Lana Condor and Ali Wong Will Not Be Taking Questions At This Time
Lana Condor has been asked about the boys, and, well, she would like you to ask her literally anything else. Yes, she’s the star of the wildly popular love-in-the-time-of-Instagram Netflix film To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, and its new sequel, To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You. (The third installment is already on its way). Yes, she kicked ass in X-Men: Apocalypse, and in Alita: Battle Angel, and in Deadly Class, but has anyone asked her about her obsession with Italian cooking? She understands the hook of the To All The Boys films is the feverish love triangle between Condor’s Lara Jean and the titular boys, Peter and John (played by Noah Centineo and Jordan Fisher, respectively). But she’d rather you ask her about what it’s like for Lara Jean to find her voice as a young woman, to fall in and out of love, and how the women in her life uplift her through it all. Luckily, Ali Wong is just the friend to call on to ask her about it. At the tail-end of a whirlwind press cycle for the film, the two connected to get to the real questions: What’s up with Lana’s bread obsession? —MARK BURGER
ALI WONG: It’s calmed down now, right? I hope you get some rest.
LANA CONDOR: If I have to hear myself speak and self-promote any longer, I’m going to jump off a cliff.
WONG: What’s the one question you always get asked?
CONDOR: Recently I’ve been getting the whole “Team Peter, Team John” thing, which are the two male characters in our movie, which I don’t love. I’m kind of sitting there in the middle of them being like, one, stop asking me, and two, I think you’re kind of forgetting, in the movie, you’re in Lara Jean’s brain. You have an Asian-American lead, and everyone is celebrating this diversity in the movie, and yet when journalists ask you about the movie, it has nothing to do with that. When you’re talking about female-led movies, all they want to do is ask about the love interest. As much as I think we’re making progress, those are really realistic reminders that we have a long way to go. Don’t get me wrong, I think the boys are awesome, but you’re forgetting that there are so many women in our movie that no one even talks about.
WONG: The relationship with your sisters is one of my favorite things.
CONDOR: Yes! The sisters, her best friend, Chris, her mentor, Stormy. No one asks about the women that support Lara Jean.
WONG: It all comes down to, “Is it the wolf or the vampire?” The Twilight thing. It’s a very powerful paradigm.
CONDOR: It is, but it is slightly antiquated because let’s not forget that Kristen Stewart held the entire movie on her back.
CONDOR: And I know that we’re trying to create that narrative, but it bums me out when people only want to talk about the guys in the movie, ask them these questions. Because to me, I think the winning team is Lara Jean. I knew that it came with the territory, but it kind of got to the point where I’m like… It will be female journalists looking me dead in the eyes and not ever asking about what it’s like for Lara Jean to grow up in high school, trying to find her voice as a young woman. No one’s asking that.
WONG: Or what it’s like to be a big sister to a girl whose mother has passed away.
WONG: What’s the one question you always wish people would ask you that you never get?
CONDOR: People ask me, “Why do I think the movie did so well?” Which is such a weird question, because I have no idea.
WONG: It’s like they’re trying to say, “You guys pulled a magic trick,” or, “What’s the secret?” They can’t just accept that it was a good movie. They wouldn’t ask Brad Pitt or Quentin Tarantino that. They would just accept that it was a good movie and move on. It’s almost like they’re investigating: “How on Earth did a love story with an Asian-American lead succeed?” Like, you tell me! [Laughs.]
CONDOR: Exactly. I’m like, I don’t know, do you know? It’s weird. I’m just like, man, we made a movie and I hope people watch it.
WONG: For the longest time, I just want to be asked what’s in my bag.
CONDOR: Oh god, me too.
WONG: I want to be asked what kind of lip gloss I use. I want to answer the most basic-ass questions where I am reduced to my beauty and I don’t want to be asked about my thoughts—which is such a privilege, right? But then I was like, I am dying to be asked what my skin care routine is.
CONDOR: [Laughs.] Yes. I really love to cook and I love food in general, and I wish they would ask me, “So, what’s your favorite thing to cook?” or “Do you know how to make dough?”
WONG: What is your favorite thing to cook?
CONDOR: Right now, it’s pizza. I’m really obsessed with learning Italian cooking. I can make a lot of incredible pastas, but something that I’ve been afraid to do is make homemade dough.
WONG: You can’t just wing it and sprinkle this and that. You’ve got to use cups and spoons. You’ve got to bring out science.
CONDOR: Finally I was like, you know what, Lana? You can’t say that you’re an undercover chef unless you know how to make dough. I had a little bit of a break over Christmas and I spent maybe two weeks making dough, and then I would divide them up and give them different rises to see what the perfect amount of time for a rise would be, because it really changes the flavor and the texture of the dough. Then I put some in a freezer for testing, I set them at different parts of my house; I would set one for an hour, another for four hours, another for 24 hours. I was really obsessed with trying to get it perfect.
WONG: That sounds like a lot of work. Do you actually eat that bread?
CONDOR: I do. I have to test it, to make sure that it tastes good. My parents just got a place near me so I was able to give them some of the dough for them to take home. That’s what so great about making dough, because can also give to your friends or your family and then they can make their own pizza, because everyone has their own preference.
WONG: That’s amazing.
CONDOR: Then I figured out the sauce.
WONG: You make the sauce from scratch too? You’re boiling tomatoes and plucking rosemary?
