Summer’s Hottest Duo: Glen Powell and Adria Arjona

Summer’s Hottest Duo: Glen Powell and Adria Arjona
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The co-stars of Netflix’s new flick 'Hit Man' sat down with 'InStyle' to talk fame, sex scenes, and reality tv.

<p>Erik Carter</p>

Erik Carter

“Hey, buddy. You are not a guard dog!”

Glen Powell’s dog, Brisket, has started to bark. We’re sitting at Edge Studios in Los Angeles, discussing Powell’s new film Hit Man alongside his co-star Adria Arjona and, for most of the interview, Brisket has been happily tended to by the small cadre of assistants, publicists, and stylists that appear out of the ether whenever an actor is promoting their latest project. But someone had breakfast delivered, and Brisket (all 10 pounds of him) has decided to take it upon himself to protect us from the stranger at the door.

“You are not a guard dog,” Powell repeats.

<p>Erik Carter</p> On Glen: Tom Ford jacket and shirt. On Adria: Dior shirt, stylist's own tie

Erik Carter

On Glen: Tom Ford jacket and shirt. On Adria: Dior shirt, stylist's own tie

But a tiny, adorable, well-behaved dog pretending to be something a lot tougher than he is couldn’t be a better metaphor for Hit Man. In the Richard Linklater–directed film, Powell (who also served as co-writer and a producer) stars as Gary, a mild-mannered philosophy professor at a New Orleans university who moonlights with the police department arranging sting operations for would-be criminals who think they’re hiring killers. Gary quickly realizes he has a knack for shape-shifting in order to meet the marks, with elaborate personas ranging from a dead-on American Psycho impression to a persnickety oddball with a ginger bob and the mannerisms of Tilda Swinton.

It’s while he’s in character as fake hitman “Ron”—a walking leather-jacket with a devil-may-care attitude—that Gary meets Madison (Arjona), a young woman looking for a way out of a controlling marriage. Their chemistry is immediate, but Gary realizes that if he has any chance of wooing Madison, it’s only so long as he remains “Ron.” At the same time, he has to decipher whether Madison’s murderous intentions were just a moment of desperation or evidence of a deeper, darker drive.

<p>Erik Carter</p> Stella McCartney shirt.

Erik Carter

Stella McCartney shirt.

Some actors are forced to put their professional skills to work during press interviews in order to convince the world that they like each other. But as I observe Arjona (Andor, Good Omens) and Powell (Top Gun: Maverick, Anyone But You) over coffee, it’s obvious that these two actually like each other. They talk and joke and finish each other’s sentences. Before they sit down, they compare the tricks used to prep for today’s early morning cover shoot—Arjona sat in a steam room; Glen plunged his face into a bowl of ice water.

That natural chemistry that Arjona and Powell have when they’re just existing as human beings is part of what makes Hit Man such a fun film: The actors felt comfortable enough with each other as they were rehearsing to pitch new ideas and see where the characters took them. It was a collaborative process, they tell me, in which the two actors always felt they were supporting each other. “It’s like, I have your back and you have mine,” Arjona says.

In one particularly memorable scene, Arjona’s Madison acts as seductress while role-playing as a flight attendant. I ask Arjona if that was her idea. “Fuck,” she laughs. “The flight attendant was my idea.”

<p>Erik Carter</p> Brioni jacket, Calvin Klein tank top, Tom Ford pants, Tiffany & Co. necklace

Erik Carter

Brioni jacket, Calvin Klein tank top, Tom Ford pants, Tiffany & Co. necklace

“It was your idea!” Glen exclaims. “Everybody's going to think I'm just living this Top Gun sexual fantasy here. No, it's all Adria.”

Hit Man manages to achieve an all-too-rare distinction in the pantheon of romantic comedies: It’s actually sexy. It’s also funny, charming, and romantic—a feat of genre balancing that displays the full range of both Arjona’s and Powell’s movie-star prowesses. While Brisket entertained himself with his cadre of admirers, Arjona and Powell turned their attention to InStyle for an in-depth conversation on imposter syndrome, reality TV, and the process of making an erotic thriller with a romantic-comedy tucked away at its center.

InStyle: At different points in the movie, both of you are playing characters who are also playing characters. Were there any keys you had, as actors, with regards to figuring out who Madison and Gary really were?

Arjona: I think it happened in rehearsals and I think it happened in conversation with Glen and Rick [Linklater]. I think that in rehearsals, the excitement of playing this character, of doing this project, this sort of thing happened. [Arjona shimmies.] I don't know how you're going to transcribe that.

