‘Resort to Love’ stars Christina Milian and Sinqua Walls talk dodging geckos and singing Alicia Keys
Life is hard in paradise.
While much of the world was in lockdown, Christina Milian, Sinqua Walls, Jay Pharoah, and the rest of the Resort to Love cast and crew traveled to the island of Mauritius to film Netflix’s latest rom-com romp.
The film follows Milian’s Erica, an aspiring pop star, who takes a gig as a singer at an island resort as an attempt to get over a career meltdown and being dumped by her fiancé. But when said ex, Jason (Pharaoh), shows up to the resort for his wedding with new bride-to-be Beverly, Erica has to wrestle with feelings for him — and fend off his brother Caleb’s (Walls) attempts to keep them apart.
The entire project was filmed on location in Mauritius, leading to lots of unexpected adventure, including an abundance of geckos, an encounter with a terrifying bridge, and lots and lots of shirtless acting for Walls.
We called up Milian and Walls to get the stories behind their tropical paradise rom-com, what it was like singing Alicia Keys’ songs when she was producing the film, and how hard it was to keep a straight face around funny-man Pharoah.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The locations are so beautiful from start to finish. What was it like filming in Mauritius?
CHRISTINA MILIAN: We were on location in Mauritius from beginning to end, for like a total of two months. It’s literally paradise. We were pinching ourselves every other day saying how blessed we were.
SINQUA WALLS: Every day it was amazing. We were just like, “We don’t want to leave.”
Sinqua, your character virtually is shirtless or wearing a very low-cut shirt the entire movie. Did you have to do a lot of training to prep or was it intimidating to come in and be exposed like that?
WALLS: Christina was my trainer, so it was hard to keep up with her. [Laughs]
MILIAN: He’s the one who’s in shape. He was just so good. He was eating good the whole time. He had all these like scenes where he has to take your shirt off, but they literally were the last scenes that we shot in the entire movie. So the entire time, he was working his butt off in the gym, he was eating healthy. I mean I worked out at the gym, but I ate what I wanted. Because there was so much good food there.
WALLS: I was so envious. It was definitely a challenge. Obviously, you shoot out of order. So, you never know when we’re gonna need to require the shirtless wonder to show up. But you have to get ready for those moments, if it happens to be at the end of the day, your diet, and everything has to be consistent with that, so there are a lot of times where I’m looking at the food on other people plates like, “How does it taste? Does it taste good? What’s it like?”
Christina, you get to return to your own roots as a singer in this. What was that like? Did you get to choose any of the songs you sing?
MILIAN: The songs were already selected for the movie when I went into it, which were all like a big attraction to me when I was reading the script. I totally got it and I loved all the songs they chose. It was definitely one of the main attractions to why I did it. Especially, Alicia Keys, who’s in charge of the music part and producing, I knew she was going to take care of the music side, and for me, as a musician going into a rom-com doing music, you worry about those things. It’s just out of your head when you know Alicia is involved, so it was definitely one of the perks for me, being able to perform and to sing in front the audience that was there.
Her song “No One” plays a crucial role in the plot. Was it intimidating to sing her song and know she was watching?
MILIAN: I’ll admit I thought about it. I still think about it. It is definitely my character’s own take on it, and that’s the beauty of music — everybody has their own feelings, their own emotions, their own sounds, when it comes to music. I’m always impressed when I hear people sing my songs. It makes me happy no matter what, how they sound or what language or anything.
Throughout the film, Erica is terrified of the geckos that populate the island. Was that true to life or did you have any other wildlife encounters?
MILIAN: We did have geckos around; you would see those often. You’d see like crabs and stuff. I was trying to catch things in the water. Geckos would be in your room at nighttime, so you’d walk in the room and all of a sudden there’s like a whole family of them walking across the wall in the middle of the night or in the bathrooms. One time I saw this really scary thing, it freaked me out. It looked like a stem, and it was inside of the bathroom, and I got out of there so quick. When I went back in the next day it wasn’t there, so it was definitely a spider.
