lana condor also cried watching 'to all the boys i've loved before'

The star of Netflix's enchanting teen rom-com is just like us.

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Sep 5 2018, 9:02am

“I watched the movie the other day, by myself, alone. In the middle of the night as one does when they're on Netflix, and I watched the movie.“

Yes, even Lana Condor, the lead in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before has watched the movie and cried. If you’ve recently talked to any breathing human with Netflix, you’ve probably gushed over Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky, around whom the film centers. They have managed to pierce through the cold hearts of many, regardless of race, age, gender, and sexual identity.

The premise of To All the Boys is a dreamy mix of John Hughes nostalgia and the loner-meets-jock classic. Every time Lara Jean has a crush, she writes a letter to them, and stores them in a box so that no one can find them. One day, the letters get mysteriously sent out to Lara Jean’s erstwhile crushes. All teenage hell breaks loose and she ends up getting into a fake relationship with Peter Kavinsky, the perfect boy-next-door jock who also happens to be her arch nemesis’ ex. From there I think you can guess what happens, but I’ll let you watch the movie and find out for yourself.

To All the Boys is everything a standard rom-com should be: loveable characters, moments of sweet tension, and of course, a climactic kiss scene. While the movie fits perfectly into the category, there is one major difference. The lead is played by an Asian-American actress. This shouldn’t be set as such a notable feature, but it is. Condor is the first Asian-American leading actress in a Young Adult romantic comedy. The character she plays is Korean-American — her dad being white and her mom being Korean. This is groundbreaking and feverishly exciting, and riding the tide of Asian and Asian-American representation in cinema at the moment (see: Crazy Rich Asians and Searching). As a Korean-American myself, I find this important distinction of identity so astounding. You often hear the importance of “seeing” yourself projected on-screen, but what I didn’t expect is how imperative it was for me, to see a family somewhat similar to mine, with a daughter resembling me, have an exciting, and frankly normal, story written about her.

i-D caught up with Lana to chat about representation, social media responsibility, and what makes To All the Boys so damn lovable.

It hasn't even been two weeks since To All the Boys has came out. I think it's safe to say you have a bonafide hit. How does it feel for it to be out and the amazing reception you've gotten?
It is beyond my wildest expectations and dreams, for sure. I think we were all hoping, as a team, that people would like it, but I don't think we thought that it was gonna be this well received. It's been quite a ride. Even just, like, watching social media numbers go up has been crazy. I did not think that was gonna happen so that's been wild.

The other day I was stalked around the grocery store by a bunch of little girls. "Are you the girl from All the Boys?" "Yes." So that's been a new experience for me. It's been crazy! As an actor you hope that your movie will, you know, do this well, but I don't think you ever think that it will. For me, I've just been sitting up here in my apartment like, "What? What happened? OMG.” Yeah, it's been wild.

Definitely a best case scenario. Speaking of social media, I noticed that you hit over two million on Instagram, so congratulations!
Thank you, I'm shook to my very core. Before To All The Boys came out , I had 100k followers and then all of a sudden I'm at 2.7 million followers. I'm like, “What is happening?" And then Noah got like one million followers in 24 hours -—which is unheard of. It's wild.

Now that you do have a bigger audience, does it change the way you're posting and dealing with social media?
I think for the most part I have maintained the way I go about social media because I've always been pretty responsible with it. I think the one thing that has changed is protecting my friends and my family. Fans of the movie are very, so amazing, they're the best fans ever, and they're so loyal and they're excited and they wanna know more about you. But I'm realising that I have to protect my friends and my family because maybe they're getting attention that they didn't ask for and they weren't expecting to have. That's kind of the only thing that I've really changed. Other than that, I'm just posting what I want and hoping people respond to it — kind of winging it.

That's great, you're having fun with it — that’s what we hope people use social media for. So, I've seen To All the Boys twice now — like, twice in three days.
Yes!

The first time I was like, well I know I'm interviewing Lana, I should probably watch the movie. This was the other week, but then a couple days later I'm sitting my roommate down and saying, "We're watching this again."
I live for these stories.

I'm watching this and I've seen so many rom-coms, but it is a refreshing story. It does have the classic, "Let's pretend we're dating" trope, but it really is refreshing. What do you think makes your movie a breath of fresh air in the current climate of rom-coms and movies in general?
I have a two-part answer:

One, people are really kind of desperate to see a wholesome, feelgood story. A feelgood family, a feelgood romance. I think people want that because right now, these days, the world, there's just so much going on that it's so negative. It's hard. You wake up and you're like, "OMG, where is the world going?" then you stumble upon a rom-com such as To All the Boys, even if you're just casually on Netflix and looking for something to watch, you leave feeling better than you went in. I think people subconsciously don't even realise that until they leave the movie and they're like, "I'm feeling pretty giddy right now." And maybe that's because everyone is obsessed with Noah and searching for Noah across the globe. If Noah makes you feel good, better than you did going into the movie, then that's awesome. I think that's why people are watching it and re-watching it. There's that feeling when you leave, “That was just really dang cute, wasn't it?”

Two, I think that people are really excited to see themselves represented on screen. I have had so many young Asian girls, and older Asian women, and young Asian boys, and older Asian men, who have reached out and been like, “This was so dang refreshing because for the first time, I could see myself on screen," or "I wish I had seen this when I was younger." I think people are really responding to that as well. Because it's refreshing to see a movie that's representative of the real world — which is a colourful one. I think those are two reasons. Everyone is obsessed with Noah so they're watching for that too. And Lara Jean is relatable. I might be speaking out my butt, but I hope those are good reasons.

Definitely! I'm an Asian-American woman and I did not grow up with any sort of teen movie, or adult movie, where the lead is Asian. To see someone like myself "get the guy," have a cool family, and being Asian wasn’t the whole identity. I loved the inserts of culture without the focus being, "You're Korean."
Thank you, that just makes my day. This is why I'm acting. It's funny that you say that because I watched the movie the other day, by myself, alone. In the middle of the night as one does when they're on Netflix, and I watched the movie. I kind of took myself out of it and I just watched it like I wasn't in it. And I was crying because I realised, "OMG someone who looks like me is on screen!" But it's actually me so I took myself out of it. It was a very weird, trippy thing. I cried so hard during Crazy Rich Asians. I didn't quite understand why I was crying, but then after I processed, [I realised] it's because I've never seen this before.

It's such an exciting time right now. There is a movement, not a moment, with your movie, Crazy Rich Asians , and Searching. Do you think this is the page being turned and we're going to see more representation, especially for Asians and Asian-Americans?
I think so! I'm very hopeful that Hollywood, and writers, and executives are seeing that our movies are doing really well. I think that we've made so much noise — you would have to be honestly trying very hard not? You'd actively have to try to close your ears to it. I heard someone say "Oh, it's a trend! Like, Asians are so trendy right now." I'm like, “Oh, well that's offensive, I don't like that. No Sir. I hope that it moves into the fall, winter, spring, and the summer, and again and again.” I hope that we've made enough noise to continue to have more amazing characters written for us and amazing roles. Three dimensional roles that don't just revolve around the way that we look. I'm hopeful — we shall see.

This article originally appeared on i-D US.