The meet-cute in “Top Gun: Maverick” alum Monica Barbaro’s new romantic comedy “At Midnight” isn’t exactly smooth. Diego Boneta’s character Alejandro, a hotel manager, does a sweep of Barbaro’s character Sophie’s room before she arrives and sees that there are no towels. So Alejandro runs off to get some, but accidentally walks in on a fully naked Sophie who’s just taken a shower.
“I kept having to slam this door back to stop him from coming in and I had the biggest bruises on my back and my butt for like the majority of our filming process that they then had to keep covering up when I was wearing bikinis and crop tops and things,” Barbaro told TheWrap. “I didn’t realize it was a stunt, I guess. I just kept slamming the door out of sheer terror of [Diego] probably actually seeing me naked, but we had a good time. That was actually something we shot very early and it just broke the ice right away.”
Barbaro, who played the pilot Phoenix in “Top Gun: Maverick,” enjoyed the pivot from action to romantic comedy for “At Midnight,” which arrives on Paramount+ Feb. 10. She had three years between each project.
Her character, Sophie Wilder, is an actress working on the “Super Society” film franchise (think Avengers) but her life changes when she finds out her costar and boyfriend Adam Clark (Anders Holm) cheated on her. Sophie heads to Mexico City to film the next installment for her superhero character Firephina, and while her publicist and manager try to cover up the cheating scandal, she gets close with Alejandro (Diego Boneta) who manages the hotel where she stays.
“On the page, she was a strong character, but when I signed on, [director] Jonah Feingold, Diego Boneta and I talked a lot about how we could empower her more and not necessarily make this a story of someone who doesn’t like their job and is trying to run away from it, or even someone who’s trying to run away from their ex and into the arms of someone else,” Barbaro said. “We wanted the romance to be earned and we wanted her autonomy and her ownership of her life to be to be strong in the end, and not something that she sort of sacrifices for love and not something that she sacrifices love to try to maintain.”
Barbaro lent some of her personal wardrobe to the film — including a yellow dress with off-the-shoulder sleeves. Her dancing background also came into play. She brought on choreographer Desi Jevon to create the pivotal scene in which they go dancing at midnight.
“We did rehearse for several hours and a few days, it was packed pretty tight,” she said. “Of course, we get there and the cobblestones are way more challenging than we thought and so we had to change some things — like the thing where her leg comes around and pulls [Alejandro] in — that was made on the day and it turned out to be even better than the thing we had before.”
Boneta’s character Alejandro speaks Spanish, and most of the film takes place in Mexico City where the romance between Sophie and Alejandro blooms.
“I’ve never seen anything like this. It is like Hollywood meets Mexico in a beautiful way whereas I think historically [Hollywood’s] kind of treated [Mexico] as this desolate wasteland,” Barbaro said. “Mexico sort of became its own character and its own enriching experience. “I have Mexican and Italian heritage and it’s funny because if I only watched movies to learn about my history, I’m destined to kill a lot of people. So that is just the saddest thing and just not a full picture of the Italian American community or the Mexican community [and] the Mexican American community.”
When asked if she would take on a Marvel role after her fictional part as superhero Firephina, Barbaro says she’s all about it.
“I feel like similar to a rom-com, superhero material is, in a way, a rite of passage. Of course, it’d be so fun to work with superhuman powers,” she said. “It’s just very cool how they get into societal conversations and like, you can sort of hide the medicine and the food with those stories.”
“At Midnight” arrives exclusively on Paramount+ Friday, February 10. Check out the exclusive vintage-themed poster below: