Film & TV

‘PS I Still Love You’ – but you’ve been recast

Maddie Crossling

The much-awaited sequel to To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before premiered on Netflix earlier this year. The first movie ended when Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) kissed and walked off into the sunset after confessing their love for each other. To All The Boys: PS I Still Love You picks up directly where the first film left off.

Lara Jean and Peter, now an official couple, go on their first date and promise to never hurt each other, and it’s all very wholesome and heart-warming. Then Lara Jean volunteers at Belleview Retirement Home, and, as far as a PG rom-com can, all hell breaks loose. Lara Jean is volunteering with John Ambrose McClaren (Jordan Fisher), a recipient of one of the five love letters sent out in the first movie. His presence causes Lara Jean to question her feelings for Peter, creating necessary drama and conflict before the rapid turn-around to a happy ending.. 

But let’s get back to John Ambrose. This is him in To All the Boys

…and this is him in PS I Still Love You.

The role of John Ambrose McClaren was recast, with Jordan Burtchett being replaced by Jordan Fisher. No reason was given for the recast, although Burtchett’s initial response suggests that the change wasn’t his choice, leaving it open to public scrutiny. No official reason was given by the filmmakers, but I can think of two extremely important ones: representation and cinematic accuracy.  

Representation: outside of Lara Jean, who is Korean, none of the main characters in the first film are people of colour. Casting Jordan Fisher in the sequel contributes to the slowly increasing diversity in film, which is crucial. Anthony Laurence, in a blog post about diversity in cinema, summarises the crux of the issue: “we have a responsibility…to represent those who are underrepresented in film with role models and aspirational characters playing a variety of leading roles to show audiences that the role of ‘hero’ is not reserved for white men”. John Ambrose isn’t a hero, but he is an important step towards better representation in an industry which has historically thrived on the repression and erasure of people of colour. 

Cinematic accuracy: The National Centre for Education released a report on enrolment in public elementary and secondary schools. A graph showed that, in 2014, 50% of attendees were white and 16% were black. This suggests that, statistically, 1 in 5 recipients of the letter would be black. Therefore, the casting of Jordan Fisher provides a more accurate depiction of a 21stcentury high school. Attempting to create realistic high school racial dynamics prevents whitewashing.

(I would like to acknowledge here that in To All The Boys, “Lucas from homecoming” is African-American for his brief on-screen appearance. This is a departure from the book series by Jenny Han, which heavily implies that each recipient of the letters is white. However, the race-bending of John Ambrose in PS I Still Love You implies a proportional, compensating race-bending of Lucas from homecoming).

Director Michael Fimognari consequently contributes to a new era of cinema, one which encourages race-bending, diversity and inclusion. The recasting of John Ambrose is significant, not because he used to be white, but because he is now black. It highlights ways in which Netflix is becoming a platform for cinematic progression. 

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