Lana Condor holding a heart shaped balloon.

She’s All That

After the success of the Netflix hit “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” 21-year-old Lana Condor is just getting started.

After premiering on Netflix last August, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before became an instant hit and finished 2018 as the streaming platform’s second-most rewatched original title. Lana Condor plays Lara Jean Covey, an introverted high-schooler whose love letters are accidentally mailed out to her former and current crushes. Here, she dishes on the film’s success, her new role as a teenage assassin, and why rom-coms can be good for us all.

What has playing Lara Jean meant to you?

It’s meant everything to me. I’m the biggest fan of her story and the book franchise [by Jenny Han]. Playing Lara Jean has taught me to be a better person, to be more pure and innocent. She’s so quirky, but she’s never apologetic for her differences, and that has made a huge change in my life. I’m a total weirdo, and because of Lara Jean, I realized that’s OK. When people come up to me and say how much she meant to them, I’m not surprised because she means the same exact thing to me.

Why do you think that the film has been so successful?

All the filmmakers and the cast and the crew, we hoped the movie would do well, but we didn’t know that it was going to be this happily received. I think in terms of Asian representation, that was a huge part of the reason it did well—because girls were able to see themselves portrayed on screen. I’ve had the sweetest girls tell me that it’s been so awesome to see someone who looked like themselves on screen, telling a story about falling in love, telling a universal narrative. And who doesn’t like rom-coms? It’s a really sweet, feel-good movie, and sometimes the world needs to see that. When it comes to rom-coms, people don’t realize how refreshing it is until after they watched it, and then they’re like, “Wow. I feel really good.”

I loved Lara Jean’s relationship with her sisters, Kitty [Anna Cathcart] and Margot [Janel Parrish], and her dad [John Corbett]. What was shooting those scenes like?

My favorite scenes, for the most part, are when I got to work with Janel, Anna, and John. When Janel, Anna, and I got to do scenes together, it was so much fun, and it honestly felt like we were just sisters hanging out. It’s a love story between Lara Jean and Peter [Kavinsky, her love interest], of course, but it’s also a huge love story between the sisters. When you have a group of girls and a cast in general that you genuinely have a great connection with, it doesn’t feel like work anymore. It feels like you get to live your dream and there just happens to be a camera there. 

You have such an easy chemistry with Noah Centineo, who plays Peter. What was it like to work with him?

The moment Noah stepped into the casting room, it was so obvious to everyone that he was the perfect Peter. I’ve never acted with another actor before where I felt the same way that I felt when I’m with Noah. We put a lot of effort into becoming friends, and I think that really helped when we went to camera. The chemistry is wonderful and that takes half the stress of work away, but more than that, he’s so talented and such a giving actor. And when we started promoting the film, Noah and I genuinely love each other, so it was easy for us to express that. I know one of the reasons why people liked the movie so much is because they saw that and believed it in our relationship.

Can you say anything about a possible sequel?

I would absolutely love a sequel and I know Noah would love a sequel, too. There’s nothing I want more than to be in that environment again, and to continue telling that story. So when you know, I’ll know. And hopefully you’ll know soon. [Ed. note: A sequel was officially announced on Dec. 19.]

Do you have any favorite rom-coms?

I love How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Love. I love Bridget Jones’ Diary. I love The Devil Wears Prada—but people tell me it’s not a rom-com.

I think it counts.

Thank you! Well, when I was a little girl, my rom-com was High School Musical. Like I honest-to-God thought High School Musical was a rom-com, so I stand by that. What’s that one with Anne Hathaway and she’s getting married on the same day as her best friend?

Bride Wars?

Bride Wars! I love that one. I could watch any rom-com, but those are my favorites.

What do you think makes a good rom-com?

The two romantic leads have to have chemistry, obviously. If we’re talking straight-out-of-the-book equation, you have to have a conflict or another love interest because that supplies the drama. It seems like the rom-coms that work the best are the ones where the male leads are more sensitive or thoughtful. Maybe they’re the jock but they have these insecurities.

Or they drink kombucha at parties, like Peter Kavinsky.

Yeah, or they drink kombucha at a party. You have to have a best friend. You have to have a mean person. You have to have a good soundtrack. Here’s the thing: That’s why I love rom-coms so much—there’s this perfect equation that, no matter how many times it’s done, never gets old. But I’m also the person who sits alone in my house under the covers and watches rom-coms and cries, so you’re talking to an actual fan. 

You mentioned representation earlier. Why do you think it’s important to audiences to see more diversity on-screen?

Well, audiences aren’t stupid. When they don’t see movies that look like the world they live in, they don’t buy it. They might enjoy the story, but that believability is gone. When To All the Boys and Crazy Rich Asians and Searching and The Meg came out this summer, audiences could feel ownership and invest more of their heart into the story because each one represents what the world looks like and what the audience looks like. In terms of the Asian-American and Asian community, and Asian actors in general, it’s been an incredible year, but I know we can do more. We’re on an upward climb, but we’re climbing, and that’s a good thing.

How did you get into acting? Was it something you always wanted to do?

I didn’t know I wanted to be an actor, but I knew I wanted to be an entertainer. I danced all my life, and inevitably my body couldn’t keep up. So my dad put me in drama class in high school, and I realized I could entertain people not just by my movements but by the words that I said. My second semester senior year, I got a theatrical agent and booked my first job, X-Men: Apocalypse [as Jubilee]. After that, it took nine months to get hired again, and that whole time I thought maybe I just got lucky. But once I got hired again, I started working a little more consistently, and only recently have I realized I can do this as a career. But I knew I wanted to be an actor as soon as I got on the X-Men set. So I’m happy I believed in myself for the periods where I wasn’t working, because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be an actor. 

Your new show, Deadly Class, which premiered on Syfy in January, is about an academy for teenage assassins. You play Saya, one of the students there. What was going into that role like after playing Lara Jean?

Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. It was whiplash. The day after the L.A. premiere of To All the Boys, I got on a plane to Vancouver to start shooting Deadly Class, which is different in every single possible way. My brain was so focused on Lara Jean, and all of a sudden, I had to play this badass, fierce, destructive, chaotic, lonely character. I was like, Lara Jean now has a sword and is stabbing people with it. What’s happening? I thought, Am I good enough to be able to make this switch? Then I had the greatest time of my life shooting Deadly Class. It was also the most challenging because the show is so demanding. Because we care so much about the fights, the story we’re telling, and the darkness of the show, we wanted to make it perfect. The transition period was confusing, but that’s what’s so awesome about acting—you can be whoever you want and do whatever you want. 


Melissa Flandreau is an editor of this magazine. Email her at melissa.flandreau@paceco.com.

Photography by Nicolle Clemetson; wardrobe styling by Caitlyn Beattie; hair by Erin Klassen; makeup by Paula Lanzador; produced by Gina Hole Lazarowich

Originally Published February 2019