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'To All the Boys 2': How Lana Condor and Jenny Han made a teen heroine for themselves

Jen Yamato, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES -- Bestselling author Jenny Han had just flown cross-country from New York to meet up with Lana Condor, the star of her hit "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" movies, when the actress turned to her with an urgent query: "Do you think I'm like Kitty or Lara Jean or Margot in real life?"

Han took the serious question under serious consideration. After all, Condor skyrocketed to fame overnight playing bookish teen heroine Lara Jean Song Covey, the romance-obsessed protagonist of the 2018 film adapted from Han's bestselling novel and its new sequel, "To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You" (now streaming on Netflix).

And as fans know, Lara Jean and her sisters Kitty (Anna Cathcart) and Margot (Janel Parrish) are as different from one another as Condor's onscreen beaus: Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), the jock Lara Jean fell for at the end of the first movie, and sensitive musician John Ambrose McClaren (Jordan Fisher), the old flame who complicates Lara Jean's love life as the second film picks up.

"That's tricky," Han said after a beat. "I'd put you as more of a ... Chris," naming Lara Jean's unconventional but loyal best friend. "Yes!" screamed Condor, and they both burst out laughing.

After making "To All the Boys" and two back-to-back sequels together -- becoming close friends over long conversations, foodie obsessions and spa days -- the pair share not just their cinematic vision of Lara Jean, the character at the heart of one of Netflix's most-talked-about rom-coms and a rare Asian American heroine, but a sisterly bond.

Han, 39, lives in New York City and Condor, 22, recently moved to Seattle. Cozying up in a conference room inside the Netflix headquarters in Hollywood they instantly began catching up, chattering a mile a minute. Often the two just end up talking. "We FaceTimed the other night for 4 1/2 hours!" said Han.

 

But there's more to their friendship than simpatico personalities. "I'm very protective of the character, the world and also over Lana, honestly," said Han, who first noticed Condor when she was cast in a small role in "X-Men: Apocalypse" and advocated early for her to play Lara Jean.

"There is no movie without Lana," she said of Condor, who was 19 when she was cast. "It all hinges on her shoulders -- and that's a lot of responsibility, a lot of attention. I wanted to keep checking in to make sure she was OK."

Following Han's 2014 NY Times bestselling YA novel, the first film's cutesy premise finds introverted Lara Jean forced out of her shell after her old love letters are mailed out to five former crushes. Agreeing to pose with the outgoing Peter as a couple to make his ex jealous, she accidentally falls in love.

The film turned Condor and Centineo into stars, boosting her social media following to 7 million fans virtually overnight. Condor remembered how different life was just a few years ago when, during the audition process for the first "To All the Boys," she gave herself a stern pep talk.

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