Pop-Culturalist Chats with The Browsing Effect’s Nikki SooHoo

Is finding romance any easier in the era of online dating? The Browsing Effect is one of the few romantic comedies to put dating apps front and center in a story of modern love. It follows a group of friends as they fall down the Tinder rabbit hole and end up on a journey of self-discovery.

Nikki SooHoo plays Rachel, a motivated young woman who eagerly embraces the digital dating world. We got the chance to chat with Nikki about navigating relationships, using dating apps, and getting to inhabit a character’s chaotic life.

P-C: Please tell us a little about the film, your character, and what drew you to this project.
Nikki: The Browsing Effect is basically a realistic portrayal of online dating and the relationships that you might make or break because of that. I play the role of Rachel. She’s an adopted Chinese girl who’s actually Jewish. [She’s] very self-motivated, makes a lot of money, has that whole type of lifestyle in an image. She has everything that you would think you would need; yet she is empty inside because she still doesn’t feel like it’s good enough, like there’s something that’s still missing. She’s still searching for who she is even though she’s achieved all these things that society has told her she should have by that point.

I think what drew me to being a part of this movie was: 1. I had never actually experienced online dating at all personally at that time; and 2. I really appreciated my character that I got to play because I loved that it was not a racially specific role. It wasn’t written to be an Asian character. [The script] didn’t comment about being Asian; if anything, it commented about me being Jewish. That was really neat. Plus, I very much related to her in being a high-achiever. But she is almost this alter-ego that I enjoy getting to play. At that time, I was in a committed relationship that I’d been in for a long time. So to play this role that she was just so out there and doing all these crazy things, it was like getting to experience it without it being real. It’s always kind of fun.

P-C: How did you prepare for the film?
Nikki: Funny enough, it was like a normal audition. I was very surprised I got the role because when I auditioned, I felt like I was a hot mess. I was running late. They called me, and I hadn’t even put my heels on yet. My shirt was half-tucked, I kept forgetting all my lines. I asked [director] Michael [Feinstein] afterwards, “Why did you cast me? I felt like I was a hot mess!” And he said, “But no, you completely embodied the character.” So it’s just natural and I was very much like her, I guess. I talked to a lot of other friends and heard about their personal dating experiences and just put myself in the position of it – I got to be this person. I think it was pretty close to who I was already. So I kind of took who I was and put it in the position of, If I were doing these things, what would I feel and be like?

P-C: What are some similarities between you and Rachel?
Nikki: Well, definitely being a high-achiever and somebody who had the set of life expectations for myself that I think society has taught a majority of us: get a good job, make a lot of money, have your own apartment. As I grew up, I felt that same mentality of striving for these things and working really hard and not feeling like anything is actually good enough for me – I want something more – that feeling that there’s always something that I could be doing or that I could be better at – just trying to find me. When I was shooting, I was totally in that stage in my life of trying to find me. So it was perfect because my character was also trying to find herself. But Rachel is definitely a lot more risqué and promiscuous than I personally am. I don’t know that I could make out with all those guys in the same day! But I like her adventurousness, you know? I liked her. Actually there was a scene that got cut out where my character was reveling in the fact that she had done a threesome. I would never have done a threesome in real life. But it’s kind of cool. That’s a very scary thing and she’s so brave.

P-C: You mentioned that you hadn’t previously used dating apps at all. What is your stance on them? It is similar to or different from Rachel’s?
Nikki: I definitely didn’t experience it while I was shooting the film, but now I have dived into the world of online dating. I have had a different experience than Rachel in that I have actually connected with a lot of very cool people. So I think Rachel had experienced meeting people that she thought were one thing and then they happened to be something else or they just weren’t good enough. Like, they were these façades; they were images that I wanted to complete as Rachel. She just wanted that button-down, blue Oxford guy and that was good enough. But I’ve been able to meet so many different types of people on online dating, and a lot of them have been really genuine, very good people. I actually ended up dating somebody a year ago that I met online. I’m very grateful for that opportunity.

P-C: Which of Rachel’s relationships was your favorite to explore?
Nikki: I really liked my relationship with Ben because I, personally, am the type of person that likes to be friends with my exes. The character was experiencing the same thing that I experience all the time of breaking up with someone and then being like, “Come on, let’s be friends!” and they’re not ready to be friends and react in these ways. But it felt so real for me to have that reenactment of going through that, of breaking up with somebody that you really care about and wanting to be close to them, but not knowing how to navigate that relationship: “I feel very grateful for all of the relationships that I’ve had, and if I ever made you my boyfriend, it was because I thought you were amazing. Just because we broke up doesn’t mean you’re not amazing. You’re just maybe not ready for me as a partner.” I struggle with literally the same thing. I’m like, “Let’s be friends! I don’t get why you want to push me away.”

P-C: Since this is a romantic comedy, was there any room to do improv during filming? Or was it totally scripted?
Nikki: It was pretty scripted. But I think some people in general are more improv-y and added their own things in. I like to work directly off of the script. I’m not too much of an improv-er. I’m like, “I’m pretty sure what you wrote is better than anything I might come up with.” But Michael is a very flexible director. [He’ll say,] “If it doesn’t sound right, how would you re-word it?” and then allow us to say it in a way that made us feel comfortable and natural.

P-C: So he gave you room to experiment.
Nikki: Exactly, because it was more about the connections and the relationships than it was about the timing or the comedy.

P-C: Do you have a favorite scene or moment that you’re excited for your fans to see?
Nikki: Actually one of my favorite scenes was getting to work with a mini version of me. I loved the way that Michael brought in these different filming styles, where he’d pop in things that didn’t actually fit into the reality or real world of the scene. So there’s one scene with a mini-me and mini-my-boyfriend. They’re talking to each other, and it was just fun and cute because they’re adorable. The little girl who played mini-me was just so cute. It’s like, “Oh, that’s like me talking to a little version of myself!”

 

To keep up with Nikki, follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and catch The Browsing Effect on digital and on demand April 9th.

Roan Bibby