Just a year after the final installment of the “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” trilogy, Lana Condor is out with a new rom-com — this time with a sci-fi twist.
“Moonshot,” which will be released Thursday on HBO Max, stars Condor as Sophie, who embarks a journey through the solar system that accidentally leads her to love. Sophie takes a spaceship to Mars to reunite with her longtime boyfriend, but during the monthlong voyage, she gets to know Walt (Cole Sprouse), an acquaintance from Earth who snuck onto the flight as a stowaway.
As part of the recent wave of Asian American rom-coms — which includes “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Always Be My Maybe” — Condor said she hopes her movies “make people feel seen.”
“The world is deeply and vastly colorful, and I’m like, well, don’t you want to watch something that accurately reflects the world the way it really is, and not just, like, the Kate Hudsons of the world getting to fall in love in a rom-com?” she told NBC Asian America.
Condor spoke to NBC Asian America before the “Moonshot” premiere about lessons viewers can take from the film, how she learned to embrace her identity as a Vietnamese American transnational adoptee and the importance of diversity in film. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
NBC Asian America: “Moonshot” is about a journey of self-discovery as much as it is a love story. Did you have any specific ideas about how you wanted to portray Sophie or anything you hoped viewers would learn from her?
Lana Condor: Sophie basically takes the position — which is mine as well — that we shouldn’t abandon something that’s broken. We should fix what’s broken instead of just wiping our hands clean of the responsibility and being like, “Well, the Earth is dying, so time to go find a new home.”
Sophie very much believes that, no, we have the resources on Earth to save Earth. We shouldn’t just forget about it. We shouldn’t just give up. Let’s think about our resources and apply it to fixing our home.
I also hope people take away that it’s awesome to plan, it’s awesome to dream, but also don’t rigidly plan. Life doesn’t always go as planned, and sometimes that’s OK. So I hope people take away from Sophie that they should have a plan and dream, but also to understand that — this sounds so cliché — the journey, and the people that you meet on the journey, is just as, if not more, important than the destination. It’s a classic phrase, but I think that rings very true to Sophie’s arc in the movie.
Do you see yourself in Sophie at all?
I saw more of my mother when I read the script. My mom is very organized. She’s very Type A. She loves to plan. She’s very pragmatic. I modeled much of my performance off of my mom.
I’m a little bit more of a roll-with-the-punches, go-with-the-flow kind of person. But with every acting job, I think it’s kind of inevitable to take away a part of that character, and that becomes like an aspect of your own personality. So I did take away some of Sophie.
Asian American viewers haven’t really seen ourselves represented in popular rom-com movies until you starred in “To All the Boys.” What do you think your impact on the genre and in the film industry has been?
I believe my life purpose as an entertainer is to make people feel seen and make people feel less alone. I hold a lot of pride in doing that. I think film and television is like this weird little world, and if you don’t have a mission, it can sometimes feel a little superficial, like, what am I doing? And so I really, really, really want to represent the Asian community and normalize seeing us in mainstream film and television.
Media in general influences — for good or for bad — the real world. And I don’t understand why in film and television, or particularly in this genre, why it’s been mostly reserved for women that do not look like me. I just don’t understand that, because the world is deeply and vastly colorful, and I’m like, well, don’t you want to watch something that accurately reflects the world as the way that it really is, and not just, like, the Kate Hudsons of the world getting to fall in love in a rom-com? Honestly, it just baffles me.
It brings me much joy and much pride to be able to do what I do, and even if it just impacts one person, that’s what is enough for me. What we consume kind of becomes how we see the world, and the world is very colorful. And my hope — and I think I am seeing more of it — but I almost hope that we get to this point where it’s not even a question. I want to get to a point where it’s so normal to see someone that looks like us in a commercial or a rom-com.
I think we’re getting there, but we have a lot of steps to take to get to the point that we deserve. But I’ve seen movement, and I think “Moonshot” is a great testament to the industry changing and being a little bit more open-minded when it comes to their casting choices.
In a previous interview, you talked about how in high school you tried to wear your makeup in a way that made you seem like someone you’re not, because you didn’t want to be different. How did you learn to embrace who you are?
Oh, my God, that’s so true. It’s so accurate. I think a lot of growing to accept myself just comes with surrounding yourself with really, with good people, people who love you and support you and who you love and you support. Confidence, I think, comes with time and with age. Just now that I’m older, I see why that’s so unnecessary to want to be anyone but yourself.
And honestly, it took a lot of self-reflection. I’m a big believer in, if there’s any tumbleweeds of thoughts going on in your head, getting it down on paper and writing it all out in a diary or in a journal or even in your Notes app. Just get it on the page, and then you can really see things for what it is, and it’s left your body and put somewhere physical.
I think a lot of journaling has helped me be super proud and super confident of who I am. I don’t want to be anyone else. And honestly, as much as I tried to be anyone else, I don’t think I could. I think I’m too tired of it.