Ahead of the highly anticipated premiere of Netflix’s All The Boys: Always and Forever, we caught up with Lana Condor on making tough life choices, the love of her life, and what playing Lara Jean Covey has taught her.
PS: Spoilers ahead!
Related article: Noah Centineo Lets Us In On Dating And Life After ‘To All The Boys’
While the first two films focused on Lara Jean’s romantic relationships, the final movie actually takes us outside of that realm and explores other relationships as well. What was it like to get to explore this?
It was awesome! When we went into the third movie, I specifically remember having conversations with our directors, producers, writers, and Jenny (Han, author of To All The Boys series) on making sure that we show Lara Jean choosing herself and how much she has grown through the years. It was important that in this final instalment, we show that LJ’s choices revolved around herself and her future. It felt more grounded and definitely a universal feeling of a young woman figuring out her life.
When you see her in New York City, you see her in a new light. She wants to experience nightlife, she wants to try new things and take chances. She comes to life, and knows that she has to chase that feeling. She knows that ultimately that’s what going to make her the woman she hopes to be when she grows up.
It was exciting for me personally because I’m the same way now. I’m growing up, trying to figure out what I want to do for my future and trying to make choices that are good for myself. It was a fun parallel and learning journey for me.
Lara Jean was conflicted on choosing NYU over a college close to Peter’s. Was there a moment in your life where you had to make a tough decision?
My first job ever was X-Men: Apocalypse, and I booked that as a senior (in high school). For that whole year before that, I’ve been preparing myself for college—testing, college applications, schooling etc. For my whole life, my future had been college, and never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d do anything but that. Once I booked my first job, which was a whole new world, I then realised that in this industry, nothing is guaranteed; jobs are not guaranteed. It’s quite difficult to work consistently as an actor.
I remember sitting down with my parents and wondering if this was going to be a one-hit wonder: am I ever going to be only doing X-Men and not book another job again, am I making a poor choice of not going to college? My parents and I gave myself a year to defer from college and see how this pans out. They asked if I believed in myself and ability enough, and if I would be willing to work really hard to be hired again. If I were, then I should take that chance. I had to make that choice of whether I believed in myself and was brave enough to go down this unconventional and possibly unstable route, instead of the one my parents had been planning for me to go through with my education.
I think that was one big choice I had to make, and I’m so happy I did because I would not be here today! Of course, it’s different from Lara Jean’s but I understand the anxiety she felt while making a huge life-altering decision.
Have you ever been in a situation whereby you had to choose between your career over love, or vice versa?
I’ve been very fortunate in my relationship with my boyfriend, Anthony, where I never had to choose. Anthony is incredibly supportive of me, wants my dreams to come true and for me to be successful. He knows that that might mean that there will be times where we will not be together, and it was and will be really difficult. He loves me so much that he has never put me in the position whereby I had to choose work over him, or vice versa. I’m very grateful and blessed. Also, I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him to watch me make out with all these different guys while filming All The Boys the past couple of years—I’m sure it’s a nightmare for most people. He’s been such a trooper!
As an actress, how do you balance the message of empowerment versus the message of love?
To love unconditionally is very empowering, and to know how to receive love is too, very empowering. I think the fundamental aspect of love is empowering. When it comes to rom-coms and especially the genre of YA (Young Adult), there is a responsibility to portray love and young relationships in a healthy way. To always communicate, to have conversations when you’re not comfortable or when you want to take your time.
Lara Jean’s virginity is and has always been a huge thing for her; something she thinks about all the time. What I love the most is that she and Peter actually talk about it. In prior films, they talk about how LJ doesn’t feel ready and Peter respects her feelings about it.
When we finally tackle her loss of virginity in this final chapter, we did it in a way that is a partnership that has been talked about—soft, kind, passionate and love-driven. In that exact scene, we had actually shot more than what had made into the movie itself. I think it was a choice of only putting a little bit of it into the film because the filmmakers wanted there to be some mystery and it is a special moment for both characters; something very personal, as it should be.
Throughout the course of three films, what have you learnt from playing Lara Jean Covey, and how has she changed your life?
The experience has changed my life; playing her has changed my life! What I’ve learnt from her and now try to apply in my own life is that LJ is all about not growing up too fast.
I think young people these days grow up too fast! I see 12, 13 year olds looking like they’re 30! I remember when I was 12, I looked like two, and probably behaved that way as well!
The charm of Lara Jean is that she does want to take it slow; she does want to take it day by day. She’s not wanting to skip all these experiences that make you a child. She always had that child-like wonder and is driven by love. I think I’ve not always been great at that, and that more often than not, my instinct is to plan and look to the future, and in that process I miss all the things that are happening right now around me. Playing LJ has really taught me to slow down and to just appreciate the one that day that we’ve been given, to enjoy every moment of it.
Throughout the three films, she’s also maintained this quirky trait that is tough to do in high school, because people are going to be telling you what’s cool and how you should change yourself. But Lara Jean stays the same—she grows a lot, but her heart stays the same. That’s what I want to do. I don’t want to let the world change me too much. Honestly, I could go on for 10 hours on how she has changed me.
To All The Boys: Always and Forever premieres on Netflix on 12 February.