Greatest Days’ star and director on Covid, choregraphy, and connection

Coky Giedroyc and Jessie Mae Alonzo joined The Digital Fix to talk all things Take That in new movie Greatest Days, which celebrates British '90s nostalgia.

the young cast of greatest days

As a director, Coky Giedroyc is a well-respected figure in the British TV industry. Along with landmark miniseries like The Nativity and The Virgin Queen, she directed films like Stella Does Tricks, Women Talking Dirty, and How To Build A Girl. All of her movies have British culture and nostalgia at the heart; and Greatest Days, a new movie based on musical The Band, is no different.

Speaking to The Digital Fix, Giedroyc discussed ’90s culture, nostalgia, and our favorite Take That songs along with Jessie Mae Alonzo — a rising star in the comedy movie who plays the integral role of Debbie: the glue that binds a group of Take That-loving schoolgirls together. Here’s how it went.

The Digital Fix: Cokey, how did your previous movies inform this one?

Coky Giedroyc: I’ve been going a long time [laughed]. A long, long time. And so the challenges for this film were to make this, big kind of ambitious movie. But do it in a really efficient, quick way, basically.

So, the biggest thing for me on this was to dig into all the experience I’ve had in television and film of all these years, and just basically, bring it in, not mess around. So, for example, the big number that we did at Stansted Airport, we had a day and a half to shoot that. And the finale we did in less than a day. So it’s just like being ambitious but doing it really fast and well.

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TDF: Cokey, what was it like working with Take That? Did they provide any valuable insights?

CG: They were really supportive. They really love this film. They love the musical. And they basically said to us, “Just go for it, wrap your arms around it, do what you want.” They were very, very clear on the music, though. They wanted a very particular sound. And they worked really closely with our composers. So that was where they were most involved. Generally, for me, they were just like, “Go for it. Do what you want. Think big, be amazing.” And lovely guys.

TDF: Jessie, what was your favorite sequence to film?

CG: [To Jessie] I know yours, it was ‘Relight!’

Jessie Mae Alonzo: Yeah, I know, I know [laughs]. It really was ‘Relight My Fire’ because of the bus scene, and it was just so fun because do like a little solo bit in the intro. And I just kind of went full out, I just went for it. And it was so much fun! So I would say ‘Relight,’ to be honest.

the young cast of greatest days

TDF: Jessie, how did you prepare for this role?

JMA: You know what? I didn’t even really think of [how to prepare]; I just kind of went for it. I don’t really think I wasn’t really thinking, ‘Oh, how do I, you know, act like it’s the ’90s?’  I think, to be fair, I love ’90s style. I love ’90s shows. So I didn’t really think about preparing. I was all good with that. I don’t really think I even asked my mom, like, ‘What was the ’90s? But actually, there were some props, like a Walkman. I was like, ‘What is that?’.

CK: You’ve got a ’90 spirit, though. You definitely do inside.

TDF: And how did you build a believable rapport with your on-screen friendship group?

JMA: I mean, all of us rehearse with each other. We were always together. So I would say that with all the time we spent together, we were kind of bound to bond. And we were all working hard together or dancing together. So there was a lot of teamwork. You know, just working together really like that is what made us bond.

the young cast of greatest days

TDF: Cokey, how did you navigate filming this during the pandemic?

CK: Yes, that was interesting [laughs]. The pandemic was kind of a big deal for us. We were heading into production in March 2020. I’d cast half of it. We were gunning for it. We were ready to go, and the whole thing grind to a halt. So, for over the next two years, it was in and out of production. And we were starting rehearsals, and we were stopping rehearsals.

It was very, very challenging. But by the time we filmed, we were kind of climbing out of it, weren’t we? And it just always felt like a film that people would want to see at the other end of everything, you know, at the other end of those dark days.

TDF: What is your favorite Take That song, and why?

JMA: So I’d say again, ‘Relight My Fire.’ Because it was just really fun! But also, if I were to choose, I’d say, ‘Could It Be Magic.’ Just because, also, the dance was so good. I suppose, literally, I still remember it. But yeah, it’s either ‘Relight My Fire’ or ‘Could It Be Magic.’

For more on the 2023 movie, check out our guide on how to watch Greatest Days. Or, have a read of our Greatest Days review.