Celebrating Representation in The Sun Is Also a Star

The new film The Sun is Also a Star emphasizes the importance of representation and different aspects of the human condition — and just in time for Asian Heritage Month, too.

Yara Shahidi (grown-ish) and Charles Melton (Riverdale) are the stars in the new Warner Bros. picture, The Sun Is Also a Star, a film that emphasizes the importance of representation, and delves into different aspects of the human condition. Based on Nicola Yoon’s 2016 book of the same name, The Sun Is Also a Star follows teenagers Natasha Kingsley and Daniel Bae for a day in their lives, in which Daniel, a Korean-American, is preparing for a college interview and Jamaican-born Natasha has 24 hours to stop her family from being deported. After a chance meeting, which involves Daniel saving Natasha from being hit by a car, he convinces her to give him 24 hours to make her fall in love with him.

Themes of love, destiny, and identity are reoccurring throughout the film. In one particular scene, the characters discuss what it means to feel like an American when others don’t always see them as such. “To be able to have the storyline about deportation and cultural identity at the same time as a storyline about love is what I really appreciate,” Shahidi has said of the film.

The plot comes from Yoon’s personal experiences. “I was born in Kingston, and grew up in Montego Bay until we moved here,” the author told HuffPost. “I was there until I was eleven, and then we moved to Brooklyn in a very Jamaican neighbourhood and we traveled back and forth. I really wanted to write about the immigrant experience, you know, being trapped between two worlds and not really being part of either.”

The Sun Is Also a Star is also the proud owner of an insane casting story that speaks to just how powerful our generation is in regards to knowing who and what we want to see being portrayed on our screens. When Yoon posted on Instagram asking fans who should play the two leads, Melton woke up to an overwhelming amount of notifications from fans tagging him. Melton then took a screenshot of the post, sent it to his reps, and asked for the script.

“I loved the way the gender roles are reversed,” director Ry Russo-Young told Entertainment Weekly. “As a female director, you read a lot of scripts that are very traditional. In this, she’s the science nerd, and he’s the romantic and the poet.” Melton also shares a love for the gender role reversal aspect of the film, as he admires the depth to Daniel. “Daniel’s very endearing. There’s a sensitive side to him that he’s not afraid of.”

When it came to the creation of Daniel Bae, Yoon ensured that she did her research in order to properly represent the life of a Korean-American. “I spoke to my husband, who I’ve been with for fourteen years. Ellen Oh read it a few times for me. I did a lot of research for lots of reasons. I know a lot about it because my child is half Korean and we’ve been together for such a long time, but there was some things that I still didn’t get right. I had a scene where [Daniel] was having breakfast and Ellen said “He probably wouldn’t have that.” There were still things for me to learn and to know. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t screw it up, from a representation standpoint, but also from a factual standpoint.”

What are Russo-Young’s hopes for audiences that watch The Sun Is Also a Star? That audiences feel “a reconnection to love” and “a reminder of togetherness,” especially during today’s political and societal climate.

The Sun Is Also a Star is now playing in theatres, and just in time for Asian Heritage Month — a time in Canada to reflect on and celebrate the contributions that Canadians of Asian origin continue to make, to the growth and prosperity of our nation and other countries around the world.