Lucy Hale & Austin Stowell Interview: The Hating Game

The Hating Game, based on the 2016 Sally Thorne novel of the same name, arrives in theaters and on demand on December 10. Rom-com aficionados will immediately identify the enemies-to-lovers trope at the heart of the story, buoyed by the excellent chemistry between costars Lucy Hale (Ragdoll) and Austin Stowell (Fantasy Island). They play Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman respectively, begrudging coworkers at a beleaguered publishing company.

Their workplace animosity is stoked when the two passionate employees find themselves in competition for the same position, leading to a rise in tensions like never before. And yet, neither one can help but feel drawn to the other, which makes for a cat-and-mouse game that brings out both their claws and their best qualities.

Related: 10 Most Common Tropes In Holiday Rom-Com Movies

Hale and Stowell spoke to Screen Rant about how much fun they had on set, and how their characters find the best of themselves while trying to hate each other. Check out a brand-new exclusive clip from the film below, and then read on for the juicy details from our interview.

Screen Rant: I love your chemistry, which is really what the film relies on. I know that you had a pre-existing friendship before the film. How much were you given room to play with the banter between Lucy and Josh, and to work on that chemistry?

Austin Stowell: Friendship? I don't know about friendship... [laughs]

Lucy Hale: That is a stretch, Tatiana. We tolerated each other.

No, that was why I was so excited to do this movie: because I got to do a fun rom-com with a friend. Like you said, the driving force of the movie is that chemistry. The audience has to be right there with you, wanting these people to get together so badly. I knew that with Austin, we would have so much fun playing around. Peter [Hutchings], the director, let us kind of do whatever we wanted. We came in knowing, after reading the script, exactly who Lucy Hutton is and who Josh Templeman is. And we really wanted to honor the book and honor who these people were in the book.

But other than that, we got to figure out the chemistry. It was just fun getting to show up every day and eat Boston's Dunkin Donuts and then figure out what scene we were doing for the day. We had too much fun. It was one of those movies where I was like, "This is our job? This is ridiculous." It was too much fun.

Austin Stowell: All that, across the board.

Maybe less fun is Josh's family and his dynamic with them. Austin, can you talk about exploring the more vulnerable side of him that we uncover as the movie goes on?

Austin Stowell: That's what drew me to Josh from the very beginning; that he had this shield up. He seemingly had his stuff together: looks sharp all the time, he's got a good job, works out. And then as soon as you start to peel back the layers, you start to understand that this is someone who's been hurt. He's been heartbroken, and all of this is just a self-defense mechanism.

He's trying so hard to heal himself by burying himself in work and really just avoiding his emotions. And all the while, he has this person across from him that's really meant for him. He's scared to take that leap of faith again; he knows that he's having these feelings, and he knows what it could lead to - but he also knows what it also could lead to. He doesn't want to be hurt again, and he thinks that it's better not to rock the boat and live the lonely life until Smurfette over here pries him out of his cage of loneliness.

I think that a lot of times, the female lead would be one that's so spunky and feisty, and that that's what draws the guy to her. But in this case, she's a pushover, and he inspires her to not be one. Can you talk about the dynamic from that perspective?

Lucy Hale: I think that for a while, it might be on a subconscious level. And then she slowly becomes conscious of, "Josh makes me better. He makes me more confident. Having that competitive edge at work does something for me." And you have those moments in the script where she has the dream about him, and she's like, "Mother... I like him!"

The ups and downs of their relationship help Lucy embrace who she really is and who she wants to be. Because I think there's a lot of qualities in Josh that Lucy aspires to have. And he knows that too; that's why Josh is such a nice guy. He knows that by being the asshole, it makes Lucy step into her power. I think that is ultimately what is so sweet about Josh because he has to put on that hat and play that role in order for Lucy to become her best self.

More: Every Movie Coming To Theaters In December 2021

The Hating Game arrives in theaters and on demand December 10.

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