Jennifer Kaytin Robinson was 18 when a psychic shattered her dreams. The Miami native was doing theater in New York, envisioning a career in acting, when she stopped to get her palm read. Turns out, her palm had a lot to say — namely, that acting wouldn’t be her big break.
“[The psychic] said, ‘You’ll do that at some point, but there are three things that come before that that are much more important,’” Robinson tells EW. Those three things? Writing, producing, and directing, though it took Robinson a while to figure that out. At the time, she was just an 18-year-old who didn’t like the answer she’d been given.
“I didn’t know I wanted to be [The O.C. creator] Josh Schwartz — I thought I wanted to be Rachel Bilson,” says Robinson. “I didn’t understand the job that I wanted, and that’s why visibility is so important — women like Ava DuVernay and Greta Gerwig and these female filmmakers who are out in front of their projects. I didn’t know that was a job.”
Robinson wrote her first pilot at 21 and sold her first show, MTV’s short-lived critical darling Sweet/Vicious — which followed a sexual-assault-survivor-turned-vigilante — at 26. And now Robinson, 31, is about to make her directorial debut with Netflix’s Someone Great (out April 19), which she also wrote. The film stars Gina Rodriguez as Jenny, a music writer who goes through a devastating breakup with her boyfriend of nine years (played by Lakeith Stanfield) and turns to her best friends (Brittany Snow and DeWanda Wise) for the only thing that could make her feel better: one last epic night out in New York City before she moves across the country for her dream job.
The seeds of the story were personal. “I was dumped in my early 20s, and while this movie has nothing to do with that relationship, out of that experience I wanted to make a deconstructed rom-com that’s way more com than rom and that is really about women holding each other up and a woman choosing herself,” Robinson says. “I pitched it forever as (500) Days of Summer meets Drunk History.”
Robinson used that exact phrase with Feigco Entertainment, the production company founded by Bridesmaids director Paul Feig. “Jenn brought us this script, and I flipped for it,” Feig, a producer on the film, says. “I knew she was wanting to direct it, and she had such a clear vision. It was easy for me to say ‘I guarantee she can do this.’”
As writer-director, Robinson was able to help put together a mostly female crew to tell an inherently female story and cast women of color in leading roles. “I wanted this movie to feel like the audience this is for,” Robinson says. Adds Rodriguez: “Seldom do you see Latinas as leads in rom-coms. I was really proud of Jennifer and what she put together.”
With the Big Apple as its backdrop — and an addictive soundtrack to set the mood — Someone Great is about love, friendship, and, sometimes, drinking a little too much to help you deal with your crap. But there’s one thing it’s not about: losing everything because of a failed relationship.
“In so many movies, the woman has to blow up her whole life just to put it back together,” says Robinson, who’d love to make a “weird horror movie” next. “What?! I’ve never done that! No, you get f—ed up for a day, and you do some weird stuff, and then your life continues. Women can be messy and all over the place, but that doesn’t mean they’re quitting their jobs. Why can’t we be messy and also fine?”
Someone Great hits Netflix on Friday, April 19.
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