To All The Boys: Always and Forever: Interview with Lana Condor, Noah Centino, Jenny Han on the final chapter
The final goodbye
Four years ago, Jenny Han's To All The Boys I've Ever Loved Before made its book-to-screen adaptation debut on Netflix. A rom-com, as most would laud it for, but the roaring success and subvertion of the high school romance trope stood in its own special league. No notable villians, no heartbreakers in the guise of jocks, and no meek heroine in sight. It was one that broke the latency of the rom-com genre and reignited a feverish glee for young (first) love in the premise of locker rooms and varsity jackets.
A sequel, To All The Boys: PS I Still Love You, soon followed after. And now the final chapter, To All The Boys: Always and Forever, will be released this February 12. At the center of all of this, are rising stars Lana Condor and Noah Centino who play the leads Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky in the series of books from Han's trilogy — starring roles, which also catapulted their acting careers and made them overnight role models for YA romance worldwide. "I think that as people, Lana and Noah, had a lot of chemistry with each other, and people just fell in love with that. People are always priming for a hopeful and optimistic story and their romance is this really warm-hearted kind of love story. And people were eager to spend time with them in their world," said Han on the fixation of the relationship between Lara Jean and Peter.
While the third film marks the end of the loved-up bubble of the couple, there will be questions that are still left unanswered — for instance, "What happens after the credits roll?", to which Han will not be addressing. "I think for me as the author, I feel like my job is done once I finish the book and they're continuing to live off as characters in other people's heads. So everyone's guess is as good as mine."
On that note of characters, we recently spoke to Condor and Centino on personal growth, love, and what the films mean for young adults.
The first two movies were mainly about Lara Jean's romantic relationships, but this final movie takes us to other relationships of hers as well. What was it like to explore them?
Lana Condor (LC): It was awesome! When we went into the third movie, I specifically remember having conversations with our director, producers, and writers and being like: "We need to make sure that this film shows Lara Jean choosing herself and how much she's grown throughout the years. We need to show her as a young woman, who's now, instead of choosing boys (which was what the first and second movie was about), for her choices to revolve around her future and where she feels she will be happiest." It felt more grounded for me, as a universal feeling, as a young woman, to ask: "What the heck am I going to do for the rest of my life?" It was exciting for me to do, because I feel the same way as Lara Jean — I'm growing up and trying to figure out what I want to do for my future, and make choices good for myself regardless of the more popular opinions around me. Ultimately, I want to take care of myself so it was a very fun parallel and learning journey for me as well.
The film depicts Lara Jean's life-altering decision of having to choose between love and going to NYU. Have you ever had to make a tough decision like that?
LC: I did had to choose between going to college and giving acting a real shot, after having booked my first job in X-Men. Especially given that in this industry, nothing is guaranteed. Jobs are not guaranteed and it's quite difficult to work consistently as an actor. And so I remembered sitting there with my parents and being like: "Is this going to be a one hit wonder?" Just that choice of going on a path that has literally no stability was a pretty big one for me.
I've been very fortunate that I never had to choose between love and another. My boyfriend Anthony is incredibly supportive with my career and my dreams. He wants me to be successful even if that might mean there are times we are not together and I'm working across the world, he's never put me in a position where I have to choose between my work and him. I think that is very special and I'm grateful for him, for being a trooper throughout the last three years.
Comparing to the very first movie to the last, how do you think Peter Kavinsky has grown and developed as a person, in love and in life?
Noah Centino (NC): I think in the first movie he was a little naive as to what it took to maintain a relationship and had issues communicating but now, he has got slightly better. More than anything, he has learnt to surrender and embrace a lot of things he's afraid of. At the end of the third movie, you see his growth and ability to overcome his fear of abandonment and kind of just release and surrender to life — which shows he's matured dearly.
Why do you think people are so obesessed with Lara Jean and Peter's relationship?
NC: I think because it covers first love, it's relatable to everyone. A big part of why people love Lara Jean so much is because of how much afraid she is of love. When you have these feelings so intense, it's scary at first and you really get to watch her process of letting Peter in and trusting him and I think that's something that is extremely relatable. We got to do it in Jenny Han's way, which is in this vibrant and articulate world, rather than a shattered, depressing version of it. It's a very uplifting version of your first love, even in the heartbreak it's still magical — which is Jenny's doing — she created these characters and this dynamic of love that we respond to and that we fantasise about.
What are the main lessons or takeaways from the film that YA audience can learn from?
NC: I really hope young men go the way that Peter goes about respecting Lara Jean with her losing her virginity. Some people think having sex for the first time is sacred, intense, and a special moment. And to the majority who feels this way, they need to be respected and catered to and I love the way Peter does that — going so far then to stop when it doesn't feel right. And also, taking on what fears you the most — if you're afraid of something you should look at it, you shouldn't avoid it, you should dissect it and try to figure out why it scares you so much. Because to me, what I found is the fear of something is a lot stronger than the actual something you're afraid of.
LC: There is a responsibility at least with our voice, to show love and show young relationships in a healthy way. And communication between one another is so important in relationships, to have conversations when you're not feeling comfortable, or when you want to take your time. With these three films and particularly the third movie, Lara Jean's virginity is a huge conversation for her. It's something she thinks about all the time, and what I love the most is how Peter and her openly talk about it and how he listens and respects her when she doesn't feel ready. When we finally tackle the virginity loss, we do it in a way that is a partnership, and it's talked about — we wanted to show sex to young people that it's soft and kind and passionate and love-driven.
What have you learnt from playing Lara Jean as a character and how has she changed your life?
LC: I've learnt so much — she's changed my life and the experience has changed my life night and day. I think what I've learnt from her, that I now try to apply in my real life, is that Lara Jean is completely fine with not growing up too fast. I think that these days, particularly young people, they grow up so so fast and it's because of influences of social media and everything. But I see 12, 13 year olds who look like they're 30 and when I was 12, I looked like I was 2 so I think that the charm of Lara Jean is that she does want to take it slow, and she does want to take it day by day. She's comfortable with not making choices where she's neglecting — she's not trying to grow up and skip all these things that make you a child and throughout the three films, she's always had that childlike wonder. I think often, my instinct is that I want to be somewhere else and I'm thinking about my future. But then I miss all the awesome things that are happening in the now, so she's really taught me to slow down a bit and enjoy every moment we've been given today.
Catch To All The Boys: Always and Forever on Netflix this February 12.