EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Leah Lewis Talks “The Half of It,” Queer Representation, and More!

In an effort to build a space for queer people like myself, every Tuesday I’ll be posting interviews, opinion pieces, listicals, reviews, and more focused on the LGBT community (and occasionally about the Latinx/WOC community since I am Latinx.) Welcome to Queerly Not Straight! Enjoy and leave a comment below if you have a suggestion for what I should cover next.

Alice Wu’s The Half of It is Neflix’s next hit coming of age story that is unlike anything you’ve seen on the streaming service before. It’s a rom com with heart that tells a different kind of love story that we still absolutely love to the moon & back and connect with. We got a chance to speak with Leah Lewis, who plays the lead on The Half of It about this movie, the impact it’s had on fans, and what she’s been up to this quarantine time!

1. Fans are loving The Half of It! How has the fan response been for you?

The fan response for me has been absolutely overwhelming in the most positive way possible. It’s been really amazing just reading the comments and seeing people’s art and seeing how they interpreted the story and just kind of share their own story. I feel like that’s been the most exciting part for me. And we’re only days in and people are still really really attached to this and giving it their own voice. It’s just been really cool.

2. What does it mean to you to play a queer lead who just so happens to be a young woman of color as well?

I feel like it’s a really big privilege to tell a story like this because there are so many people who need that story to be told. I feel like I really really relate to being Ellie. Being Asian American. And the fact that a role like that exists now, for people to watch, it’s really important. Also, for people struggling to find their own unique voice and sexuality as well.

3. A couple of days ago you posted a playlist for Ellie Chu. What went into picking those?

Those are just songs I really really loved and kind of what comes to mind when the emotion of longing appears; which is what Ellie talks about a lot in the movie. And a lot of those songs were songs that I listened to personally when I was shooting The Half of It. And Alice actually made a playlist for each one of the characters and her music was what I really heavily too on. So it was kind of a mix of both.

4. Ellie and Paul were proof that love comes in different forms and that this unexpected person can change your life. How was that relationship for you, especially working with Daniel Diemer?

Oh my god, Daniel became one of my best friends. Like, he is like my platonic soulmate. My atomic platonic, that’s what I call him. He was just so honest and willing to go there with his work and his love for the craft, for the script, and for the project. And just embodied the character of Paul. And onscreen and offscreen, he was just so supportive and such a good friend, and he really helped me a lot with this whole process. And he is just a great human being and we had a lot of special moments where we found a lot of things in scenes together that was a lot of Alice too.

5. Can we talk about that scene with you and Alexxis in the water? Because it’s all I can think about and I wanted to ask you about it!

That scene was one of the most important scenes in the movie for me shooting wise and just what this whole story means to me. I feel like this is the first time Ellie really is seen by Aster. Like they’re actually together and no longer are they hiding behind letters anymore. They are finally communicating and this is the first time Ellie says a lot of things I don’t even think she has realized for herself until this very moment. And the two just end up opening their hearts up to each other in the most nature, simple, connecting of ways. And I feel like for Alexxis, shooting it with her, she’s like a sister to me. She’s also one of my best friends now. But shooting it with her was such a beautiful collaboration because once again she really dived into this world with me and it was really really special.

6. What do you say to young fans who see themselves in Ellie Chu, especially when it comes to being queer?

I think that people who see themselves in Ellie, I think it’s very important. I feel like I learn more about Ellie the more that I hear other people’s stories and what they are going through. And also that you’re not alone and that it’s okay to feel these certain things and explore them in your own unique way. It looks different for every single person and that’s completely ok.

7. What have you been up to this quarantine and what advice do you have for fans stuck at home?

I’ve been trying to eat good food and take care of myself mentally, physically, and honestly just keeping in touch with my friends. Connecting. I feel like reaching out has been a pillar of strength through this whole thing. I feel like we need each other now more than ever. To people out there, I just want to say, “Be gentle with yourself.” Right now is a very sensitive time and it’s ok if your productivity is just normal. Just really take it easy on yourself.

The Half of It is available on Netflix.

Queerly Not Straight posts every Tuesday with opinion pieces, listicals, reviews, and more focused on the LGBT community (and occasionally about the Latinx community since I am Latinx.)

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