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We Chat with P.S. I Still Love You Director Michael Fimognari

Netflix will launch the anticipated sequel film To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You on February 12. Directed by Michael Fimognari, the film reunites stars Lana Condor (Alita: Battle AngelX-Men: Apocalypse) and Noah Centineo (Sierra Burgess Is A LoserThe Fosters) from the film To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, based on the books by Jenny Han (buy at Amazon). 

In P.S. I Love You, Lara Jean Song Covey (Condor) is finally on her first real date with Peter (Noah Centineo) after falling in love during a fake relationship. In the first film, her little sister sent out five love letters that she’d written to all the boys she’d fallen in love with.

We Chat With P.S. I Still Love You Director Michael Fimognari

Now that things are normal again, and Lara Jean and Peter are happy, another letter recipient has appeared in her life in the form of John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher). Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

We got a chance to chat with director Michael Fimognari about going from Cinematographer and D.P. on the first film to taking over this one and the upcoming third film, To All the Boys: Always and Forever Lara Jean. We also chat about the look of the film, recasting John Ambrose, and more. 

Vital Thrills: You worked on the first film. Can you tell us about taking over the next two films as a director? 

Michael Fimognari: Yeah, the first one was a blast, you know. We were making this really fun colorful, bubbly world that Jenny Han created, and it was just one of the most fun experiences to be a part of, with Lana and Noah being this fantastic duo. And every day on set, it was something we knew was special for us as a crew, as filmmakers. It was like, wow, this is just a blast, and this is great and this is fun. And when you’re making a story and putting it together, especially in that time, before anyone knew with it would be – we were not quite sure, well, will the audience connect to it and how will they receive it, but we certainly loved what we were doing, and loved going to work every day.

And then when it all became special for the audience, it was very rewarding, and it was also something that validated our feelings, like yeah, they really are special, and this is really cool and fun. So the opportunity to go back into that world was just kind of a wish come true. I jumped all over it, and it’s been a year of living in “To All the Boys”-land. I’m super grateful and it’s a pleasure to work with Jenny Han and the world that she’s created, and it’s been a nice extension of that first colorful, bubbly feeling. Seeing those characters mature and being a part of it has just been one of the best experiences of my career.

Vital Thrills: The world is so visually dynamic. Tell us about creating the look for this world.

Michael Fimognari: One of the first agendas or hopes for putting together a look was to capture the feeling. That goes for any story that we’re telling. What does it feel like? What do we want to experience when we turn the lights down and push play? What do we want? And Jenny Han’s world just felt alive. It’s full of real relationships. We didn’t want to strip away the “Oh, we know these kinds of people.” They’re afraid like I’m afraid, and they love like I love. What if I can’t have a relationship? Those are all real feelings, and we want them to be intact and be the part that connects with everybody. But also, we want it to resonate with that part of us that wants to celebrate life and love, and in some cases, loss, the way Lara Jean talks about losing her mom.

And in the discussion about what does that look like, it was about color. So one of the ways to express that was to find these combinations of color that pop off the screen. It ended up being a rather simple combination of cyan and pink and yellow. And in the design of that look, we were very disciplined about how those colors show up in front of the camera. Whether it’s the wardrobe which plays the note, or Lara Jean’s room or a combination of both, or some little bit in the lighting… by having that extreme control, you get something that honors the continuity of the world.

Vital Thrills: John Ambrose was recast from the first film. Tell us about that and why you chose Jordan Fisher.

Michael Fimognari: We wanted to make sure that John Ambrose was someone who connected with Lara Jean in a way that was different from Peter Kaminsky, and that they were both absolutely important people in Lara Jean’s life, but not the same. There was not any particular kind of person that we set out for. It wasn’t that, oh, they should wear these clothes, or even – in the book it describes him as being in the model U.N. and there is a certain kind of look that you might associate with that, we still felt it was important to find someone who connected well with Lana and also was a perfect combination of joy and charm and sincerity, and we believed we would know it when we saw it.

