Released only a week ago, the music video for Maroon 5 and Cardi B’s “Girls Like You” has already racked up more than 48 million views on YouTube, thanks in large part to the pantheon of goddesses who pop up throughout.
Sure, you’ll immediately recognize icons like Jennifer Lopez, Ellen DeGeneres, Gal Gadot, and Mary J. Blige, but there’s also comedians Phoebe Robinson and Lilly Singh, activists Angy Rivera and Jackie Fielder, and athletes Chloe Kim and Alex Morgan. And let’s not forget the heroic gymnast who inspired so many to speak their own truths: Aly Raisman. At a time when the world is primed for strong female role models, the video offers a who’s who of female empowerment.
“Honestly, we put out the call and these women all showed up,” says video director David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers). “It was almost overwhelming. We [were] so honored each person came.”
Below, Dobkin details how he and Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine managed to bring together some of entertainment’s brightest stars to create a video supernova.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This is the third Maroon 5 video you’ve directed. How did you get involved in this one specifically?
DAVID DOBKIN: Adam and I have known each other since 2001, 2002. He comes to me sometimes with different tracks and we’ll talk about them. This was my favorite song on the album, and I really was attached to it. When I heard it was going to be the third video, I was like, I gotta do it. I felt it could be about all women. I went to him and said, “Why don’t you not be in the video, and let me do a montage of all these amazing women throughout history? I’ll end with all these women that are running for Congress,” ’cause I’m very proud of what’s happening with the women’s movement. [Levine] goes, “I see what you’re trying to do, but I think it’d be better if it was women that were [at the shoot]. Why don’t we just have all different women sing the song?” I said, “What if I circle you, and every time I circle you it’s another woman?” So Adam said, “Yes, let’s do it. We should call Ellen first. Ellen will get this, and she’ll really love it.”
How long did the shoot take?
It took almost five months to make the video. It was [shot] all here in Los Angeles. We couldn’t move the equipment. It’s the longest circular motion-control shot ever done, according to the people who did the shot. Once I got into the technical aspects of what it took to put this thing together, and to do what I was proposing, which was an unedited shot with everybody in it, [Levine] realized very quickly that the resources needed to do it [were] gonna be bigger, bigger, bigger. I was like, “This isn’t gonna be a day anymore. It’s gonna be a couple of days.” And the two days turned into three days, turned into four days, and then eventually we shot for five days because Gal Gadot wanted to do it.
So the first day of shooting…
J. Lo was the first one that walked in, and she crushed it. She’s magic. Ellen came on the first shoot day. She was the first person to sign up and support it. And she was so amazing. She understood that all the other women were going to be put together with visual effects. It was so funny when she finally started looking around for where the women were coming from, which I did not tell her to do at all. She understood just as an artist — she was like, “Oh yeah, all these women are coming and going? I’m gonna look around for all of them.”
How did you decide which women would be featured?
After Ellen, we wrote personal letters to each and every one of these individual women, and we very carefully curated the group.… This is the list of people that we were inspired by, who said yes and actually were able to make it. I used the word “curated” just in the sense of having a list of people and who were available and wanting to represent many different races and religions and backgrounds and orientations. Adam… wrote the letters. Some people he called. I know he called Tiffany Haddish directly. And it was really funny ’cause sometimes the girls come in and their management is like, “Wait, what’s going on?” Cardi flew out and shot the video without anybody approving. She was awesome.
One thing I love is that the guys are in pretty plain clothes and therefore almost blend into the gray/blue background, but the women are wearing either brightly colored clothing or clothing with specific messages. Was that done on purpose?
Absolutely — including Adam wearing a black shirt. It was like everything we could do to have him and the music there but not there.… We let everybody [else] choose what they were wearing.… Part of the idea was always that you may not know everybody, and that would drive people to ask questions and go, “Oh, who’s this girl and what is that thing on her shirt? What does that say? What is that movement about?”
Was there anyone you couldn’t get?
The one regret I had was Helen Mirren. She was going to be in it, and we could not work out the schedule. But at one point I looked at Adam and was like, “We have to stop.” … Seriously, we were like, “Let’s go to London and we’re gonna get Adele,” and we were trying to get a hold of Michelle Obama, and I was like, “You know I extended the final chorus to get everyone in!“
But not every project lends itself to be able to do this kind of thing. Music videos are very special because you’re taking a song and you’re assigning it a visual, and if you’re doing it well, you’re assigning it a meaning that’s hopefully as big and beyond as what the song is intending. And this certainly was one of those cases.
This interview has been edited and condensed.