For the first time in her career, Sofia Carson got to be part of a film from the moment pre-production began until the very end — and then some. In fact, five years ago when director-producer Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum met Carson on “Pretty Little Liars: Perfectionists,” the two clicked immediately. Rosenbaum asked Leslie Morgenstein, president of Alloy Entertainment, to keep an eye out for a script the two could do together. Two weeks later, she received “Purple Hearts.”
“I remember I read it in a hotel room in Portland and I thought, everything that I’ve been feeling — the frustration I’ve been feeling in the world, as the two sides of the aisle have become more and more divided, it’s kind of represented in this,” the director explains. “But in a hopeful, romantic bow — where it’s not in your face, it’s just that the themes are explored. It just felt so timely and exciting.”
At the time, the script was told from the point of view of the male lead, Luke (Nicholas Galitzine), and needed a little bit of updating. So, Rosenbaum and Carson took that on together and also added in where Carson’s songs could go. For the first time, Carson became an executive producer, who was involved in everything from pitching to Netflix to casting.
“I definitely have the producer bug now,” she tells Variety. “I love being able to be a part of every aspect of storytelling in that way.”
Then it was time to find the perfect Luke.
“Liz and I had been dreaming of this movie and of Cassie and Luke for five years. Every time I’d go to the movies, I had our movie in mind and I would think of possible Lukes and I would text Liz constantly. I had, like, a list of wish picks,” Carson says. “When we started the actual casting process and I met with Nick [Galitzine], I knew instantly just because of our chemistry.”
She adds, “I knew that, for me, what was most important to the heart of our story was the chemistry between these two people who literally could not stand how badly they wanted each other, and it needed to feel like fire, like this lightning in a bottle and Nick and I had really incredible chemistry through a computer screen.”
In fact, after reading their first few scenes, producer and head of film for Alloy Elysa Koplovitz Dutton told the group, “I don’t know what just happened, but I would watch that movie.”
That said, he wasn’t an immediate yes. Rosenbaum felt he may be too sweet for the role of Luke, and she wanted more anger.
“For me, Nick didn’t pop at first,” says Rosenbaum. “She kept bringing him up, so I had a separate conversation with him on my own, where we talked more about the character… After our long call, he said, ‘Liz, you’re basically asking me to be more of a dick? I can do that.’ He came in again, he gave her a really hard time in their improvs and she was astonished and put off in a fun way. I started to see how they could push each other’s buttons.”
From there, Galitzine became Luke.
“We were very lucky that we had this instinctual and very natural chemistry and even the way that him and I can get into under each other’s skin as Nick and Sofia, is very much how Cassie and Luke function,” Carson laughs. “So it was cool to kind of almost emulate our bickering and our relationship in our movie.”
At first, Carson — who also wrote the music for the movie — thought that Cassie and Nick’s story began and ended in “Purple Hearts.” However, after seeing major success on the streaming service, racking in over 100 million hours viewed in its first two weeks, it’s exciting to see people wanting more.
“Now fans have kind of been demanding a sequel and there’s so many fan theories and fan stories and potential spinoffs, so of course it’s lovely to think of a life for Cassie and Luke beyond this film,” she says. “I adore being Cassie and I’d be curious to see where it goes. Who knows. You never know!”
Rosenbaum adds that they’ve been casually chatting about doing more, but nothing is official.
“I mean, I could watch the two of them and their chemistry all day. And they’re just great people to work with, so I definitely won’t rule it out,” she says. “We wouldn’t do anything unless we really, really loved it, because we want to stay true to the integrity. We haven’t landed on anything specific yet. It’s always a possibility.”