<p>Erik Carter</p> On Adria: Stella McCartney suit and shirt. On Glen: Brioni jacket, Calvin Klein tank top, Tiffany & Co. necklace

Erik Carter

On Adria: Stella McCartney suit and shirt. On Glen: Brioni jacket, Calvin Klein tank top, Tiffany & Co. necklace

Powell: “Awkward jiggle.”

Arjona: This awkward jiggle....

Powell: “As if she were electrocuted.”

Arjona: In real life, I'm really clumsy and I just move very differently than Madison does.

InStyle: Madison has a very femme-fatale, Barbara Stanwyck-thing going on.

Arjona: Yeah, but it's kind of an act. I think the approach was having Madison figure out that sort of movement and seeing her get a little bit better with her body and her sexuality [over time]. The first time you see Madison, you see her timid and in a little bit of a shell. And then all of a sudden she's like this va-va-voom lady. I’m like, I'm sorry, I can't do that, but you play a part. And I do that all the time when I go to a red carpet or when I have a photo shoot—you turn something on. And I think the boots [Madison wore] really helped. [She] had so many cowboy boots.

Powell: They were cool. They were unique too.

Arjona: I'm a boot girl myself, so I found a lot of comfort in that. You just walk differently. I have a thing with shoes and characters, so once I found that, it helped me find Madison's walk and her speeds. Sometimes she's slower, sometimes she's a little jerkier. It was really fun. But all she wants to do is reinvent herself, right?

<p>Erik Carter</p> On Adria: Tom Ford top, pants, and belt. On Glen: Tom Ford jacket

Erik Carter

On Adria: Tom Ford top, pants, and belt. On Glen: Tom Ford jacket

Powell: That was always sort of part of the basic architecture of what Rick and I wanted: Two people that felt stuck in their existences and, not only becoming the fantasy for someone else, but also becoming the fantasy of what they wanted to see in the mirror. It's the multitudes that exist in all of us, at any given time. And the one that we like the most, the one that we would ideally like to be.

The way that Adria played it really helped guide me, because Gary is just taking direction off of [Madison], really. He's looking to her to become this fantasy. That's all it is. If a woman looks at a man that way, he doubles down on it. He's like, I got to give her more of that. I got to be that more. It's just dating. When a girl's like, "I like how dangerous you are." You're like, Yeah, I am dangerous.

For Gary—a guy that feels like he's conning the world on a regular basis and never has any relationships that are deep or authentic and never leaves a place feeling good about himself—to find someone that looks at him that way is an alluring thing in this world.

Arjona: I always look at you like that, Glen.

Powell: You sure do. My God.

InStyle: This movie is such a tonal mix: action, noir, comedy. How did you find the right balance? Were there other movies you used as touchstones?

Powell: That was a hard thing to find in rehearsal, I felt like.

Arjona: It was. I don't know if we referenced specific movies. I think we referenced Cruel Intentions and some of these really sexy '90s thrillers for a part of our storyline. But I think it was more visual. How do we do a sex scene without making it super grotesque? Is it sensuality that we're going through? Is it sexuality? We had these conversations. It would switch between every kind of scene that we would do—all of a sudden a scene was folding to be a little more comedic. 

But we did reference some stuff, but I think it was more for visuals. Remember the mood board that we sort of created?

<p>Erik Carter</p> Brioni jacket, Calvin Klein tank top, Tom Ford pants and shoes, Tiffany & Co. necklace

Erik Carter

Brioni jacket, Calvin Klein tank top, Tom Ford pants and shoes, Tiffany & Co. necklace

Powell: I’ll tell you one thing that Adria was, like, lights-out, so smart about is what we did for the sex scenes. It's a very sexy movie, right? And there are a lot of [sex] scenes in there. We wanted this movie to be reminiscent of some of those, like, Body Heat—movies that you just left and you were like, "Ooh, that was hot." But it was hot in a way that didn't feel so… So often sex scenes feel [like they’re] from the male point of view and, I wouldn't say perverted, but it doesn't feel emotional; it feels omniscient. 

So Adria did this really, really smart thing where she would print out—we would send images to each other of things we found to be hot and sexy. And so we would talk out these sex scenes and these images and these poses and these moments. And what I think makes this movie really sexy is that these are things that are striking and hot and emotional, but they’re really things that we [came up with] together as co-stars. 

Arjona: That was really beautiful that they allowed me to have a space to bring something that I feel comfortable with and wanted to do on-screen. 

<p>Erik Carter</p> Gabriela Hearst shirt, Tom Ford pants, and Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello shoes.

