In the late ’90s and early aughts, Rachael Leigh Cook was a reigning teen queen. From her memorable portrayal of an unpopular high-schooler opposite Freddie Prinze Jr. in 1999’s She’s All That to her turn as a pop sensation in the 2001 big-screen adaptation of Josie and the Pussycats, Cook quickly became a young Hollywood staple—and we couldn’t get enough of her.
Over the years, Cook has continued to land a steady, if low-key, stream of projects, most notably starring in TV shows like Perception and Psych. And this weekend, the 37-year-old mom reprises one of her past roles as an award-winning winemaker in Hallmark Channel’s Summer in the Vineyard, a sequel to last year’s Autumn in the Vineyard.
“This movie picks up with my character, Frankie, and her new boyfriend-slash-business-partner running their vineyard together and getting ready to do their first vintage,” Cook told InStyle of the film, which premieres on Aug. 12. “But as they learn very quickly, mixing business and romance has its pitfalls. They’re trying to navigate that the best they can while finding out that their wine—which their business is going to hinge on—is not quite ready.” While Cook may be playing a pro winemaker on-camera, she’s not about to start bottling her own vintage anytime soon. “I have no green thumb,” she said. “I do think I’d be a really good master taste tester or sommelier, though. I love wine. In the movie, we’re making a red—but I actually prefer white, like a sauvignon blanc. I call it ‘cougar juice.’ ” Scroll down for our full interview with Cook.
You’ve had your fair share of memorable onscreen romances, including the one at the center of this film.What’s your all-time favorite romantic comedy?
Say Anything. I love that movie. It’s just so unabashedly romantic and hilarious, and it has enough humanity in it to be completely relatable at the same time. And I love John Cusack. He’s a national treasure.
Of course, She’s All That is another classic rom-com. Do you think the movie still holds up today?
Well, I grew up watching John Hughes movies—I’m 37—but if people feel the way that I do about John Hughes movies, about She’s All That, I’m thrilled to my socks. That movie will always have such a dear, dear place in my heart because I started working [on it] when I was 15. So the people in the movie probably don’t even know this, but I feel like they’re the people who I went to high school with. I had to sort of transpose [the movie] onto my own life, as if it was reality.
The red dress that you wore for the prom scene is iconic. Did you get to keep it?
I did not! I remember that it was built at a store on Melrose. We went to the store, and I tried on about three red dresses, and it was like, “I like the top of this one but the bottom of that one,” and eventually our costume designer, Denise Wingate, said, “Do you guys have someone who can build this? We want the top like this one and the skirt like that one.” They said “Yeah, no problem.” So you actually couldn’t buy that dress.
What do you think Laney would be up to today?
Laney would probably be doing a lot of what I'm doing, which is kickin' around in a lot of comfortable block heels and high-waisted '70s denim. I think that's where she could land—but she would be there by accident.
So many '90s trends have come back in style. Are there any that you’re particularly excited about?
Seeing the Calvin Klein logo on kids again sort of makes me smile. I remember that very well! But chokers, I can't handle. That sort of does my head in because I remember the expression, "If you did something the first time it was in fashion, you're not allowed to do it the second time." And not that it's keeping me up at night that I can't wear a choker, but man, did I used to wear a choker. And now it’s a little bit weird to know that I've crossed to the other side of do's and don'ts. But that's definitely something that strikes me as odd to have a resurgence in this moment. I've also seen a lot of overalls again, and I think the inconvenience of rompers sort of prepared us for overalls. But I'm not going back there either.
How do you feel about the resurgence of the Steve Madden black slinky platforms?
God bless you, Steve Madden. Steve Madden's not going anywhere. Yes, I totally remember those giant, sort of baby doll platform heels. I definitely had those, but I don't have them now. Again, not sure I'm allowed to do that. But I love seeing these moments come back around, it makes me wonder what's next.
Speaking of moments that come back around, there’s a new iteration of Josie and the Pussycats on Riverdale. Do you still have any of your costumes from the movie?
They're integral to the Riverdale world! I definitely did put a costume or two in a box with a bunch of cat ears and movie paraphernalia. I told myself that if I ever had a daughter—which I now have—that maybe she'd get a thrill out of trying it all on someday. That box is in deep storage and my daughter is 3, almost 4, so I think I’ll definitely break it out in a couple years. I just hope she knows it's me when she watches the movie!
What's your favorite costume that you've ever worn on a project?
Probably just about anything from Josie and the Pussycats. Everything was custom-made by Leesa Evans, our absolutely genius designer. She managed to make it rock 'n' roll in a way that I think would even hold up as kind of cool today—or maybe they would be especially relevant right now, because they were so close to the '90s when the movie was made. If anyone wants to go through my storage unit, I can help you out.
What’s the most meaningful thing you’ve ever kept from a set?
These Persol sunglasses that Sylvester Stallone gave me when we were doing the movie Get Carter, which is a remake of the Michael Caine original. We were a day or two from wrap, and I knew that Sly loved Formula One and this and that, so I got him a cool Formula One coffee table book. He opened it up and he goes, "Aw, this is nice. This is beautiful. I got you ... here you go!” And he just gave me his sunglasses, which he happened to have right there on his shirt. I'm like, “Thanks?!” But I loved that he wanted to do that. They're cool glasses, and I still have them.
Another of your past co-stars, Freddie Prinze Jr., came out with a cookbook last year. Would you ever write one of your own? The title options would be limitless, given your last name is Cook.
Um, limitless! How does he do that before me? Oh yeah, because he's an amazing cook, and I always say that my name should be Rachael Leigh Burn because I can't cook anything at all. My mom was actually a cooking instructor when I was young, and I think we sort of just have this natural rebellion to not pursue our parents' skill sets sometimes. I just never learned to cook anything. I'm very proud of Freddie, though. The passion with which he can talk about food is amazing and inspiring, and I'm hungry just thinking about it.
Who's the one co-star you would love to work with again?
Oh, man. I’ve been in the game a long time—I don't know if I could pick one person. But I loved working with Eric McCormack on Perception, the show that we did that wrapped in 2015. He's just a talent of almost unparalleled proportion in terms of what he can do. His range is just limitless. He's incredible. But he's a good friend, too, so that doesn't hurt.
You've been in the spotlight for over two decades now, yet you still look the exact same. What's your beauty secret?
Right now I'm using a soap that I love called Cor. It has some silver in it. Is that bad? I don't know—don't eat it. But I think that creates a brightness to my skin that I can really see. And also I love this serum that my husband brought back from New Zealand called One Truth 818. I highly recommend it. But in terms of secrets, I’ve got no secrets! I'm just livin' on a prayer over here.