"It's not a plot point that somebody is diverse. It's just their story and their voice and they happen to be diverse."
"To All the Boys: Always and Forever" star Janel Parrish is opening up about the importance of being involved in a project featuring such strong Asian American representation.
In an interview with TooFab, the actress -- who reprised her role as Margot Covey, the sister to Lara Jean (Lana Condor) in the final installment of the Netflix rom-com trilogy -- said it was "beautiful" to see an Asian American family be represented in the films, and more specifically, how it was portrayed.
"[It means] so much," Parrish said of being a part of the trilogy. "Growing up I didn't see a lot of people that looked like me on TV, and it sort of makes you think like, 'Am I not what Hollywood was looking for? Can I not play the girl next door because I don't look like all the girls next door who are represented on television?'"
"This time Lana [Condor] gets to be the girl next door. Lara Jean is that girl and she just so happens to come from an Asian American family, but it's not the sole focus," she continued. "It's normalized and I think that's beautiful. I think that's such an important step in representation when we can normalize it. It's not a plot point that somebody is diverse. It's just their story and their voice and they happen to be diverse. And I think that's really great and to be a part of that is really great. We're all very proud. It's exciting."
"To All the Boys I've Loved Before: Always and Forever," the conclusion to the popular romantic comedy trilogy, follows Lara Jean (Condor) as she prepares for her life beyond high school. However, after embarking on two life-changing trips, Lara finds herself rethinking about what her life with her family -- including her sisters Margot and Kitty (Anna Cathcart) -- her friends and Peter (Noah Centineo) will look like after graduation.
When asked what she has most in common with Margot, Parrish said it's "how protective she is over her family."
"No matter what. No matter the distance. If the phone rings she's going to pick it up. She's going to be there," Parrish continued of her character. "I'm very much that way with my family. I have a sister. I'm actually the baby sister in real life and I have a Margot basically, my sister Melissa. We're very much that way and in general with our family. Yeah, [Margot's] love of the family is amazing that I connect with her too."
Parrish said she drew inspiration from her bond with her older sister to play Margot.
"[Melissa] showed me what it means to be a big sister because I've always been the baby. Like I said she was my Margot," she told TooFab. "I threw a fit when she left for college. I was like, 'I can’t believe you're leaving me.' She's my confidant, my best friend. I call her for anything, and she's always there. So, yeah I definitely drew a lot from my sister."
Ultimately, Parrish says she's "so grateful" they were given the opportunity to make all three films, which are based on Jenny Han's bestselling YA book trilogy of the same name.
"When we filmed the first movie we had no idea," Parrish explained. "To see what it's become and to see how important it's become to people and how it's impacted so many people. [They] send us messages like, 'Thank you so much. This is so important. The representation made me feel seen and it just was really impactful for us.' That's huge and I think we're all so proud to be part of that step, but for me, the friendships that I've created with the girls are so special, and something that I'll treasure forever."
Parrish also spoke more about the film --- including her bond with Condor and Cathcart -- as well as her reaction to the news of a "Pretty Little Liars" reboot. Check it out in our full interview, above!
"To All the Boys: Always and Forever" hits Netflix Friday.