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Two Friends, One New Year

Perhaps Caleb Foote and Will Ropp were always destined to be friends — after all, it’s no small coincidence that each grew up with similar New Year’s traditions, thousands of miles away from each other. Each year, the night before the ball drops, the Foote and Ropp families gather for a marathon of togetherness: the Ropp family breaks out the board games, the Footes binge-watch movies.

“My parents had four boys, so each person got to pick whatever movie they wanted — even a horror film — from Redbox or the library, ‘cause my folks didn’t have internet,” Foote, who grew up in Ypsilanti, Michigan, explains; he picked Inception three years in a row because you can interpret the ending so many different ways. The key to a Foote marathon is coziness. “We throw some logs on a fire, make this massive bed out of the living room floor, and we watch through the night,” he says, adding that as he and his brothers got older, they’d leave the marathon session for a party or two, but it isn’t uncommon to return home and find that the marathon is still going: “It was like time froze in there.”

Ropp, meanwhile, upped the ante during his family’s celebration in Darien, Connecticut. “My favorite board game was always Monopoly, but then I became obsessed with Risk, the military board game,” he says. “They’re both kind of similar — you just need to dominate everybody, and there’s only one winner.” He admits he’s competitive, but that the spirit of the season keeps everything in good fun. 

Now, however, the two are making their own kinds of traditions. The actors and best friends met at the University of Michigan in 2012, where they both studied acting; they bonded quickly and spent hours playing Call of Duty together, to the point where the walls would begin to bend. “We’ve lived together ever since,” Foote says, which includes the year Ropp slept on an air mattress in the other’s hallway.

“I was already at [his] house every single day anyway, and I was like, I might as well,” he remembers with a laugh.

Hey, it’s New Years, have some champagne.

Now the two live in Los Angeles, far from the cold weather of UMich. In their shiny west coast home, where the forecast is permanently set at 70 and sunny, they’ve had to adjust their style a little bit—a somewhat maddening prospect after years of Michigan-proof dressing, but they manage. And of course, new homes breed new traditions, like the one born when Ropp got cast as one of the Whoville Five, a boy band troupe at Universal Studios Hollywood theme park that required he stay in town during the holidays, and perform multiple times a day. As any good best friend would, Foote snuck into the park with a few other pals to cheer him on. “At the time my family was in Mexico and having a big family vacay, so it was a little sad, but it was much better that Caleb and our other roommates stayed behind,” Ropp remembers now. 

This year, they kicked the festivities off early with a trip to Michigan to watch the Wolverines defeat the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 45-14. (The win wasn’t planned, of course, but it’s always nice to think your visit had something to do with the victory.) This was the first year that neither knew anyone currently enrolled in school, since the freshmen they’d known as seniors had graduated the year before. Still, Foote reflects that visiting UMich felt “kind of like a time machine — back to fall in college, walking down Catherine Street and State Street, experiencing Michigan again.”

“We went to the pumpkin patch and a cider mill,” Ropp says, as well as tailgates that still kept that college feeling alive. 

Foote adds that he won a pumpkin-carving competition, though the true highlight was seeing the Wolverines win. “Something that we really have in common is our love for Michigan football,” he says. “And basketball. And everything Michigan.” 

And as exciting as your team winning might be, next year is already shaping up to be that much bigger for both actors. Ropp is set to star in The Way Back with Ben Affleck, about a former high school basketball star fighting to stay sober while he tries to coach his old team to victory; as well as The Silk Road and the TV adaptation of Love, Simon on Disney+. Foote, on the other hand, can’t even hint at what he’s working on just yet — it’s that hush-hush, which in Hollywood, means it’s big. 

Until then, there’s the matter of the holidays, and of pesky New Year’s resolutions. Both friends take a moment to think over what they’d like to set as their 2020 goals. “Maybe emphasizing reusable plastic, and less one-time-use plastic,” Foote offers. “I understand that that’s a very difficult resolution. But I’ll probably be focusing on being more conscientious of that.”

“I am going to try to call all my siblings once a week. All four of them,” Ropp decides, which earns a cheer from Foote.

Neither knows yet if they’ll be home for New Year’s Eve, but that’s OK — they’ll make the festivities come to them, one way or another. “My mom always goes out of her way to send the invite,” Foote says of those movie marathons, proof that holiday cheer can happen when and where you make it. “Even if her boys are scattered to the winds, she’ll still send the invite.”