Erik Carter

Gabriela Hearst shirt, Tom Ford pants, and Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello shoes.

Powell: The more time we spent together, which was pretty much all day, every day and very late nights, we became more comfortable with these moments. There was no awkwardness around these conversations. It did feel like the ideal version of going to work as an actor: Hey, we're going to play with our friends. Let's just have the best time ever. Especially in this environment, with these scenes; there's a lot of eyeballs on these sex scenes, right? There's a lot of people that are trying to determine what is sexy, what is appropriate. And the fact that Adria gave Rick and I the ability to say, "Hey, we want your ownership over this thing," and she was like—

Arjona: I got it.

Powell: "Full tilt, baby, I got this." It really made the movie sparkle in a way that would not have been possible without her.

InStyle: There's nothing sexier than feeling sexy.

Arjona: 100 percent.

InStyle: Adria, you’ve worked on projects with huge devoted fan bases, like Star Wars and Good Omens. How do you handle that pressure as an actress?

Arjona: I've just really liked the characters that I've been able to play. Anathema [from Good Omens] is still probably one of my favorite characters, and she's similar to Madison. I drew a lot from her in certain ways. Just her quirkiness that comes out sometimes. It's very Anathema. 

You have to just play the character and try to serve the story and serve the fan base, and protect it as much as you can. But I have done these big fan base films and TV shows with really great leaders. I got really lucky. If you have [creator] Neil Gaiman, you're like, I'm fine. And you just follow their lead and tell those stories and then hope people like them. I did try to quit Good Omens

Powell: Did you?

<p>Erik Carter</p> Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello shirt, pants, and heels.

Erik Carter

Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello shirt, pants, and heels.

Arjona: I did. Because it was too much pressure. I was so scared. And it was the first role that was ever just offered to me, which is so bizarre. I was at a point in my career that nothing should have been offered to me. And [Gaiman] was like, "No, it's you. I see you and I only see you in this role." And I was like, How the hell do you even know who I am? And I think it was the first time that I felt really insecure about my take on a character because I didn't earn it. Usually you go out, you audition, you work on it, and the director's like, "Oh, I like her take on it, so I'm going to hire her."

And this was the first time that they hadn't seen me. So I went in really scared and really insecure, and Neil just took me under his wing and was like, "You're going to be fine." I told the director, "Look, you can shoot me Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday in small scenes; you have Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to find another actress.” And he was like, "No, dude, it's going to be you." And I kind of just figured it out as I was doing it. And she's one of my favorite characters.

InStyle: Glen, did you ever have a role that you didn't know if you could find in time?

Powell: I mean, this one. This is one where there was a lot of that imposter syndrome that I think comes right before you start. Where you convince a great filmmaker—one of the best—to write a movie with you. You raise the money, you get an incredible actress, you con everybody on the way to joining this ride, and then you're like, I don't know if I can do this. You know what I mean? I think this was maybe the most nervous I've ever been going into a project.

Arjona: It's your baby.

Powell: Yeah. If you have an ego enough where you go into a project being like, I'm hot shit, you're probably going to fuck it up.

Arjona: Will I ever be that? Do you think?

<p>Erik Carter</p> On Glen: Tom Ford jacket, shirt, pants and shoes. On Adria: Dior shirt and pants.

Erik Carter

On Glen: Tom Ford jacket, shirt, pants and shoes. On Adria: Dior shirt and pants.

Powell: No, I think it's good—insecurity.

Arjona: I know, Glen, but it's exhausting. I call my lawyer five days before every movie. I'm like, "Get me out. Get me out. I fooled them again. I did it again."

Powell: There's an interesting thing about it, because you come from a place where you really want to be good for people. You don't want to let people down. It's a good thing because it means you're going to do everything you possibly can. If you feel too safe going into something, I think it's a bad thing. If you feel too deserving of something, I think it's bad.

Arjona: It means that you care, and that you're excited and that you're feeling something. I never want to be at a place where I'm like, Alright, another movie. I always want to be excited. I always want to feel nervous and go through the process and do it again. And I think the day that I stop getting nervous, I'll probably... I don't know.

Powell: Probably, actually suck.

Arjona: Or not do it anymore. I'll do something else. I'll figure something else out.

InStyle: This movie is so much about personas and putting on. I'm curious: When you’re just out in the world, are there other actors that you get mistaken for? And if that happens, do you lean into it or do you correct people?

Arjona: Every other Latin actor. They all think we look the same. "You guys are twins." I'm like, "No, very different."

