Emma Pasarow as Auden in Netflix's 'Along for the Ride'

Emma Pasarow Says Netflix's Along For The Ride Is Packed With Book Easter Eggs

She knows Sarah Dessen fans have a lot riding on this movie.

Emily V. Aragones / Netflix

Playing the lead in a Netflix teen romance movie can come with a lot of pressure, especially when said movie is based on a beloved book. But where some actors may be stressed or nervous, Along For The Ride star Emma Pasarow, 26, is just plain stoked. “I so rarely feel so connected to a part, so this [is] really exciting,” she tells Elite Daily. “I wanted this my whole life.”

Along For The Ride is Pasarow’s first project for Netflix — and it’s a big one at that. Based on the 2009 novel of the same name by author Sarah Dessen, the film tells the story of Auden (Pasarow), an overachieving high school grad who attempts to have a carefree summer before heading off to college in the fall. While staying with her dad’s new family in a small beach town, she meets Eli (Belmont Cameli), a mysterious townie whose personal trauma keeps him from sleeping at night — just like Auden.

As is the nature of most buzzy projects, Pasarow’s audition process for the film was a story of stops and starts, the “hurry up and wait” game at its finest. When she didn’t hear back for months after her initial audition, she convinced herself she didn’t get the part. But then, Pasarow had a callback with the film’s director, Sofia Alvarez, that felt like a game-changer. “It was this wonderful kismet connection,” Pasarow says. “We instantly got along, had so much in common, and it just was pretty remarkable how easily we fell into step with each other.” She landed the lead role two days later.

Along For The Ride is already drawing comparisons to another teen romance based on a beloved YA book, Netflix’s smash-hit To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. Considering Alvarez served as screenwriter for the first two TATB films, the comparisons are worthy.

With such a strong legacy on this line, Pasarow is keenly aware of what this movie means for fans — and what it could mean for her career. Below, she dishes on it all.

Emily V. Aragones / Netflix

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Elite Daily: What was it like when you found out you got the role in Along For The Ride?

Emma Pasarow: One of my day jobs at the time was as a Hebrew school teacher, and I hadn't made my lesson plan because I thought I was maybe going to be in a movie. But Sunday came and I was like, "OK, I didn't make a lesson plan. I guess I need to wake up really early to do this." So I woke up really early Sunday, and then I got the call from them being like, "You got the part ... and you have to be on a plane in three hours." I was sobbing. My mom came over and we packed everything I owned into a suitcase. And then the second person I called was my rabbi, because I had to be like, "Rabbi Aimee, I love you so much. I can't make it to work today because I'm going to shoot a movie. And I quit."

It was really surreal. The fanfare and the excitement of it all paralleled how much I wanted this for so long. So it was really perfect. And I didn't have time for my anxious brain to come in, so I was just able to be like, “All right, I gotta focus up and we'll get anxious and feel like an imposter later on.”

ED: As you know, Sarah Dessen books have a devoted fanbase. How do you think book fans will react to the movie version of Along For The Ride?

EP: I hope they will love it. The book is over 400 pages and a movie is less than two hours, so all things from the book cannot be translated to screen. But I think Fia [director Sofia Alvarez] did a really nice job of taking the most important through lines, the themes, the core relationships, and very beautifully translated them to screen. And for the details that didn't make it, a lot of them made it in the art decoration. There are definitely a lot of easter eggs for fans. There are eggs about other books in this movie. So if you are Sarah Dessen fan, there's a lot to look forward to. But yeah, I think the heart of it is definitely the same.

ED: How do you consider yourself to be similar to Auden, and how are you different?

EP: I feel very similar to Auden in that I think I am a perfectionist. Especially growing up, school was very important to me. I was very much into theater — working really hard, staying after school, going to the library instead of being at lunchtime with everyone else. I was very disciplined growing up, but probably at the expense of some socializing. I don't think I was as extreme as Auden is, because I did have a friend group and I went to prom and things like that. But her discipline and her hardworking nature, I definitely relate to.

I think also just in general, I'm very introverted. I love people and I love socializing, but it's a matter of me regulating that, spending time with people, having a blast and then taking time to recharge. Auden’s very strong, she's very independent, but she doesn't know how to connect with herself and understand what she's feeling. It's through this movie that I think she learns a lot about herself. At that age, you're feeling all the things. You don't know who you are, you're uncomfortable in your own skin. I was exactly like that at 17.

Emily V. Aragones / Netflix

ED: Considering their similarities, how would you compare Along For The Ride with To All The Boys?

EP: I think both movies capture the complicated, messy, gooey, weird, sweet, insecure part of being 17 and having a lot of firsts. I think both characters are people who are very cerebral. In To All The Boys, she loved a bunch of romance movies, right? She'd rather play them out in her brain than live them. And then it's upon falling in love that she lives those truths. I think it's the same also with Auden — she would rather sit on the sidelines and stay controlled and stay independent and say she doesn't need people than actually reveal she does need people — or beyond needs, she wants people.

ED: What was it like to play romantic leads alongside Belmont Cameli? How did you two develop your chemistry together?

EP: I feel really lucky that I got to experience this with Bel because he's such a wonderful person, so smart, so thoughtful. And we clicked immediately. On a very basic level, we like the same music, we like the same comedians. But then also I think we were raised in similar ways and we have similar values. He's the kind of person where we're like, "Wow, I feel like I've known you my whole life." And how fortunate to be able to do that. If that exists in real life, then to do that on screen is really easy. Especially because this was a new experience that was very scary and my imposter syndrome was screaming, I felt really lucky to have a support system to go through each scene alongside me, both on and off screen.

ED: This is the second time you’ve mentioned imposter syndrome. How are you handling being on the brink of starring in a splashy Netflix movie? You know you could become, like, really famous, right?

EP: I'm laughing because part of my brain is like, “That's not going to happen.” I find all of that to be... well, it's overwhelming. The truth is I love acting and I love working on projects. The reason I'm here is because I've loved this for my whole life. And so while I'm having so much fun with all these interviews and hopefully to connect with fans of the book and the movie — that will be great — I'm trying to ground myself in the reason I am doing this in the first place, which is the work, which means a lot to me.

And also, I'm very fortunate that I live in L.A. And I'm from L.A., so my whole family is here too. I'm currently living at home with my parents and my sister lives really close. So I've been spending a lot of time with my family and my close friends, just trying to stay grounded. I hiked the Grand Canyon with my dad and my sister two weeks ago, which was a dream.

ED: What’s next for you?

EP: I don't know! I think I'm auditioning and I'm enjoying this project right now and I'm very open and excited about what's to come, but I don't actually know what it is yet.

Along For The Ride premieres on Netflix on May 6.