Rising star Lana Condor plays the lead role in breakout teen rom-com To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. In her first lead role, Condor takes on the role of Lara Jean Covey, playing your average girl next door with a fear of opening up to others while navigating her junior year of high school. A coming-of-age story, Lara Jean’s love letters are sent out, turning her world upside down. With To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before featuring an Asian American lead, Condor is proud to play a non-stereotypical role that helps pave the path for more Asian-centric stories. Condor discusses Asian representation in Hollywood and playing Lara Jean in our Fall 2018 issue.
Could you start off by giving a quick rundown of your early life and getting into acting?
Yeah, of course! So, a short version, I was adopted from Vietnam at four months. And then I moved to Chicago and then I moved to Washington and then I moved to New York and then I moved to LA for my sophomore year of high school and that’s kind of when I got into acting. I just joined the drama club. And then I just fell in love with it and I love make people laugh. I love entertaining people. And being in LA, everyone’s an actor. So I figured why couldn’t I be one? And so then I tried to get an agent and it took me a long time because everyone that I went to kind of said that I was a little green, which basically in the industry it means that you’re just not experienced enough, so, I just, I trained; doing acting classes and acting intensives and whatnot. So as I was a senior in high school I got fined and I was fortunate enough to go out for some awesome projects that I booked. I booked X-Men, which was like my third or fourth audition ever like auditioning in Hollywood, and from then on, I hoped more than anything that it wasn’t like a fluke, like a flash in the pan, and then it took me a year to get hired again after X-Men, which in that year I was kind of discouraged because I was kind of hoping that I would get another job sooner. But then after almost a year mark, then I booked Patriot’s Day. And from then on I’ve been working pretty steadily!
So now that you’re playing the lead, Lara Jean, in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, who really is just the girl-next-door, that’s got to feel pretty amazing, right?
You know what? That’s so funny that you said that because when I first started acting, I was talking to my agent and he said to me, our goal should be for you to be able to play just your average girl next door, not a computer geek, not a nerd, nothing like that. Our goal should be for you to take roles where you can play just a girl next door because that is where we’ll see change, when Asian Americans can just your freaking average girl next door without having to like make a joke like, ‘She just got into Stanford on early admission and she plays the violin.’ So I play Lara Jean in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before which is so freaking refreshing because I got to just play your girl next door who happens to be Asian, but the film is not about her Asianness.
Growing up, if you had seen Asian roles on screen, how would you have felt?
Of course I would’ve felt appreciated and represented. It’s funny because growing up, I wasn’t aware that I wasn’t being represented as a child, but as a teenager in high school, if I saw Asian Americans in leading roles, that would have meant a lot to me. It probably would have instilled more confidence in me when I was going into Hollywood, knowing there were lead roles for people like me. But now, as an adult, it’s really exciting to see the steps Hollywood has been taking towards representation.
I think that it’s so important for younger Asian girls to see that on-screen and recognize that seeing a young Asian American girl on-screen is not some weird concept. Jenny Han, the author of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, actually put it really perfectly. She said that Asian girls can fall in love too, and it’s not some crazy, like, ‘What? I’ve never thought about that before.”
If you were in Lara Jean’s shoes, how would you react if your letters got out?
I would just deny it! I would deny, deny. I would run away. I would bail! The way that Lara Jean reacts is a very accurate to probably what I would do, just pure terror. I couldn’t even imagine. And you know, it’s funny, I was watching some YouTubers kind of review the trailer and review the casting and whatnot the other day, and one girl said that that actually happened to her; her journal got published around the whole entire school and of course it had things about her liking people and everything, and she was just horrified. So the trailer was very triggering for her. But yeah, I would react the same way.
What are you most excited about with the release of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before?
I’m most excited to hear the fan’s reactions. I think Jenny’s fans for the book, they’re so beautiful and so loyal and very, very kind, and I just hope that they’re happy with it. So, I’m most excited to hear their feedback and their reactions to it, and I actually do think that they’re going to be very, very pleasantly happy with how mostly stayed to the book.
Do you have any particular favorite quotes from the movie or the book?
I love, “You can’t just stay up in your room writing letters. You got to show people who you really are.” I love that. I love in the book, there’s a quote “Are you gonna break my heart, Covey?” and Peter asks Lara Jean that. And I just thought that was the sweetest thing because it also puts the power into Lara Jean’s hands and, you know, that as a woman is very exciting. So I love that. So those two are the first ones that come to mind.
That’s so great! So what would you advise girls who are struggling with finding self-confidence?
I would say that you’re not alone. Every day I’m working on confidence. Everyone is self-conscious or has fears, but if you can’t tell yourself you’re beautiful, then turn to your friends and your family. And the way that your loved ones see you through their eyes is the way that you have to see yourself.
What are you currently working on and what’s next?
I’m excited about everything! I’m doing a television show called Deadly Class. It’s based on the graphic novel, and it’s about a school for assassins! I can’t wait—I get to ride a motorcycle in it, so that’s fun!
STORY JANICE KIM
PHOTOS ANNA ZHANG
HAIR & MAKEUP AMANDA WILSON