Lana Condor will charm you like no other. In the new Netflix movie, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Lana Condor takes the lead role of Lara Jean Covey, a high school junior who discovers one day that every love letter she’s written to a boy she’s had a crush on has been delivered to each one. Naturally, Lara Jean is initially mortified, and chaos ensues once the boys confront her with her letters. Lana Condor embodies the role written by Jenny Han in the 2014 novel of the same name with pathos, making Lara Jean the nerdy protagonist who often finds herself effectively trapped in the middle—she stays in to watch Golden Girls re-runs with her younger sister, and has a crush on her older sister’s boyfriend. She’s someone viewers root for until the very end, and Condor makes it easy to be on Lara Jean’s side from the jump.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is certainly a breakout performance for the 21-year-old actress, but she actually made her splash onto the big screen in 2016, when she appeared as Jubilee, a Beverly Hills bred mallrat mutant and sidekick to Wolverine, in X-Men: Apocalypse. Between her role in the X-Men franchise, and playing Lara Jean in the latest pleasant surprise to come from Netflix’s roster of original films, Condor has amassed a cult following on Instagram.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Condor spoke of the realization she had with regards to “seeing other people that look like me do this successfully,” after watching Hayden Szeto in The Edge of Seventeen, and more recently the cast of Crazy Rich Asians. Seeing a blockbuster romantic comedy led by an all-Asian cast inspired the Asian-American actress to do the role of Lara Jean justice in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. The film tries its best to state its awareness of the lack of positive Asian roles in popular American films. For example, the prudence of the studio’s decision to follow-through on the author of the book’s request to not whitewash Lara Jean in the movie adaptation of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is reflected in it with its meta-commentary on racist tropes in popular films (particularly in Sixteen Candles or other teen comedies from the 1980s that a film like To All the Boys I’ve Loved will likely be compared to by viewers).
In her career so far Condor has successfully embodied both the superhero sidekick and the girl next door, but it’s the latter personality that she possesses on Instagram, where the actress reveals her close friendships to cast-mates from her films and the occasional childhood throwback. Like Lara Jean, you just can’t help but root for Lana Codor.