CONDOR: Well, all the Italian grandmothers were saying the only thing you can use for pizza sauce is San Marzano tomatoes. There’s so many checklists or certifications that you have to go through for a San Marzano tomato to be authentic, so it’s already perfect. And then all you do is crush it a little and then put in a little bit of salt—if you want—and that’s it. I just love to cook. It’s my everything. I think if someone was like, “Hey, Lana, do you want to be on a cooking show?” I’d be like, “Hell yeah. Sign me up.” I’ll send you some of my babies.
WONG: Why have I not seen any of this on your social media? Send me your dough and then I’ll turn around and sell it on eBay as Lana Condor’s dough that she made with her hands, and then I’ll get creepy men to use it. I’ll use the proceeds to pay for my children’s childcare.
WONG: Your social media famously blew up really fast. And everybody hides a part of their life from social media, like your bread obsession. What are some of the things that you’ve purposely decided to not show on social media? So for example, I don’t show my kids’ faces.
CONDOR: I won’t show my family.
WONG: Was it a decision that you guys made together or is that a decision you made by yourself?
CONDOR: It was a decision I had to make. My first job was X-Men, and I’d never worked before. I don’t even know how I got the job. And there’s a very big, very passionate, opinionated fan base there—they’re amazing, but they have a lot to say. With that, people just wanted to know more about me and would reach out to my family and ask questions that I don’t think are appropriate. They did not sign up for this. And so I keep my family out. Also, I think that people sometimes are confused. I’m adopted, so both of my parents are from Chicago and they don’t look like me at all. Sometimes people don’t understand and they jump to conclusions that just aren’t true and hurtful to my parents. So I’m like, fuck that. I’m not going to bring them into this. They didn’t ask for it. And I’m sure you feel the same way about your family.
WONG: Of course. We’ve gone through a process together, but it’s a learning curve. You know, Lana, you can always call me and talk to me about this stuff too.
CONDOR: I know. It’s a weird world.
WONG: Is there anything else that you keep private on your social media?
CONDOR: I don’t post me and my home or what I do everyday. That whole thing about social media is like, you only show your highlights and you never show your lows. But for me, my lows are private for me. I don’t think that you guys need to see it.
WONG: Right. Those are your lows. Those belong to you, you are not obligated to share them with the world.
CONDOR: I’ve tried to find a balance of becoming authentic on my Instagram. It’s what you choose to share to the world, and that’s that.
WONG: I loved the movie so much when it came out and I watched it by myself, then I watched it with my husband, and then I watched it with my mother-in-law and my mother, and all my friends loved it too. We’re all really romantic people and it gave us that feeling of falling in love. It just felt very real and sincere. Do you consider yourself a romantic person?
CONDOR: Oh, absolutely. I definitely think my boyfriend is the more romantic person in our relationship than me. I think I’m romantic in that way where I love the fantasy of it. I love love. That’s just why I loved All The Boys and why I want to do more romantic things because I get to live in a world of romance.
WONG: Where you’re desired and adored.
CONDOR: Who wouldn’t want that?
WONG: Have you ever written a letter and mailed it, snail mail?
CONDOR: Yes, I have and I do. I come from a family that makes you send handwritten thank you cards for every holiday when you get a gift, so they instilled that in me from when I was little. And now I kind of have to continue with writing letters, or else I’d be a hypocrite.
WONG: There’s something so magical about holding a physical piece of paper with someone’s handwriting and knowing that they touched it. It’s romantic. When I was in college, I fell in love with this guy and then I had to go to Vietnam for a summer and I ended up staying in Southeast Asia for a year, and we wrote letters and it would take two weeks for the letters to get from Vietnam to the States. We would write each other nine-page letters, and just seeing his handwriting, I’d be reminded of him. Even now people will find letters from me from 10 or 20 years ago. You don’t look up emails from 20 years ago.
CONDOR: Oh, hell no.
WONG: You can’t just stumble upon an email from 20 years ago. But you can with a letter. And I love that you do that in real life. Do you do that with your boyfriend now?
CONDOR: He writes me letters.
WONG: Yes, honey. I love that.
CONDOR: When I’m working, he would write me a letter because I would go to bed as soon as I came back. It’s sad how sometimes when you work, you come home and you’ve given so much of yourself to everyone else and you have nothing left for your partner. I always feel horrible. But I would come home, fall into bed, and every other morning he put a letter on my bathroom mirror or on the front door before I would go back out to work. I would carry the letters with me in my purse. I would take them out and I’d read them during the day if I needed inspiration or anything like that. Like I said, he’s way more romantic than me. He’s got it down.
WONG: What is there left out there that you would like to do?
CONDOR: I want to play Sandra Oh’s daughter more than anything in this world. I would work with her in any capacity.
WONG: I think that can happen.
CONDOR: I would really like to get back into action, because I did so much of it in X-Men, Alita, and Deadly Class, and I really like how it makes me feel. I really love working with stunt teams. It’s basically just like dancing.
WONG: I’m sure Sandra Oh will get wind of it at least after this interview, if she hasn’t already. I think that’ll happen.
CONDOR: I hope so. I would die. I still have to come over so we can eat. I’ll bring you dough.
WONG: You’ve got to come over. I promise I won’t sell it to weird people on eBay. I promise I’ll actually use it for my children.