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‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ Star Lana Condor on Bringing More Diversity to Movies

With temperatures in the mid 80s outside Arclight Culver City on Thursday night, the cast of “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” were fighting sweat marks while on the red carpet.

“Who brought a fan? What was I thinking, wearing all black!” joked Susan Johnson, the director of Netflix’s latest rom-com.

Based on the 2014 novel of the same name, the film tells the story of Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor), a meek high school student whose life gets turned upside-down when she finds out the five love letters she’s written and kept stashed away have inadvertently been mailed out.

Casting Condor as the lead was an easy choice for Johnson, especially as she and author Jenny Han insisted the role be filled by an Asian-American (keeping true to the book). “When you see the film, you’ll know just as quickly as I did,” shared Johnson, “She’s so beautiful, smart, effervescent, and kind. I thought she had a line into Lara Jean’s psyche that no one else did.”

Seeing characters brought to life on the big screen is many authors’ dream, and for Han, it was no different. “It was very surreal,” she said. “To write a book and then be on set and see all these people working to make my story come to life was a big honor.”

Appearing in films before (“Alita: Battle Angel,” “X-Men: Apocalypse“), but never as a lead, 21-year-old Condor was stunned when she got the call. “I was like, ‘Say it again!’” she remembered. “I curled up in a ball and screamed. A role like this doesn’t come along often. I wanted it more than anything in the world.”

Starring in the upcoming “The Stand-In” opposite Camila Mendes and Netflix’s “Sierra Burgess Is a Loser,” Noah Centineo is no stranger when it comes to teen rom-coms. However, “The Fosters” actor isn’t afraid to branch out of the genre. “I’d love to do more auteur work and more art house films,” he said.

Lara Jean and popular jock Peter (Centineo) strike up a pretend relationship — signed contract and all — with the aim of Peter wanting to make his ex-girlfriend jealous. Lara Jean hopes it will convince her older sister Margot’s (Janel Parrish) ex-boyfriend Josh (Israel Broussard), a love letter recipient, to believe she’s not actually in love with him.

Being homeschooled for most of his life, Broussard couldn’t relate to the film’s high school love politics, but still remembers his first heartbreak. “In third grade I was dating this girl, it was puppy love, but my friend took her away from me. Maybe he had something better to offer her,” said Broussard, chuckling. “Whatever, it’s water under the bridge.”

With the recent release of “Crazy Rich Asians” (the first studio film in 25 years to feature an all Asian-American cast), Condor revealed that she rarely felt represented growing up. “It got to the point where there was so little representation,” she said. “I just thought it was normal. My whole reason for doing this is so girls who look like me feel seen.”

Hawaiian-born Parrish agreed. “It’s time, that’s all I have to say. Let’s keep on going, more diversity, all of it. I’m so happy to represent the community.”

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