Lana Condor: ‘I Think There’s A Misconception These Movies Are Only Watched By Teens’

The actress speaks to Grazia before the release of the third and final To All the Boys film, Always and Forever.

Lana condor to all the boys always and forever

by Bonnie McLaren |
Updated on

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a teenage film. But, then again, it isn’t. The third film in the instalment - based on the Jenny Han novels - is out on Friday, just in time for Valentine’s Day, and you can guarantee there will be people (mostly women) in their mid-twenties, mid-thirties, and older itching to see whether beloved heroine Lara Jean Covey will step into her future with or without boyfriend Peter Kavinsky, aka Noah Centineo.

Lara Jean is played by Lana Condor, who was catapulted into worldwide fame when the first film was released in 2018. Originally, she only signed for one film, not knowing the phenomenon that To All the Boys was going to become. It isn’t an understatement to say the film completely changed her life. Lana wasn’t new to acting - she made her debut starring as Jubilee in the superhero film X-Men Apocalypse - but her on-screen romance with Noah meant she became a familiar face to almost anyone with a Netflix account.

But why was the first film so successful, and why did it resonate with so many people beyond the teen remit?

‘I love that question, thank you!’ Lana exclaims, speaking to Grazia from her home in Seattle, where she moved at the beginning of the pandemic. ‘I think there's a misconception these movies are only watched by teens or young people. And it's so funny, because in my experience, the majority of people I run into who have seen the film are actually adults.'

noah centineo lana condor

The 23-year-old thinks there are two reasons most of the fans she meets aren’t teenagers. One: nostalgia. 'People will talk to me and say, "oh, it reminded me of when I was in high school" or "it reminded me of my first love". And two: the importance of Asian representation on screen. TATB has long been hailed as the first mainstream teen romance to feature an Asian-American lead.

‘I think a lot of adults who are Asian have watched the film because they didn't have a film like this when they were growing up,’ Lana, who was born in Vietnam and adopted by American parents, explains. ‘And I think they're watching it being like, "oh, wow, this is something I wish I had when I was a kid"'.

Lana isn’t too dissimilar from her character to talk to. In the film, Lara Jean is incredibly sweet. Lana will have been answering questions about this film for weeks, but she’s thoughtful, considerate and incredibly polite as she ponders over the questions, often stopping to say she likes them.

‘I have spent so much time playing [Lara] that I do feel like a lot of myself and her have kind of melted,’ she reflects. ‘Sometimes, I think she puts other people's emotions before her own, which is something she's learning in the third movie - that she has to care for herself as much as she cares for the people around her.’

The one big trait they have in common, according to Lana, is they're both petrified of upsetting anyone - sometimes to a fault.

‘I never want to hurt anyone,' she says. 'I stay up late at night overthinking things, like "did this interaction go well and did this person leave feeling good?" I want the people around me to be happy and I want to help them. I think that's probably the thing I have in common with her. It's a wonderful trait, but sometimes we'll both forget about ourselves.’

Lana says she is incredibly grateful for the success the film has granted her, but she says, as a natural introvert, the worldwide fame has been overwhelming. In a previous interview, Lana has said she felt 'horrible mentally' following the film's release. To put her fame into context, on Instagram alone, she has over 10 million followers. ‘It's been thrilling because I get to meet people who can relate to the films and tell me their story,’ she continues. ‘But the opposite side of that, since I was a kid, I'd have social anxiety being in crowds. I think I'm much more of an introvert than I show publicly. And so that has been a challenging learning experience - it goes against my nature of where I feel the most comfortable.’

The actress has publicly credited her boyfriend of five years, singer and actor Anthony De La Torre, with helping her adapt to her new lifestyle in the public eye - but she also has a good companion in Noah. ‘It’s very clear, I think, in the movies that we like each other more and more - because if we didn’t, the movies would be really bad,' she says. 'And I think that we'll always be bonded in this experience, which is exciting, because it's very difficult to explain to people just how much these movies have impacted our lives.’

So, how does she feel that the franchise which turned her life upside down is finally coming to an end? Now Lara Jean is growing up. ‘It's definitely bittersweet,’ she says, ‘it’s been such a huge part of my life. It’s like I'm saying goodbye to a part of myself, which is a very wild experience.’

As a coming-of-age film, there’s a very important lesson for younger - and not so young - viewers. ‘The third movie is about Lana coming to her own as an individual and stepping out into the world. I'm very proud of the way she's wanting to step into her future: whether she's going to take the relationship that she had with her,’ she says. And, spoiler alert from Lana: ‘She chooses herself and what makes her feel alive. And to me that's so important to show our audience that, you know, sometimes you have to choose yourself.’

To All The Boys: Always And Forever is available to stream on Netflix from Friday February 12.

PHOTOGRAPHER: Jonny Marlow MAKE-UP ARTIST: Melissa Hernandez HAIR STYLIST: Kat Thompson MANICURIST: Thuy Nguyen STYLIST: Tara Swennen

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