WALLS: The geckos didn’t worry me too much, but definitely when we got to the island we had a period of time where we had to be quarantined before we could go to the location. And I ended up having a lot of things come into my villa at the time. The gecko didn’t worry me, but all the other animals that were crawling in through the sink and the faucet did worry me because I’d never seen them before. Or I’ve never seen them of that size. The spiders were larger, the bees were bigger, the centipedes were longer. Those are the things that kind of got me.
Both of you share a lot of screentime with Jay Pharoah. Coming from SNL and a comedy background, did he make you laugh all the time?
WALLS: Oh yeah, Jay is a super talented brother. Every day that we were on set, he made it joyous and he made it fun because of those impersonations. That’s the great part about working with someone who has that talent at their fingertips. The first scene that brought all of us together that we were shooting in the movie, and I remember we’re off sitting outside and Jay just rattled off like four different impersonations. They were all spot on and me and Christina were both sitting there like, “Wow, this is crazy.” It was fun to work with him. He’s a teammate; he’s brother; he’s a friend; and he just comes to play every day.
MILIAN: It was uncanny the impersonations that he can do. You can tell he’s been doing this since childhood, so it’s like just name a person and next thing you know he breaks into it. He’s also just really funny, like there would be moments and scenes, and I have to offer this in this conversation as well, not only comedically but also dramatically, he offered a lot of that we weren’t expecting. Because you always think comedian. But the magic of the comedian is there’s so many different sides to them, and there’s levels and layers, so he did add some elements that I was like, not expecting even dramatically, to his scenes, whether it’s crying or things like that. I’m like, “Oh wow, there’s a soft spot to this guy.”
Christina, you needed to craft believable chemistry with both Jay and Sinqua. How did you build that with both of them and differentiate it for yourself?
MILIAN: The script is your guide, which is great when it comes to that. At the beginning, it’s really awkward. Like with Jay, we were like getting engaged and there was just some things that I was like, “Okay, this is not real life, it’s not normal like that.” But luckily, we went in there with our own personal experience and were able to reflect on those things. As time went on and we’re getting to know our characters more and seeing how we work together, it really offered a real comfort in trying things and understanding the characters together and building our own chemistry. With Sinqua, he actually hung out with us a lot. Sinqua spent a lot of time with us and the family, and we worked out and we all went out to eat together. We all went snorkeling. We all hung out, we still hang out actually.
WALLS: Yeah we do. I mean, I actually, I became Sinqua Milian by the end of the trip.
There’s also a scene where you have to cross this rather terrifying looking bridge over a gorge, and it prompts a bunch of drama. But was that real? Were you really out on that thing with cameras and everything?
WALLS: We really were out there. Christina actually did this really great impersonation of me crossing the bridge. I thought that it was going to be scarier and deeper, so when I got out there I was like, “Let me just get across it as fast as I can.”
MILIAN: He was like power walking through it.
WALLS: I was like a running back trying to run for a touchdown. I was going so fast. And then when I got out there, I was like, “Oh, it’s not that bad, But it will obviously scare the audience when they see it.”
MILIAN: I only went about like 30 percent of the way out. I’m not really a heights person. I did as much as I could, and then the rest of it, especially my scenes with Jay, we had that heavy duty little conversation stuff going on, so we actually shot that on green screen.
There’s a pretty fun karaoke scene. Did that ever turn into the real thing after hours?
MILIAN: There was a karaoke night. Our cast and crew did like a little “Kumbaya” by the beach one day. There’s a couple singers, and we have a couple of musicians and people that just love to sing. Music did come into play off camera as well.
What is your go-to karaoke song?
WALLS: Bobby Brown, “My Prerogative.”
MILIAN: Ah, that’s a good one. Well, mine is either Salt-N-Peppa, “Shupe,” or if I have a good friend that wants to sing with me with we could always sing “The Boy Is Mine” by Brandy and Monica.
MILIAN: I’m a little less bothered by the geckos than I am by a goat. A goat can literally kick you or spit on you or just doesn’t really care to have you around. Or they’ll jump on you, so I’ll go with the gecko.