“I had such a hard time being any kind of mean to her,” O’Keefe, 40, exclusively tells Us Weekly of filming 1999’s She’s All That. “She’s just so lovely.”
Naturally, Taylor didn’t take it well when her ex Zack Siler (Freddie Prinze Jr.) began dating Laney. Even though it was secretly for a “stupid bet.” She’d go on to compete with her for the prom queen title and throw a drink at her at Preston’s (Dulé Hill) party.
“My hands were shaking so hard before I had to do that. And I was like, ‘OK, come on, put on your big girl pants. You have to pour this drink on her, and do it in a mean way. It has to look good,'” she recalls. “But it was a real struggle, and I can remember finally two or three times into doing it, where I finally got the killer Vaughan of it all back on again, and felt OK about it. But at the same time still felt bad for pouring a drink on my friend.”
Taylor was at odds with Zack, too, after she cheated — and got tattoos — with Brock Hudson, played by Matthew Lillard. But, according to O’Keefe, Taylor and Zack almost briefly reunited.
“There was some scenes that were cut in the original script that I can remember when I was talking to our director [Robert Iscove] at one point during filming, and I was asking why they were cut,” she explains. “There was a reunion between Freddie’s character, and Taylor, where I think he was actually considering going back to her for a moment that just ended up not making sense in the long run.”
Taylor ended up winning prom queen, and showed off some stellar moves on the dance floor. “She could have peaked in high school, or she could be crazy and cold successful Taylor Vaughan,” the Hit the Floor star tells Us, envisioning where she is today. “Maybe she runs a magazine, or she’s into fashion, or not at all. Maybe she’s just this sad older woman who just keeps looking back at her high school days.”
Check out the rest of O’Keefe’s Q&A in our Now and Then series:
Us Weekly: Can you believe it’s been 20 years since the film?
Jodi Lyn O’Keefe: It’s so interesting to me that all this time later people are still really in love with it. It’s really held up. And it makes me even prouder because I was so green then. … It’s kind of timeless. Isn’t it? The odd man out at school. The whole teenage anxiety of life, and this type of realism. I don’t remember going to school with anyone who had a Mercedes dealership. I think it’s just the basic emotions of all those teenagers. I mean, come on, we had Lil’ Kim, we had Usher. And it was just the beginning of that genre.
Us: What was your relationship like with Rachael Leigh Cook and the cast?
JO: Basically, we were all just so starry-eyed. It was like this strange alternate reality. We were all doing this job, and just having such a good time, and we all felt so lucky. I can remember being on set, and realizing that we were all looking at each other, and being like, “This is great. This is the best time ever, and I can’t believe we’re all getting to do this.” We were all so young and it was just exciting.
Us: What’s your favorite memory?
JO: Really Rachael, and then going through my life and constantly running into her. Constantly seeing her, and then keeping the relationship going. Interestingly enough I was working across the street from her husband [Daniel Gillies]. I was on The Vampire Diaries, and he was on The Originals. And the first night that everybody had wrapped work we all sort of ended up at the same restaurant in Atlanta. I went over and said, “I’m childhood friends with your wife.” And then that reconnected Rachael and I again.
Us: What was it like filming the prom dance scene?
JO: The prom scene was so intimidating. We had two weeks of rehearsal. And I don’t even think half of my dancing actually ended up on film because I did that entire routine. We all did that entire routine. I had to get out to the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, and learn how to do all that beforehand. Thank goodness for all the dancers that they had hired because otherwise I don’t think I would have made it through. It was several days about the prom, and one of the days was strictly about the dancing, if I’m remembering correctly.
Us: You had the signature move in the front. Have you ever reenacted that?
JO: I’m sad to tell you — many, many times. It’s bizarre how people are seeing it again, or young people are watching it. It really continually surprises me that people will come up, and they, A, recognize me from that, and then B, ask me to do the dance move, which is so funny. I’m pretty sure I’ve done it three or four times in West Hollywood.
Us: Did you know any Taylor Vaughan’s in your own life?
JO: I mean, don’t we all? [Laughs] I found myself pulling from a lot of high school memories that I had. Not quite to the extent of Taylor. But girls are rough. I think I’ve made it my goal to never be like that in real life ever. Just to try and to be kind to women always.
Us: Taylor had a lot of harsh one-liners. Did you have a favorite?
JO: I get, “That’s so sweet,” all the time. When I asked Freddie if he thought we would still be dating in college, “Oh, my God. You did. That’s so sweet.”
Us: Are people surprised that your not your actual character when they meet you?
JO: Yeah, and it happens more often than not. It’s really funny. People are kind of shocked.
Us: You had such chemistry with Matthew Lillard. Was it uncomfortable at all filming the bed scene?
JO: Oh, he kills me. That man is one of the funniest creatures on the earth. And no, because we’re just such dorks. We just had such a good time. Every day I was excited to get there, and every day I was excited to do something else really silly. We just had a blast. I look back at that with nothing but beautiful memories.
Us: Did you break on set during his dance at Preston’s?
JO: I can’t even tell you how hard I laughed. I had both hands covering my face, and I just could not get over what he was doing. That was one of the most fun nights on set, for sure. He had help. It was meant to be that awkward. That’s Matthew just being as funny as he is, and coming up with so many moves. I mean, all of us, we were on the sidelines watching that, and we were dying.
Us: Have you bumped into Freddie over the years?
JO: [I saw him] a bunch of times at Whole Foods. And then one of the times I ran into him, I said, “Hey, Freddie. You married my childhood friend.” How often does that happen? When he married Sarah [Michelle Gellar]. ‘Cause I’ve known Sarah since I was 10. L.A. feels like a really small town to me.
Us: And Sarah had a small cameo on She’s All That!
JO: Yeah! They did a movie together. I Know What You Did Last Summer. That’s when I think they really got to spend time together, and then eventually it led to them falling in love. I don’t know if it was on that set, but I do know that’s when they connected.
Us: Did you take any memorabilia from set?
JO: I loved Taylor’s clothes so much. I took some jewelry. They gave me a couple rings that I had, and those went to my cousins. And one I saved for my niece.
Us: Do you think the movie should get a reboot or revival?
JO: Why not? I think it’d be really fun. I just hope that I’m included when it happens, and that way we all have our little moments as adults in the new film. As just an actor, and talking to other actors, I’ve heard a few times too it’d be really cool to see where all the cast is now, and do that movie of them later in life.
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