“I made Netflix spend all this money on this movie just so that, as a 37-year-old mother of two, I could kiss Daniel Dae Kim and Keanu Reeves,” Ali Wong cracked to Variety at the premiere for her upcoming romantic comedy “Always Be My Maybe.” Her co-star and the third piece to this romantic quadrangle, Randall Park commended her, saying “She’s a genius.”
Wong and Park co-wrote and star in “Always Be My Maybe,” playing Sasha and Marcus, childhood friends who hook up in their teens, but have a falling out and lose touch for 15 years. Sasha goes on to become a successful chef in Los Angeles and is engaged to restauranteur Brandon Choi (Daniel Dae Kim), while Marcus is a struggling musician living at home with his dad. The two reconnect when Sasha returns home to San Francisco to open a new restaurant, and it’s not long before sparks fly again until a mysterious man played by Keanu Reeves gets in the way.
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“What a genius writer! She was like, I’m going to write this for me, Randall, Daniel Dae Kim and Keanu Reeves,” the film’s director, Nahnatchka Khan, echoed.
“He was the sort of ideal scenario,” Khan said, explaining how they landed Reeves. “You’re like, ‘Oh, this is probably never going to happen, but here it is.’ And then he got sent the script and he responded. And we sat down with him and he had some great thoughts on the character. So, we revised it, sent it back to him. He was like, ‘Absolutely!’”
She continued: “We got him in this little window — I think he was wrapping ‘John Wick’ in New York and then was about to go to Morocco or something. So, we got him for this short time. The fact that he was willing to do it, when he could have gotten to sleep for five days, is amazing.”
Mariah Carey also voiced her approval – much to super-fan Wong’s excitement. Carey gave the film a shout out via Twitter, sharing the movie’s trailer and acknowledging the fact that the film’s title is a play on her 1995 hit “Always Be My Baby.”
“They didn’t even have to pitch it because I just wanted to be a part of it because I’m a fan of theirs. And I love the idea of two Asian-American leads in a rom-com and I wanted to do comedy, so it was a good fit,” Kim explained, adding that he was most excited to play a jerk.
Rounding out the cast with funny ladies like Michelle Buteau and Casey Wilson proved to be just as easy.
“I basically begged and begged to be part of it and I’m not ashamed to admit that. I just did the table read and I love the script so much and obviously Randall and Ali are so wonderful,” Wilson cooed. “It’s just a special film that’s actually, like, genuinely hard funny, but then I was crying at the end.”
“Always Be My Maybe” may feel like a typical romantic comedy, but the Netflix film has an extra layer of depth by featuring two Asian-Americans in the lead roles and a host of diverse talent on-screen. Wong, Park and Khan are already known for groundbreaking comedy with their contributions to ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat” – the first primetime series about an Asian-American family on U.S. network TV since the 1990s — where Wong has been a writer, Khan served as the creator and showrunner and Park is the star.
“It makes me want to see more,” Khan shared. “When you have genres that have been around for a long time, like romantic comedy or horror, the thing that feels exciting and fresh is when you see people who haven’t normally been centered and then it suddenly, like, gets a new jolt.”
“There’s really something to ‘for us, by us,’” Buteau mused about the rebirth of the rom-com and how they’re more inclusive than ever. “Diversity matters and these stories are important and that people can relate to them if they can’t, they learned.”
“For us, it was really just about working together, trying to make a great movie and I think that’s all extra,” Park said. “[The diversity conversation] is fantastic and it is a part of us; it’s important to us. But, if the movie sucks…”
“Nobody would care and be like, ‘Oh hey guys, representation doesn’t matter. Go away representation,’” Wong jumped in, finishing his sentence. “For us, it was most important that we really have fun and that hopefully that fun shows up in the finished product.”
Ultimately, this was a highly personal project for Park and Wong, so it was fitting when life imitated art at the film’s premiere. The comedic duo met during their college days at UCLA, when they performed in the LLC Theatre Company (a theater and comedy group which Park co-founded). So having their film premiere near campus at the Regency Village Theatre in Westwood brought them back to their old stomping grounds.
“It’s surreal,” Park said of being back where their friendship all began. “It’s really a trip being in Westwood,” Wong added with a laugh, saying that they’d done a panel for UCLA students when she was pregnant with her first child. “I haven’t set foot near this campus since, because it would be sad if we did.”
“Always Be My Maybe” will be in select theaters beginning May 29 and streams on Netflix May 31.