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Disney Plus’ Vacation Friends star Yvonne Orji has nothing but praise for John Cena

We spoke to Yvonne Orji the star of the new Disney Plus comedy movie about working with John Cena

Vacation Friends interview

There’s nothing quite like a relaxing vacation is there. The calm ocean breeze, chilling by the pool, accidentally ingesting cocaine. Wait? What was that last one? Vacation Friends, the new raucous Disney Plus adult comedy movie, is all about those strange people you meet while on holiday who seem great at the time, but you quickly realise you’ve nothing in common with besides the fact you both like the same bar.

Starring Yvonne Orji and Lil Rel Howery, Vacation Friends tells the story of Emily and Marcus, an uptight couple who, while on holiday, meet Ron (John Cena) and Kyla (Meredith Hagner), two free spirits who get the couple to unwind. While Emily and Marcus are confident they’ll never see the chaotic duo again, they quickly learn how wrong they are when their old ‘friends’ crash their wedding.

We were lucky enough to sit down with the film’s star Yvonne Orji and talk a little about the movie surprisingly deep take on prejudice and classism; if she’s ever met anyone like Ron and Kyla in real life, and we talk about the cocaine mentioned above. Don’t worry; it makes sense in context.

The Digital Fix: On the surface, this is a film about friendship, but more than that, it’s a movie about perception and our biases. We see that Marcus and Emily look down on Ron and Kyla, they’re happy to be their friends in Mexico, but they have no interest in them once they leave. Beyond that, we see Emily’s family look down on Marcus because he’s a “blue-collar worker”. Did those themes of classism and bigotry draw you to the project?

Yvonne Orji: Yeah, I think the heart and the humanity of the film made me want to do it. I think at the end when you see the twist, and you see Ron and Kyla and the reason why they show up, it makes Emily and Marcus feel like trash a little bit.

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Like we were horrible friends when they were just being the best. I mean, did they invade our wedding? Yes. Did they feed my grandmother drugs? Yes. But when you find out why you’re like, “oh, they really did have good intentions, and that was what drew me to the script.

I mean, Ron and Kyla have form when it comes to giving people drugs, so they should have known. Who doesn’t love a rim of cocaine around their margarita?

Haha [shrugs]

You mentioned during the press conference that Emily’s something of a people pleaser and that you identified with that trait. Do you share any other qualities with Emily?

Yeah, you know I definitely was that daughter wanting to make sure things were okay with my parents and trying to pacify them and still live my life. You know, like ‘ listen just give them what they want then we can get what we want’.

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I’ve learned though they’re never going to be happy, no parent is ever going to be happy, you give them an inch, and they take two miles. I think Emily comes to that realisation that she needs to stand up not just for herself but for the person who she loves, and we see her come into her own.

The movie’s tremendously funny, and surprisingly raunchy, while still having a lot of heart. Is it difficult as a performer to strike that balance between being funny and dramatic?

No, because I think that’s the essence of who I am as a comedian. You get the humour, but if you peel back the layers, I’m quite deep. I think people tend to think funny people only have that note.

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You know, like ‘they’re funny’, we’re only coming to you for laughs. We’re not coming to you for a TedTalk, but it’s like wait a minute, who says that.

You worked really closely with John Cena, Lil Rel, and Meredith in the movie. Did you guys end up becoming friends during filming?

Yeah, you know it was a lot of fun. I’d never worked with Meredith or John. Lil rel and I had worked together on Insecure but also in our real lives in comedy.

Vacation friends

Getting to meet John and Meredith, though, they were a breath of fresh air. John Cena is a consummate professional, he is so generous and giving in his work, and he leaves space. He takes up so much room but gives people the room they need.

He’s a big man with a big heart! I’m getting the wrap-up, so I have to ask. Have you ever made vacation friends like Ron and Kyla?

No one who’s ever offered me cocaine, so that’s a no.

Thanks so much for taking the time to speak to me today. I wish the movie all the success in the world. Bye now!

Thank you! Bye! And bye to your cat!

Vacation Friends will debut on August 27 exclusively on Disney Plus here in the UK.