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On The Rise

From super mutant to sweet schoolgirl, Lana Condor is out to prove there’s nothing she can’t do.

Juli Schafer
  • To All the Boys I've Loved Before

    Netflix
  • Riker Brothers
  • To All the Boys I've Loved Before

    Netflix
  • To All the Boys I've Loved Before

    Netflix
  • To All the Boys I've Loved Before

    Netflix
  • Riker Brothers
  • To All the Boys I've Loved Before

    Netflix

At just 21 years old, Lana Condor has worked hard to break into film and television and isn't taking one second of it for granted.

From starring as a teen mutant who generates pyrotechnic energy blasts to a leading lady role in a coming of age romantic comedy, Condor can and wants to do it all.

Condor had her breakout role in X Men: Apocalypse (Twentieth Century Fox Films) starring as Jubilation Lee, AKA Jubilee alongside Jennifer Lawrence and James McAvoy. She was studying for a high school history exam when she found out she had landed the role.

"X Men was my fourth professional audition. I was totally green, so I was blissfully unaware of how huge of an opportunity that was, so I think that helped me a lot to land that role. Then I didn't get anything for another year. But I didn't give up. I just kept remembering what it was like to be on the set. It was magical. In this industry you are employed and then you're unemployed. It's just part of it."

Condor admits to experiencing one surprise after another when she was a Hollywood newbie. "Nobody tells you what it's really like. There were a lot of things that were shocking to me. When they mic you, they don't always turn (the mic) off, so you have to be careful ...especially when you go to the bathroom.

"There are so many stunt doubles and it takes a gazillion people to get one human being ready. I didn't even know that the food on set was free! I thought I had to pay for that."

Condor also had to navigate social media differently than most teens since she was suddenly thrust into the spotlight. "I didn't know people would go so deep and try to find out so much about me, reading everything I have ever posted. I had to re-evaluate the way that I share."

Condor currently stars in the hit Netflix movie, To All the Boys I've Loved Before based on Jenny Han's New York Times best-selling novel. In the film Condor plays Lara Jean Song Covey, a shy high school student whose love letters to her five crushes are sent to them, without her knowing.

Condor would be fast friends with Lara Jean. "It's an honor to play a character with a good heart. She protects herself by living in her own world. I'm very much like that," she laughs.

"I'm a little more outgoing than Lara Jean, though. I never rolled over when someone was bullying me. She has an understated sense of humor, too. I keep trying to convince people that I'm funny, but I don't think they believe me. She also has a strong, close-knit family and I do, too."

Condor's parents adopted her at four months old from an orphanage in Can Tho, Vietnam.

"It brings me to tears when I think about what my life is and could be like. I was tired and grumpy the other day and I had to tell myself to shut up and remind myself how incredible lucky I am. I could still be in Vietnam, most likely working in the rice fields. The chances are slim of being adopted. What if my parents had passed me over in the adoption house?"

To All the Boys I've Loved Before is being hailed as groundbreaking since Lana is the first Asian leading lady in a young adult romantic comedy.

But while Condor loves her character, Lara Jean, she isn't fan of the labeling.

"It's not an Asian rom-com. There aren't any Asian jokes or stereotypes; it's just a teen rom-com that happens to have an Asian girl in the lead role. The more we highlight our differences, the more you are inadvertently putting us in boxes. I'm excited for people to see a teenage story that happens to have a girl of color. This shouldn't be groundbreaking, this should be normal already."

As a child, she trained in classical ballet at prestigious dance academies including The Joffrey School of Classical Ballet, but dance proved more of a stepping stone to her real love: acting.

"To be completely honest, being a professional ballerina is an impossible job. There are very few people who can do that. My body couldn't really take it and I didn't see a future in it.

"But I loved entertaining so acting was a natural transition. I think I was 13 and I was living in New York and I wanted to be an actor so badly. I stole my dad's computer in the middle of the night and searched websites of how to become an actor. I took a ton of acting classes and finally got an agent."

Condor's next projects include cyberpunk action feature film Alita: Battle Angel (Twentieth Century Fox) where she plays an orphaned teen and photographer, Koyomi. The film will be in theaters this December.

A new SYFY series Deadly Class will follow, debuting in early 2019. The show follows a disillusioned teen recruited into a high school for assassins and is set against the backdrop of late 1980's counterculture. Condor plays the mysterious and guarded, Saya, who was banished from one of the top Yakuza clans in Japan and sent to the School for the Deadly Arts to redeem herself.

Condor embraces being cast in science fiction roles, and isn't concerned about being typecast, particularly because she was able to play a "normal girl" in To All the Boys where "I couldn't hide behind my (sci-fi) character."

"I love the sci-fi roles because of the physical aspect of them. And Alita took it to another level. I felt like I was part of a science experiment. Producer Robert Rodriguez built a whole city on his backlot. It was a full immersion experience. I didn't feel like I was earth anymore."

When Condor isn't working, she seeks a quiet, peaceful lifestyle. Boxing, yoga, watching New Girl and The Office, and reading top the list of favorite escapes.

She also has a big place in her heart for charity work and has volunteered at nursing and convalescent homes since she was in 8th grade. Her ultimate give-back goal is to create a charity that makes orphanages safe in third world countries. "I was lucky. A lot of children aren't."

Next up? Condor wouldn't hesitate if asked to be on Dancing with the Stars. "I want to do it so bad!"