(SPOT.ph) It’s not every day that you’d get invited into a plush hotel suite to interview a celebrity, much less one whose breakout movie has been dubbed a cultural phenomenon apart from being described as “quietly revolutionary” by Vanity Fair, but Lana Condor makes it seem like the most natural thing. She breezes in with a warm smile, jean jacket the perfect balance of casual and stylish, and starts by saying how happy she is to be doing this. Almost as if she were Lara Jean Covey meeting up with a group of girl friends for coffee and a catch-up.
You could say that openness was one of the reasons for the success of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, which quietly started streaming on Netflix on August 17, 2018. “When we did the first movie, we didn't even—our film didn't really have a home. Like we didn't know if it would have a theatrical release,” reveals Condor, who goes on to describe filming the sequel as a dream come true. “I loved shooting the first but [for the second], Netflix supported us and wanted to just do the most amazing job. [They’ve] always championed the story of Lara Jean and they have always wanted Lara Jean to be fully fleshed and a three-dimensional character. So maybe the budget was different,” she concedes jokingly, “but the heart stayed the same.”
That presumably substantial bump in the film’s production budget was inevitable given the fact that the movie, adapted from a trio of books written by Jenny Han, proceeded to take over Twitter and the rest of the Internet shortly after its release: Noah Centineo as Peter Kavinsky became everyone’s Internet boyfriend, but also, Lara Jean was all of us—and, well, if we weren’t wishing we were her, we were rooting for her because she brought us right back to high school and its indispensable best friends and unrequited first loves.
It’s that universal experience of teenage heartbreak that’s helped make Lara Jean such a likeable character. But she went beyond being a love-crazy caricature: she was also a considerate daughter and sister, and a loyal friend to Christine and Lucas. It’s these friendships that get a bit more screen time in To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, reveals Condor. “In the first movie, she's trying to figure out herself and she is...she's living in her mind. And she has these fantasies and all these crazy expectations and emotions but she does a lot of that on her own. [Now,] she realizes she doesn't have to do everything on her own, and that she has other people to support her. She's always had Christine and she's always had Lucas but now she has an even broader scope of friends.”
One of those friends, as anyone who’s read the books can tell you, will be Stormy (Holland Taylor), who’s already made an appearance in the sequel’s trailer. She plays a key role in connection to John Ambrose McClaren (Jordan Fisher), the proverbial third piece in P.S. I Still Love You’s love triangle—a triangle that, Condor admits, gives her nightmares. “This question ruins me! This question keeps me up at night,” she laughingly admits. “Oh, god, John Ambrose, who is so amazing you guys, you're not even ready. I keep putting on my social media, y'all ain’t ready for what Jordan Fisher-slash-John Ambrose is going to bring to the table but let me tell you, he puts up a good fight… I foresee a very long press tour of people asking me, ‘Who do you like better, Peter or John Ambrose?’ And me being like, ‘Nooo!’”
I keep putting on my social media, y'all ain’t ready for what Jordan Fisher-slash-John Ambrose is going to bring to the table but let me tell you, he puts up a good fight.
“Here's the thing. John Ambrose and Lara Jean have a relationship based on friendship. They have been friends since childhood. And that is very special. That means that John Ambrose knew Lara Jean in a very friendly, intimate way for a lot longer than Lara Jean has been with Peter,” Condor explains after a pause, considering carefully. “John Ambrose is the carbon copy, male version of Lara Jean, and Lara Jean really loves that. She does because she's understood. She never has to explain herself with John. It's always comfortable. But with Peter, it's not always comfortable. There's a lot of unanswered questions. Peter challenges her a lot. So, it becomes the question of, 'Does Lara Jean need to be with someone who she feels comfortable and safe with or does Lara Jean need to be with someone who challenges her and maybe makes her life chaos but at the end of the day, loves her through and through?'”
To be the one in the middle of that dilemma is a “very blessed situation,” jokes Condor, especially since her relationship with Centineo has been the subject of plenty of swooning since TATBILB came out. Their chemistry in the movie and in subsequent interviews prompted fans to wonder if there was something going on in real life, leading Condor to admit on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon that she and Centineo had decided early on that nothing would happen between them, though they didn’t go as far as to put it in writing. “Noah and I have always had a proper understanding of our relationship. We work so well together on set. When the director yells ‘Rolling!’ the chemistry that I feel with Noah is unlike anything I've ever felt before. He is an incredible actor. And he's very, very giving. Yes, we [did have a contract]—[but] not on paper, not like signed, sealed, and delivered like I know that everyone saw on The Tonight Show.”
When the director yells "Rolling!" the chemistry that I feel with Noah is unlike anything I've ever felt before.
Lack of contract aside, Condor has no qualms about going into how close she and Centineo have gotten since they started filming the first installment in 2017, revealing that she has in fact written him a love letter, Lara Jean-style: “Noah and I have always really loved each other. And we are so fortunate to have each other to work with in this setting. I would—and I told him this—he wrapped a couple of weeks ago and I wrote him a freakin’ love letter ’cause I felt like it was appropriate,” she shares, going on to say that she told Centineo, “I could not imagine being on this crazy journey with anyone but him and I stand by that, and I think the world of him and maybe we didn't have a full-on contract, like you know, from Lara Jean and Peter in the movies, but we've always known where our relationship stands and that's professional and now I can say he's a really, really good friend of mine and I do love him a lot, so, I don't know what life would have been like if it wasn't Noah Centineo playing Peter. I couldn't even see that. And so I feel really fortunate to be able to work with him and he's an incredible actor and an incredible person.”
It’s no secret that the entire cast got along extremely well. All through the filming of P.S. I Still Love You, fans were treated to snaps of them hanging out between takes or on weekends.
“When he wrapped—he wrapped and I had to still work for like, three weeks or something,” she continues, “But when he wrapped, I was like, bawling my eyes out. I was like [fake sobs], ‘No, Noah’s gone!’ It was full-on! It’s been amazing and his presence is top-notch.” Filming for the third and final film was confirmed in August 2019, and shooting had wrapped for some of the actors by later that month. Centineo tweeted his own farewell to playing Peter Kavinsky, probably breaking millions of hearts around the world in the process.
It’s all enough to leave anyone feeling extra-fragile, though one thing's for sure: It’ll be fun to think of the pros and cons between Team Peter or Team John Ambrose, but we’ll always (and forever) be Team Lara Jean.
To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You is now streaming on Netflix.