Powell: It is always funny being mistaken. The thing that makes me laugh the most: I think nobody really knows who I am—my name or real face—but I feel like I look familiar to people. So it's really more like, "Did you go to Palisades High?" I'm like, "No, no, no, no, I didn't. I never—"

InStyle: Being an actor is a strange job because it's a job that then changes your life outside of your work. Is there a level of fame that you think is perfect that, if you could hit it and stay there, you would want it?

<p>Erik Carter</p> Isabel Marant dress.

Erik Carter

Isabel Marant dress.

Arjona: I personally don't. I don't choose jobs in a strategic way of, Oh, this is going to make me really famous. It's more like, This is going to maybe get more eyes so I can work maybe with this director, or This character is going to challenge me where I can grow as an actor. But I don't know if you can really control that. In my perfect world, it'll be: You're famous enough that your colleagues respect you, and you'll get constant work because you're a good collaborator and you're interested in challenging yourself.

Powell: I agree. I agree. I mean, I'm still trying to wrap my head around some of it, but I do know that I look at certain people that are able to do it. I look at a guy like Matt Damon and I'm like, That guy is able to walk his kids to school. He's one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, and yet he's somehow been able to not become tabloid fodder or be a guy that paparazzi seek out. And Tom Hanks. Nobody really paparazzis Tom Hanks. You know what I mean? I feel like there is a way to do this job where you can be an event in the theater and not sacrifice your personal life. I've watched certain people do it, and then you watch other people where you can see it takes a toll. And I think I'm just trying to exist in that Damon-Hanks lane.

InStyle: That's a pretty good place to be. Do you two have any favorite rom-coms or comfort movies that you just throw on?

Arjona: It's either School of Rock or Step Brothers. I can quote both of those movies.

Powell: Yeah, yeah. We did a lot of Step Brothers quotes on this movie.

Arjona: Those two would be if I had a bad day, and I was like, I just want to laugh. Probably those two, and now Walk Hard. That's a new one I've added.

InStyle: What's your comfort movie, Glen?

Arjona: You're going to say something so intense.

Powell: No, no, no, no. That's Rick. That always makes me feel like a bad film student, because Rick is like, "Have you seen this French film?" I'm like, "No, Rick, I'm sorry. I've seen Armageddon.” I'm in Adria’s camp. I'm more of a Step Brothers, Walk Hard sort-of-vibe guy. Especially if I'm trying to emotionally palate cleanse my day or my life. I feel like the most consistent thing with actors… Everybody thinks that [actors] do this most intense dramatic shit and what you want to watch is intense dramatic shit. It's like, No, [I want] ‘The Bachelor.’

Arjona: Yeah. I want to put on Love Is Blind.

Powell: Love Is Blind. That's probably the most watched [show by actors].

Arjona: Because I think the more you work, funny enough, the more caved-in you get. You're going from set to set, and, yes, you're meeting all these beautiful people and kind of creating families wherever you go. But you don't get to people-watch as much.

Powell: No.

<p>Erik Carter</p> On Adria: Brunello Cucinelli suit. On Glen: Lanvin jacket, Calvin Klein tank top, and Tom Ford pants

Erik Carter

On Adria: Brunello Cucinelli suit. On Glen: Lanvin jacket, Calvin Klein tank top, and Tom Ford pants

Arjona: We used to. I would go to acting class and then sit in Union Square [in New York City] and just observe people and steal from them. And now, reality TV has kind of become that for me, where I get to watch people just behave like they're not acting in a way. They're acting, but it's like an exaggeration of their personality because they're on TV. And it's amazing what you can steal just from people watching.

InStyle: Did you watch the most recent season of Love Is Blind?

Arjona: I haven't. I'm saving it.

InStyle: Because it was pretty dramatic!

Arjona: I know, I know. And I'm late. Do not tell me. I'm going to start watching it tomorrow.

Hit Man is in theaters now and available to stream starting June 7.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity. 


  • Photographer

  • Erik Carter

  • Director of Photography

  • Eric Longden

  • Glen’s Stylist

  • Warren Alfie Baker

  • Adria’s Stylist

  • Fabio Immediato

  • Adria’s Makeup Artist

  • Emily Cheng

  • Adria’s Hair Stylist

  • Irinel de Leon

  • Adria's Nails

  • Emi Kudo

  • Glen’s Groomer

  • Kindra Mann

  • Set Designer

  • Amy Jo Diaz

  • AC

  • Kyle Hinshaw

  • Photo Assistants

  • Nicol Biesek, Alexa Forester, Nicole Alvarenga

  • Digi Tech

  • Joe Mitchell

  • Booking

  • Talent Connect Group

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Read the original article on InStyle.