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Second Act is in theaters on Nov. 21.

To read more on Second Act and other highly anticipated fall movies, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands now, or buy it here. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

For her first live-action movie role since 2015, Jennifer Lopez knew she wanted to mount a particularly memorable return to the big screen. So, she brought the resurgence of an entire genre with her.

“I think people forgot about romantic comedies for a while,” the star of The Wedding Planner, Maid In Manhattan, and Monster-in-Law tells EW, referencing Hollywood’s obsession with macho blockbusters and superhero bromances. “You need these simpler, romantic, funny looks at life…. what’s the story we can tell that really makes you take a look at your life and reevaluate it and have a little more hope for the future? Those are the kinds of movies I always love. I’m a romantic at heart, anyway. I honestly think most people are.”

Enter the producer-star’s Second Act, the “underdog” story of Maya, an ambitious fortysomething who ditches her ageist managers at Costco for a fancy corporate gig in Manhattan (with the help of a heavily embellished resume). But this isn’t just Working Girl 2.0; In Lopez’s hands, Maya’s not a postgrad in her 20s struggling to shatter a glass ceiling and maintain a healthy relationship — she’s a seasoned working woman with professional savvy and street smarts sturdier than new colleagues’ university degrees.

“In every business, we’re second fiddle to men…. women [are] becoming more empowered and realizing we don’t have an expiration date, there’s not a certain age where all of a sudden you’re just not relevant anymore,” explains Lopez, whose producer instincts infused the film with an extra dose of genuine sisterhood as she enlisted real-life friend Leah Remini to play Maya’s right-hand woman, Joan. “We refuse to be written off, and I think that resonates in this movie very strongly, where you feel like, ok, there’s more, it’s not over. There’s not just more, the best is yet to come, and I create that, I do that with the knowledge I have now, the wisdom I have now, the age I have now, and with the experience I have now.”

And Maya’s unorthodoxy reflects America’s diverse, ever-growing collective of women on the career grind — a working-class slice of life Lopez, who grew up in the Bronx, knows well.

“What do you do when that working girl is 40 and she’s still the assistant manager at a Costco in Queens? What’s her life like?” the multi-hyphenate wonders. “What if I was still in the Bronx and working at a store. Who would I be? I know those people. I go back to my neighborhood at times, and I still have friends who live there and people my mom hangs out with…. It’s not something I’ve become disconnected from. I also feel no matter how much I travel and where I go, I always feel so connected to the working class I grew up in with my mom and my dad. It so affected me to see my dad working nights for 20 years… I think that’s why I work so many jobs. I feel like a working woman and a working girl. That’s who I am.”

Thus, alongside producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Lopez says she’s “looking to put those types of characters in the forefront as opposed to being ‘the girlfriend.’” Here, the role of the supportive significant other, Trey, instead goes to This Is Us star Milo Ventimiglia.

“For her character, she’s trying to prove herself to all these people and be impressionable to folks who never would have thought twice of her for a job, and she is impressionable, but you can’t ever lose where you come from, and Trey represents where she comes from,” Ventimiglia says of Lopez, who handpicked him for the part. “You can’t take your eyes off her… Knowing that [she wanted me for the role], I was like, how can I make this guy so real that she kind of can’t take her eyes off me?”

Still, Lopez’s sights trained firm on changing the game for women: In the land of Second Act, “it’s our time, baby.”

Read on for EW’s full Q&A with Lopez.

This also feels like a resurgence of the studio romantic comedy. Do you see this film as a romantic comedy in the traditional sense, or if not, how do you think it embodies the progression of the genre?
I think people forgot about romantic comedies for a while. And this one will definitely remind you of Maid in Manhattan, The Wedding Planner, or Monster-In-Law. It’s something people miss and want…. You need these simpler, romantic, funny looks at life. Where there can be maybe not the happiest ending, but an ending you can live with…. or makes you think about your own life and gives you some hope. Those movies were a big part of my growing up and something I hope to continue to keep doing with my production company and my producing partner Elaine. We think about that all the time, like what do women need, what do people need, what is the hope, what is the story we can tell that really makes you take a look at your life and reevaluate it and have a little more hope for the future. Those are the kinds of movies I always love. I’m a romantic at heart, anyway. I honestly think most people are. There are a lot of us out there!

Romantic comedies are a good marker throughout the years for the evolution of women’s roles. How far do you think women’s roles in romantic comedies have come since you were making The Wedding Planner and Maid In Manhattan?
They’re very reflective of the times, as most art is… the characters we see are the progression of what’s going on in society at the time, and right now…. women [are] becoming more empowered and realizing we don’t have an expiration date, there’s not a certain age where all of a sudden you’re just not relevant anymore. That’s changed. We’re changing that; the women of my generation are changing that. I’m changing that, we’re all changing that. We refuse to be written off, and I think that resonates in this movie very strongly, where you feel like, ok, there’s more, it’s not over. There’s not just more, the best is yet to come, and I create that, I do that with the knowledge I have now, the wisdom I have now, with the age I have now, and with the experience I have now.

The working-class, New York grit also comes through in this trailer. It’s like Working Girl if she graduated to Working Woman.
Yes, I love Working Girl… this is not a girl in her 20s trying to break through the glass ceiling and trying to be taken seriously even though she doesn’t have the education that others have. But it’s the same thing: what do you do when that working girl is 40 and she’s still the assistant manager at a Costco in Queens? What’s her life like? For me, that whole New York aspect is something I understand. I think, what if I was still in the Bronx and working at a store. Who would I be? I know those people. I go back to my neighborhood at times, I still have friends who live there and people my mom hangs out with, I know that slice of life so well. It’s not something I’ve become disconnected from. I also feel no matter how much I travel and where I go, I always feel so connected to the working class I grew up in with my mom and my dad. It so affected me to see my dad working nights for 20 years… I think that’s why I work so many jobs, still. I feel like a working woman, a working girl. That’s who I am.

If we look at some older comedies, it’s usually the man who’s in Maya’s shoes in scenarios like this and then he has the like, supportive girlfriend or wife at home.
We’re always looking to create women characters. This was an idea my producing partner came up with. And again she’s brilliant in that way that she’s always thinking of what characters we can create that really work for me, that she knows I can play in a way that she says nobody else can. It’s that working girl, it’s that person… you put out front, who would usually be in the background. And I love that idea. So yeah, it’s great, we’re always looking to put those types of characters in the forefront as opposed to being ‘the girlfriend.’ Or having the main role be a guy. It’s our turn! It’s our time, baby!

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