think about. But when you understand the real human motivations behind her, then you're like, "Okay." You can get into it. So that was the challenge, but also because the script was so funny and Raine being attached to the project as well and knowing how much of a world builder she is, an incredible creative that she is, I was just like, "I need to do this."

'This film as a whole ... is kind of shining more of a light on the Black experience'

David, you've spoken a lot about a desire to bring different shades of the Black experience into the mainstream. So what did that look like where Dom was concerned?

Jonsson: I think Dom, the first time you meet him, is crying his eyes out in a cubicle of a bathroom. And I think as a young Black man, I'm pretty sure that's not our first point of call when we experience heartbreak. Maybe it's probably more anger or just another emotion—

Oparah: Guys cry last.

Jonsson: Yeah. That's kind of the status quo. So for me, I think there's something nice about not just playing Dom, but also this film as a whole, which I think is kind of shining more of a light on the Black experience. Not only that, but just also things that we haven't seen before, even in the genre. I ride shotgun on her motor bike. For me, that's cool. I think that's quite different about that. So being able to do roles like that feels important to me.

'It really just helps you bring them alive'

Vivian, you're pursuing music on top of your work in front of the camera. Did music inform how you were building out Yas at all? Did you make a playlist or anything like that?

Oparah: Yeah, definitely. Definitely always make a playlist for characters because, I don't know about you —

Jonsson: No, same, yeah.

Oparah: — but it really just helps you bring them alive and also grounds you in the hustle and bustle of set, just AirPods in, and listen to whatever you feel like brings you back to the character. But the top of my playlist, even before I knew who was scoring, was Kwes — and then Kwes ended up scoring the film, because he just makes that quintessential but quirky, but homely, South London sound. He's just someone that I thought of for the sonic world of Yas. And the score he made was so beautiful.

Jonsson: Amazing. Honestly amazing. Yeah, we have so many people —

Oparah: Incredibly talented.

Jonsson: And people who made this film, we're grateful for what we got to do, but we said it constantly: We had the best costume design, and the best hair and makeup ... and not only that, but we also had people who just really understood our culture and how to put us on screen. We're always indebted, I think, to them.

"Rye Lane" is in UK theaters now and debuts on Hulu on March 31, 2023.