We just didn’t want to label it any other way than someone who felt earnest and true to their feelings, and someone who was more aligned in the sort of poetic and writerly sense that Lara Jean’s heart operated. We met with and auditioned so many talented actors, and as soon as Jordan took it on, it was one of those sort of fall in love moments for us. Even the first time I met Jordan, sitting with him just to talk… I adore him. He’s just a very special charismatic, honest person, and I adored that about him.

Vital Thrills: Yeah, it’s hard to decide who you want Lara Jean to end up with at the end, because they’re both so good.

Michael Fimognari: I’m glad you feel that way because it’s important that – one of the things that I think is special about Jenny’s story and about these relationships is that it’s not a competition of who’s going to be even right, necessarily. That’s not what this is. I know there is sort of the fun part of this, which is Team Peter and Team John, but what it really is, is that, for me, I’m Team Lara Jean. She’s got to learn to be confident in her choices and what’s right for her heart in this moment. That’s not anything negative to say about John or Peter. Everyone is learning how to fall in love, how to be in a relationship, and how to be true to themselves, and that’s what’s important.

Vital Thrills: Are there specific moments from the book that you wanted to make sure got into this one, and even into the next one?

Michael Fimognari: Yes. I think that it’s always a challenge when you have something as rich and detailed and expansive as the books. They cover a lot of time and a lot of experiences, and that’s tough to condense into the time we have. So we focused on the heart of Lara Jean’s relationship with Peter and this new bubbling something with John Ambrose and her new experience working at Bellevue, the retirement community. So that was the core. If there something that was outside of that, it was hard to keep it in, so that was where we focused our attention.

Vital Thrills: You brought in Stormy, who is a fan favorite and you cast Holland Taylor. She’s so great, I wanted her to give me advice. Can you talk about the importance of Stormy and casting Holland Taylor?

Michael Fimognari: [laughs] Stormy is an important character because Lara Jean doesn’t have a mother figure. That’s something that she’s struggling with. In fact, she asks for that. She calls out for that advice. Lara Jean gets counsel from several people in her life. She gets it from her dad (John Corbett), she gets it from her friends. She’s not on her own. But she does ache for that mother figure, and I think Stormy is aware of all of it. But also, she doesn’t want to lay it on in a heavy way. She wants to encourage Lara Jean to celebrate these challenges. So when Lara Jean is hurting or lamenting the idea that her letters are out there and it’s causing her so much anxiety, it’s Stormy who is able to say, listen, you know, life’s tough, and you’re going to feel that pain and that’s part of it, but you go make the best of it. Find the things that make you feel good. Find the people who make you feel good. She needs that. Lara Jean needs to hear it. She needs to internalize it.

Holland makes it all work. Holland, everything she says, you want to listen to. Like, oh yeah, that’s right. I listened to Holland talk and I [was like], yeah, Holland, that’s great! [laughs] Everything you’re saying is exactly correct. She’s such a pleasure to work with. She shows up with great ideas and she’s funny. I can’t say enough about what she does to make Stormy a reality.

Vital Thrills: Is there anything you can tell us about the third film? I know the story is out there because of the books, but is there anything you can say about the film?

Michael Fimognari: I am so happy to be a part of all three movies because I think what Jenny Han has done is really special. To be able to have a complete arc in this coming-of-age story – Lara Jean starts with her in her bedroom, reading a romance novel, and we watch her experience love and have to deal with its heartaches and its complications, and grow into a woman who’s ready to take on the next part of her life. The third movie is certainly not a repeat of the first movies. It takes all of the relationships and the boundaries that she’s already broken, and now she has to take on bigger responsibilities and more complicated elements, but it’s what helps her grow. I’m thrilled to share that as well, because, again, I feel that it’s the Team Lara Jean thing. It’s what Lara Jean has to go through to make the choices that are good for her, and the relationships she cares about is fantastic [and] to see her grow up.