Yara Shahidi’s newest film The Sun Is Also A Star (May 17) could not have hit the big screen at a more perfect time. The teen romance is based on Nicola Yoon’s #1 New York Times Bestseller. It follows a pair of high school seniors, Natasha Kingsley (Yara Shahidi), a pragmatic science-minded girl, who doesn’t believe in love whatsoever. Daniel Jae Ho Bae (Charles Melton), is a poet and a dreamer, who struggles with the pressure of fulfilling his parent’s expectations of becoming an Ivy League-educated doctor. On what seems to be a typical day in New York City, their paths cross due to a fateful accident. Through a series of events, the two turn what was supposed to be an hour into a day full of adventure. This ultimately leads them to unavoidably form an intense connection despite their different cultural backgrounds and personalities. However, Natasha doesn’t have time to fall in love. Sadly, she and her family are less than 24 hours from being deported back to her native island of Jamaica.
Overall, The Sun Is Also A Star is a heartwarming love story that is guaranteed to be an all-age crowd pleaser. While the story is playful and tender, the film explores the many possibilities of what being an immigrant family in America may look like today. From being a first-generation college student struggling to uphold the expectations of your family to the harsh reality of being deported and not knowing another home. However, the film takes a more empathetic approach on telling the story of what has come to the forefront of the media under the Trump administration. Among immigration reform, this film also incorporates other heavy topics such as racism, the acceptance of natural hair, to the debate of STEM majors having more value than the arts.
Read on for conversation featuring author Nicola Yoon, and the stars of the upcoming film Yara Shahidi and Charles Melton:
This book has resonated with so many people, was there any apprehension for you or fear in the filmmaking process because you were worried about managing people’s expectations?
N: That’s a good question. It’s funny because the first time I had a book turned into a film (Everything, Everything) I was really apprehensive, but during the process, I realized that the more art you can make about the characters, the better. The book and the film are different, but it’s more art about Daniel and Natasha in the world. Honestly, there are things in the script that are better than what’s in the book, and I go oh my god why didn’t I write that I wish I would’ve thought of that. I mean to me it’s great, it’s a lovely thing to have more stories.
I love that there’s a juxtaposition of STEM and humanities. Why did you feel like it was important for you to explore that relationship between two opposing forces but make them come together?
N: I was actually an electrical engineering major in college. So, I have both parts in my brain, and honestly, I think that most people do. I think we tend to put ourselves into these categories like oh I’m a math person, or oh I’m an art and science person, and I don’t think that those things are opposed, I think that people are reasonably good at both. The thing about art and science is that there both trying to get the truth they just approach it a little differently. I think that’s what Natasha and Daniel end up teaching each other.
As we grow older, the world or own experiences try and beat out that hopeless romantic that lives inside of all of us. Can you tell me a little about what your intentions were behind creating this story and what you wanted to resonate between people of all ages?
N: That’s the thing, people talk about love stories they kind of degrade them a little as if love weren’t the most important thing in the world when it absolutely is the most important thing in the world. Love is the thing that everyone wants; it’s the thing that everyone is trying to get, and I don’t mean just like romantic. You can love your art, you can love work, you can love your family your friends, but it is the force that makes the world go round. I really believe that, and I wanted to try and convince people to be open. We have such busy lives I think if we stop and take a breath, then we could see each other a little bit and learn to have a little bit of grace.
Yara, you come from a family of immigrants, why did you feel like it was so important for you to play Natasha at this specific moment in today’s social and political climate?
Y: I feel like the reason Charles and I both so relate to this story is that it’s the stories of our families. I think even though we can’t claim the exact details of Natasha and Daniel. I’m first generation on my father’s side. I come from two cultural heritages that I’m really proud of, and because of that, I grew up believing that they were the most beautiful things in the world, and it comes as a great shock when you realize other people don’t share that same love. To be able to play a character like Natasha who’s at a similar crossroads of feeling so fully American but realizing America doesn’t feel that she’s American and that juxtaposition of her not receiving love from the place that she calls home I think it’s so poignant and it’s exactly what I loved about the book. The entire film is about telling this story of love from a humane perspective instead of just a news perspective. We hear about stories like this all the time but we never really put faces to it, so it’s just an honor to be able to explore a version of that story.
Has the way you perceive love changed since filming this movie?
Y: Yes and no. I think what’s funny is that were so much of our characters. I would consider myself to be one of the most cynical optimists if that makes sense, but at the same time, my parents have a crazy story of how they met. My mother saw my father from across the room and said oh my god that’s my husband. They didn’t end up talking that night but think through a process of cross stalking they ended up meeting later. Still, they had the moment of seeing each other and that realization, and I think because of that I have always been a hopeless romantic. At the same time, I’m usually romantic when it comes to other peoples stories. Whenever it’s with me, I’m like yeah sure, and so I think it’s funny I had to go on a very similar journey with my character of finding that middle ground being the romantic and still being the ever-pragmatic human I am.
What’s interesting about Daniel is that he’s at a crossroads where he has to decide if he’s going to follow his family’s destiny for him or create his own. How did you experience that because choosing to be an actor is something pretty revolutionary?
C: Definitely. He had two different roads. The road that his parents created for him which was to be a doctor and being the golden child because his brother failed before he did and him having his own ambitions and dreams of him wanting to be a poet and a writer. I think juggling both he questioned how far he’s willing to compromise his dreams to accommodate making his parents happy. When it came, he chose to pursue his dream, his actual passion.