‘Space Cadet’ Star Emma Roberts and Filmmaker Liz W. Garcia Reveal Their Top Tracks for Getting Motivated

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Just ask Emma Roberts, star of the new comedy Space Cadet. In the movie, streaming July 4 on Prime Video, Emma plays Tiffany “Rex” Simpson, a woman determined to become an astronaut against all odds.

Rex has always dreamed of going to space, but life isn’t unfolding quite as planned. Hoping to turn things around, she sets her sights on NASA’s highly competitive astronaut training program. With a few embellishments courtesy of her best friend Nadine (Poppy Liu), her application is accepted—and thus begins the journey of the unlikeliest NASA recruit ever.

In over her head, Rex relies on quick wits and some serious moxie to get to the top of her class. One thing that helps spur motivation? Music. During a workout in the film, Rex turns to a playlist called Brains & Butts, both of which must be in tip-top shape in order for her to get through training without blowing her cover. Curated by Emma and Space Cadet writer, director, and executive producer Liz W. Garcia, the playlist features the ultimate collection of upbeat, inspiring music, from Beyoncé to Outkast. And just in time for the movie’s release, you can stream it on Spotify.

For the Record sat down with Liz and Emma (who is also an executive producer on the film) to discuss their creative processes, the power of a good movie soundtrack, and what it means to shoot for the stars.

How does music play into your creative process?

Emma: Music absolutely helps me get into character. Rex is an outgoing, positive party girl who exudes confidence and kindness. Music that I think Rex would have loved really helped me channel my inner Florida girl.

Liz: Music plays such an important role when I’m writing a movie. I often make a playlist that can act as my personal soundtrack and get me into the vibe when writing. At a certain point when the writing process feels tough, I’ll often zero in on one song that has great pace. And like a maniac, I’ll play it over and over just to push me through the end of the draft.

What was your approach to the playlist you created for Rex?

Emma: I thought about Rex’s personality and motivations. The songs are a mix of karaoke bangers and deep cuts that represent Rex’s journey to chase her dreams of being an astronaut.

Liz: The playlist is designed to make you feel how Rex feels when she’s chasing her dreams at NASA. These are songs that put you in a motivated mindset, pull you out of a tough mood, and get you on your feet and moving.

If you could pick one anthem for Rex, what would it be?

Emma: Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson. Period.

How does the Space Cadet soundtrack help express some of the movie’s main themes?

Liz: Space Cadet is a fun movie about a fun, determined heroine. Often, days of writing don’t feel so fun, and that’s where the soundtrack—the songs I listened to and the ones provided by our music supervisor, Brienne Rose—came in. Music can completely change your mood and transport you, and in the process of creating, you need that vibe shift sometimes.

What three words would you use to describe Space Cadet?

Emma: Fun, aspirational, moxie.

Space Cadet is a story about being true to yourself and following your dreams. Liz, how has your experience as a female filmmaker shaped your perspective on this?

I absolutely love being a writer and director, but as a woman, making that leap seemed crazy at times. I’m here now, though, and I’m doing what I love. The idea that there are talented people who don’t pursue their dreams because they don’t have support at home or in school—or they haven’t seen people like them achieve something similar—really breaks my heart. I hate that privilege and chance play any role in who gets to realize their personal dreams.

Space Cadet is meant as an encouraging call to arms to audiences to bet on themselves and not turn their back on their dreams. It’s also my fantasy about how the world should work—that the best candidate should win, regardless of pedigree or resume.

What are some of your favorite movie soundtracks of all time?

Emma: I know this seems so spot on, but Legally Blonde just totally encapsulates how that movie makes audiences feel (and I hope Space Cadet can do the same!). Another fun favorite is Practical Magic. Has there ever been a better music cue than “This Kiss” by Faith Hill? And any movie with a Stevie Nicks song is undeniably good.

Liz: Love & Basketball is pretty much perfect; that sexy, aching groove. Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums are both so eclectic and surprising—only Wes Anderson would have The Clash and the Charlie Brown Christmas score on the same soundtrack. The score to The Piano will put you in the mood to sit down and write and feel emo any old day. Morphine did the entire Spanking the Monkey soundtrack, and that captivated me back in the late ’90s when I was first falling in love with film.

Stream Emma and Liz’s playlist to get pumped before Space Cadet premieres July 4 on Prime Video.