Netflix’s first installment in its now universally adored To All the Boys franchise arrived, at first, quietly, but perfectly timed. It hit the streaming service at a time when audiences had begun to expect more movies to reflect what the world really looks like. Lara Jean (Lana Condor) is Korean-American, and the first film—To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before—works effortlessly to represent her heritage. Two days before the film’s release, Crazy Rich Asians had opened to praise and rich box office rewards. For a moment in time, it felt like Hollywood was catching up to the rest of us.
Two sequels to the film were quickly greenlit to complete the trilogy, which was adapted from Jenny Han’s popular book series. In the new To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (streaming now), we find Lara Jean coupled with the first movie’s love interest, Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo)—for real this time—but our heroine begins to question the strength of her new relationship when she’s reunited with John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher), another recipient of one of her love letters. And after the leaps made by To All the Boys towards forward-thinking representation, the sequel continues to show Lara Jean engage with her Korean heritage with a wonderfully refreshing scene in which she visits her grandparents’ house dressed in a hanbok—the film no longer feels revolutionary, because its diversity comes naturally.
The word-of-mouth success of To All the Boys is unquestionably indebted to the irresistible magnetism of the actress steering its ship. Condor was relatively unknown prior to her breakout role (her first as a lead)—despite her very first screen credit in X-Men: Apocalypse—but To All the Boys cemented her place as a different kind of heroine, one that feels closer to reality: diverse and full of exciting, new stories that deserve to be told. The film, and Condor, made the rom-com feel fresh again simply by opening the tried and true genre up to new stories beyond Hollywood’s narrow worldview. (Read: white.)
Mind you: Condor, now 22, is under no illusion that To All the Boys is just another rom-com. The Vietnamese-American actress says she’s deeply mindful that her role represents something much bigger than herself. Even though Condor was catapulted out of anonymity just two short years ago, the actress doesn’t fear her newfound position at the forefront of Asian representation—she embraces it.
With P.S. I Still Love You arriving on Netflix yesterday (just in time for Valentine’s Day, friends), we caught up with the actress to talk about the film’s high expectations, the diverse cast, and feeling torn by love triangles.
GQ: It felt like To All The Boys came out of nowhere and then suddenly it was everywhere and all anyone could talk about. Did you ever expect that massive reception?
Lana Condor: No, not at all. We made the movie without even knowing if anyone was going to see it, let alone it having such an impact. I’m so beyond thrilled about how well received it was. It was something that I had hoped in my heart but never actually thought like, oh my god, people might actually watch it. It’s been such a crazy, wild whirlwind.
Why do you think audiences have embraced it so much?
I think that it’s kind of like chicken soup: when you watch [To All The Boys], it feels good. There’s a lot of negativity right now in the world and it’s really easy to be sad and unhappy, and I think the movie provided a little escape of softness and sweetness. People just need to giggle a little. We don’t do enough of that.