In The Boy Next Door, Jennifer Lopez plays Claire, who is still smarting after splitting with her husband when he cheats on her. When her new teenage neighbor, Noah, befriends Claire’s son Kevin, it’s only a matter of time before Claire and Noah get involved intimately. When Claire tries to rectify the situation, Noah refuses to go away quietly.
Ryan Guzman, who is best known for his roles in the Step Up series, first heard about the role of Noah, the 19-year-old who’s as charming as he is evil, through his manager. Guzman learned that Lopez wanted him to participate in a table read. He laughs: “When I was told that she wanted me to come in, I thought it was a prank. But they assured me it was real, so I read the script. I loved the character because Noah was so dark and completely different from anything I’d ever done.”
Director Rob Cohen shares what drew him to Guzman for the role: “We had a cold reading of the script one Tuesday night at Jennifer’s, and the first guy who walks in was Ryan. We were amazed, but he was the first actor so we thought, ‘He’s great, but let’s see who else is out there.’ We read about 150 other young actors, but we finally got to the point where we realized that the best guy we had seen was Ryan.”
Lopez adds that she appreciated the honesty of his performance: “We knew that it was such a challenging role for any young actor, but Ryan came in and right away showed us he knew what he had to do to play this character. We did make him read several times, because going from the boy next door to a sociopath is no small feat for an actor of any age or experience.
As it turns out, Guzman connected with both sides of his character. He elaborates: “We’ve all been there with our first loves, where we didn’t know how to handle the love or how to interpret what the new feelings were. This was an opportunity for me to experience that again, and obviously show a dark side that I’ve never shown anybody. That was the attraction to the whole character, demonstrating that I could be a bad guy.”
Guzman agreed with Cohen, who felt Lopez was the perfect partner to help him discover his character: “At the beginning of filming, I was nervous. Of course I knew I was going to have incredibly intimate scenes with Jennifer, and I was still unsure of how to play it. But as soon as we got going, I felt at ease. I learned so much just from watching her work. We worked incredibly well together to make the story line as good as it could possibly be.”
The Boy Next Door is available starting April 28 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
© Universal Pictures Credit: Suzanne Hanover