For any author that has their book adapted for television or film, I can only imagine that the feeling is surreal. Watching the characters that you created and that have lived in your head for so long manifest into a physical form on screen must be eye-opening, whether it’s good or bad.
For author Jenny Han, who has penned everything from To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before to The Summer I Turned Pretty, watching Lara Jean, Peter Kavinksy, the Song Sisters, and this world that she created come to life has been a surreal experience that has been eye-opening in its differences from writing a book.
Netflix’s adaptation of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is the kind of Young Adult adaptation and teen rom-com that this world needs right now. Whether it’s for those fans of Han’s book that are eager to see the characters they know and love manifest in a different medium or new fans that will soon fall in love for all the reasons us book purists have, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is ushering in a new wave of teen rom-coms that have the power to teach us as much as it has the power to help us forget our lives for a couple of hours and just live this journey with the characters.
We had a chance to chat with To All The Boys author Jenny Han about the adaptation of her book, where she discusses the faithfulness of the adaptation, watching her characters come to life, the collaboration process, and more!
Fangirlish: What were your thoughts on the film? Was it a faithful adaptation?
Jenny Han: I thought they did a really good job of capturing the spirit. For me, as an author, I’ve always felt the book and movie are two separate works of art. I’ve never had an expectation that it was going to be a scene-to-scene copy. They’re just two different mediums. A movie is visual. I thought they managed to carry across who her character was, her aesthetic, and the love between the characters.
Fangirlish: What was it like seeing these characters come to life?
Han: It was completely surreal. When I walked on set for the first time I just couldn’t believe how big a production a movie is. Where you’re seeing all the equipment and cranes and trucks. I think that writing can be a solitary endeavor, and to come on set and see this many people working to create something you thought up, it’s really overwhelming.
Fangirlish: Why is this the right time for this adaptation?
Han: I think that we’re in a moment where people are recognizing the need to see different kinds of stories where you don’t have to justify why somebody is not white in a movie and just have that make a lead and it doesn’t have to be explained why they have to be that.
Fangirlish: Can you talk about the importance of leading woman of color on screen and woman director?
Han: I think it’s important to have for people that are telling the stories to come from an authentic place. I loved that we had a female director on this movie because a) they’re so few of them, but b) to have this young girl’d story brought to life by a woman I think was really important.
Fangirlish: Can you talk about the collaboration process with director Susan Johnson?
Han: Susan directed Carrie Pilby, which was also a book that became a movie. I think she had a great deal of respect for the author’s intent and vision. So we were in contact early on. She reached out to me and was asking me about my vision for the book and what was important to me. She was asking me questions about character, and I actually sent some mood boards I’d created — Lara Jean’s personal style, as well as what her bedroom would look like.
Fangirlish: What did you learn about the book to movie process?
Han: I feel like I learned so much. Frankly, it was overwhelming because it’s so different than the book’s world. I guess the biggest thing I learned was how many more people are involved. Where with the book it was just me, now there are a team of people to help you bring something to life.
Fangirlish: There were some things from the second book in the film. How did you respond to the changes in the movie? Did they add to the story?
Han: To me, (the change) made a lot of sense because the first book is very open-ended. I think for a movie you need a little bit more to tie it up. So it made sense to me to give it more closure.
Fangirlish: You had the chance to visit the set. What was that experience like?
Han: I was there while they had the house still. So they shot all of the house first, and I was there for that part then I came back when they moved to the school. I think, for me, when I saw the chemistry between Lana (Condor) and Noah (Centineo) that it became very real to me. I was like, ‘Wow, this is really special.’”
Fangirlish: Did you have a chance to interact with the cast?
Han: It was a lot of us hanging out between scenes and stuff. It was kinda funny because it was all in the living room so we’d just be on the couch in between shots. I just loved that I got to witness, especially with the girls, how much of a big sis Janel (Parrish) was to Anna (Cathcart) and Lana. She really took care of them. There would be little extension things that came up and Janel would be giving advice. I just loved seeing that. I felt like the mom hanging out in the back watching her daughters just be so sweet to each other.
Fangirlish: You have a cameo in the film? What was that experience like?
Han: I was really nervous because I’d never done that before. I was like, ‘How do I stand? Or what should I be doing? What’s my motivation?’ It’s such a brief little glimpse.
Fangirlish: What was it like watching the Song sisters come to life?
Han: It was such a treat. Especially with Anna and Lana, for them sort of starting out their careers and seeing someone like Janelle, who’s been working for years and to be successful and continue to work as an Asian-American actress, that’s such a powerful thing. Janelle was so generous with both of them that I think they look at her and learned about becoming an actress.
Fangirlish: What was it like watching the relationship between Lara Jean and Peter come to life?
Han: It felt so real to me. Luckily both Lana and Noah are, in real life, really nice. They were such a pleasure to hang out with. Their chemistry really sparks off the screen. They genuinely like each other and are friends. I think when you have that it makes it easy to be pretend — I guess it’s pretend pretend — falling in love.
Fangirlish: Why should people watch To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before?
Han: I think that it’s a warm, funny, light hearted love story. If you want to have that warm, fuzzy feeling in your heart, you’ll enjoy this movie.”
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before hits Netflix this Friday, Aug. 17.