BY: Rohn Romulo
A modern-day story about finding love against all odds, Warner Bros. Pictures’ new romantic drama “The Sun Is Also a Star” explores whether our lives are determined by fate or the random events of the universe.
In “The Sun Is Also a Star,” college-bound romantic Daniel Bae (Charles Melton) and Jamaica-born pragmatist Natasha Kingsley (Yara Shahidi) meet—and fall for each other—over one magical day amidst the fervor and flurry of New York City. Sparks immediately fly between these two strangers, who might never have met had fate not given them a little push. But will fate be enough to take these teens from star-crossed to lucky in love? With just hours left on the clock in what looks to be her last day in the U.S., Natasha is fighting against her family’s deportation as fiercely as she’s fighting her budding feelings for Daniel, who is working just as hard to convince her they are destined to be together.
Directed by Ry Russo-Young (“Before I Fall”), the film is based on the acclaimed bestseller by Everything, Everything author Nicola Yoon.
Director Ry Russo-Young talks about “The Sun Is Also a Star” in the following interview:
Q: Starting with Yara Shahidi, talk about how you found your two leads—was the casting of this film a long process for you?
RY RUSSO-YOUNG: The casting actually clicked into place quickly, which is rare. Literally, the first person I thought of for Natasha was Yara Shahidi. I knew her mainly from her work on “Black-ish,” but also as a person in the world who’s very much a force of nature. She’s incredible, thoughtful, an aspirational kind of person, who is wise beyond her years. She seemed completely capable and absolutely brilliant at pulling off what Natasha has to do in the film, which is actually quite tricky—she’s dealing with her family in crisis and she’s falling in love, and those two things couldn’t be further apart.
Q: And what about Charles Melton as Daniel?
RRY: I wasn’t familiar with him and his work on “Riverdale,” but [author] Nicola Yoon put a post on Instagram asking, “Who should play Daniel?” All these names popped up and Charles was one of them. I did deep dives on all the people mentioned, as well as a whole other list of actors. Charles instantly rose to the top as the person who is absolutely right for the part—charming, thoughtful, a big heart. When we chemistry-read Yara and Daniel together, the magic was there.
Q: Though the film’s themes of love and destiny could easily play out in any big city in the world, the story takes place in New York City. I understand you were a firm believer in shooting the film there?
RRY: Absolutely. New York is one of the most diverse cities in the world. I’m from New York—I grew up there, I was a teenager there. It was really important to me that we get it right and that we embrace the idiosyncratic locations and character the city has to offer. We’ve seen New York in many movies but I don’t always feel we see the real New York and I wanted to show it, from the Roosevelt Island tram to the immigrant communities…the scope, the history and the diversity of it. The film is, in many ways, a love letter to diversity.
Q: I understand the author, Nicola Yoon, was very involved.
RRY: Oh, yes, I met her very early on, after I came onboard. I also met David, her husband. The book is loosely based on their story—she’s Jamaican-American and he’s Korean-American. It was a wonderful experience and they were an amazing resource, because I could hear it from the source. What does the book mean to both of them? And in the film adaptation, what would be the best version that she could imagine? It’s also a timely story so we all felt an urgency as to why this had to be made now.
Q: What do you hope audiences experience from this film?
RRY: I hope to provide an emotional experience above all else. Perhaps a reconnection to love through this story, especially given what we’re subjected to every day in the news. A reminder of our togetherness, perhaps. It’s interesting… in these times, what people choose to watch. How much does one want to engage in what’s happening and how much are we looking for vehicles that provide escape? Perhaps it’s a balancing of the two? In the end, I think the film reminds us that when we find someone we love, we should go after them and hold on forever, because it’s rare and it’s beautiful.
In Philippine cinemas on Thursday, May 16, “The Sun Is Also a Star” is distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. Use the hashtag #TheSunIsAlsoAStar