Midori Francis steals the show in Netflix’s new holiday series Dash & Lily. You are drawn to her from the very first moment she steps on screen. As Dash and Lily exchange dares, hopes, and desires in a red notebook over the course of the season, Lily grows so much as an individual, as does Dash. By the time these two end up together, they’re perfect for each other.
HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with Midori about all the facets of Lily. The 26-year-old loved that there was so much more than meets the eye with the character. She also discussed how she and Austin Abrams built an “intimacy” outside of the show, the triumphant moment Lily told off Edgar, and what she hopes Lily and Dash do next after their big moment at The Strand.
What was it about Lily that really stood out to you?
Midori Francis: It was that there was so much more to her than I knew met the eye. I felt that from the very first time I got that script. It was very clear that although she’s bubbly and passionate and excitable and loves Christmas, there might also be something she’s covering or hiding or not fully allowing herself to feel. Already as an actor, that is a very fun and interesting and challenging thing to play. I love how much she had to say. One of the audition sides was seen in The Strand where she tried to pick up that guy, and she just doesn’t stop talking. I love how adorable she was, how thoughtful she was, and how unique her points of view were. Also, I do love Christmas, so it just felt like a good match.
I love that the show explores fate and destiny in a sense. If Dash hadn’t picked up the book, they may never have met. When it comes to fate and chance, do you believe in those elements?
Midori Francis: I believe in a great combination of destiny and free will. So I believe that there are some experiences that one is either meant to have happened or they have happened, and they can change you in magical ways. For example, right now I’m filming Afterlife of the Party in South Africa. I really had no expectations going into this of what type of experience it would be, and it’s ended up being this incredibly special experience where I just have happened to fall in love with everyone on set and everything like that. In some ways, I definitely had that with Dash & Lily. I didn’t know in working with Austin whether we would get along, and I was nervous about that. It turns out Austin and I were supposed to meet and become friends, and now I have him in my life as a fellow artist and friend. So I definitely believe that some of these experiences that happen feel like fate or destiny because they can end up being so nice or they teach you so much.
So much of the season features you and Austin connecting through words. What it was like for both of you to establish a chemistry that wasn’t physical?
Midori Francis: We passed around our own red notebook. This was actually Austin’s idea. He came up to me, I think it was like the second day, and he was like, “I know this might be kind of weird, but would you maybe want to try this?” I was like, “Yes, 100 percent.” Because I’m a nerd like that, and I’m so down to go the extra mile to get into character. So we passed around our own notebook for maybe a month and a half, and we revealed things to each other and got to know each other, and then we would leave it for each other in our trailers. That was really cool because I think we built this intimacy without shooting together. Also, I live in New York and Austin lives in LA. He was located in New York at the time, and we would spend at least one night a week going to sushi or going to a bar. We talked about the show, we shared our feelings, and we had meetings with our showrunner together. We really built this relationship outside of the show that helped inform our connection. I think because we were so excited to work with each other and because we like each other that by the time a scene would actually come up, some of that rubbed off on screen. I think you can feel that we enjoy talking to each other.
One of my favorite scenes is the slam poetry night scene when Lily finally stands up to Edgar. So many things that happen to us in adolescence or our childhood can have an impact on us whether or not we think we’re over it. I had a sort of similar situation as Lily when I was younger. You still remember those kinds of things, no matter how hard you try to forget them. Talk me through what you were feeling during that monologue.
Midori Francis: Thank you. In every way, I was doing it for you, for people like me, and for everyone who can relate to it. It is an experience of a young woman who is still dealing with the repercussions of being a girl in middle school. It’s easy to overlook some of the teasing or bullying that happens or comments that are made as just being kind of expected. But as you said, what a person says to us can shape who we think we are for years to come. The mean girls or the bully or the guy makes us feel bad about ourselves can actually make us not seek out opportunities or believe in ourselves into adulthood, so that monologue meant so much to me. I was so nervous because I just wanted to make sure that I was really sinking my teeth into those words and making it honest and believable. It was incredible because they had all of these extras, just lovely people in the audience. I was running through the door and going up take after take and actually doing it for them live. I didn’t know who any of these people were, and I had such a buzz going and definitely a catharsis for being able to tell Edgar off. I left that day feeling a lot lighter.
Would you personally have forgiven Edgar so easily?
Midori Francis: No. But I think it’s easy to look at that moment… because I know what you mean. I don’t think it’s so much that Lily forgave him in the show. I think it’s that she got confused and surprised. She really had thought her entire life that this guy hated her. And then she learned in this scene that he was also a little kid with feelings. Also, maybe she misread something or maybe he didn’t mean it that way. Maybe he also was going through something at the time. So I think it’s more that she really is a very open-minded person. I think she was more like, okay, I hear you. Sure, I’ll go out with you and give you a chance. But as soon as she learns that Edgar has decided to not get her an Uber because of surge pricing, she was out of there. I was very proud of that.
When Dash and Lily finally meet they don’t know that they are meeting each other. There were a couple of looks at the party that I noticed. Do you think maybe Lily subconsciously thought that there was something about Dash that was familiar to her?
Midori Francis: I’m so glad that scene made you feel that way. That’s exactly what we were hoping for. I think that what’s cool about that moment is that we learn whatever is going on between them in this notebook, this spark or natural magnetism towards one another, exists off the page. They just don’t know each other. I feel like it’s so rewarding in some sense because even if they didn’t do this notebook thing, she would have still been drawn to Dash. She would still think he’s funny and cheeky and weird and vice versa. It was really fun and cool, but also very frustrating that they didn’t know each other.
The season ends with a lot of hope. There are more books, so this could continue in more seasons. If there is a season 2, what would you like to explore with her?
Midori Francis: I love Lily and would love the opportunity to keep developing her and growing up with her. I’d love to see what happens maybe when she goes to college and all of those things. But right now, I think especially in these times, with everything so uncertain with shooting schedules, we’re just so grateful that this show got shot when it did. Now we get to show the world, so I think right now my focus is just like, wow, here’s our season one. Drink it in. I hope you enjoy it.
Dash and Lily do end up together by the end of the season. How do you feel about their evolution, and how do you feel about their future?
Midori Francis: It is a rom-com and we know what rom-coms are, but I found it so cool that this rom-com had two people who really don’t meet that often. What this became about was a love that challenged them and made them grow and pushed them outside their comfort zone. By the time they do come together, they have changed themselves, they have improved themselves, and have been inspired by the other. I think that’s fantastic and such a great message about love. It’s not necessarily easy or simple and it really does require you to figure yourself out before you can deal with someone else. I just love that. I love to imagine that night… I don’t know how late they stay there but they get breakfast in the morning and can be in puppy love. We don’t see that, but I love that before we get to that sweet moment, we watch them go through a lot as individuals.