Sarah Dessen’s Along for the Ride comes to life in the heartful Netflix movie, out on May 6. Auden retreats to Colby in the summer before college and crosses paths with the mysterious Eli. Over the course of the film, their friendship evolves into a sweet romance.
HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Emma Pasarow about taking on the role of Auden. She opens up about embracing the “multifaceted” character and how Auden’s time in Colby expands her “definition of empowerment.” She also talks about Auden and Eli being “antenna people” and how they help each other “expand” into the best versions of themselves. Read our Q&A below:
Sarah Dessen is known for so many of her books, especially in the young adult genre. Had you read Along for the Ride before getting the role of Auden?
Emma Pasarow: I actually hadn’t read any of her books before. Although I did grow up with many friends who read every single one of her books, so she was very much a name in my world. But it wasn’t until I auditioned that I read Along For The Ride, and then since have read it probably upwards of 10 times. She’s so wonderful. It’s been really one of the more exciting things about this process has been working with her and getting to know her. She’s the most lovely person on the planet.
What was it about Auden that really intrigued you?
Emma Pasarow: I love Auden for so many reasons. I really relate to her in a lot of ways. I also think Auden, along with all of the characters in Sofia Alvarez’s screenplay as well as Sarah Dessen’s book, are very, very multifaceted. They’re complicated. They’re very human. I think particularly in a YA genre there are a lot of archetypes. There are a lot of categories and boxes that certain characters fall into, but I think Auden specifically defies all of those boxes as well as Heidi and all of the friends she makes at Clementine. Auden is incredibly smart and very sensitive. She’s 17 and hormonal and insecure. I think it’s through the journey of the book, going to Colby, reconnecting with her family that she sort of thinks through how she presents to the world what she’s known to be true, what intelligence looks like. Through meeting all these new people she expands her definition of empowerment, intelligence, of what it means to be a whole person. I really was drawn to her journey throughout all of that.
I love that she’s not a “perfect” character. She’s still learning and growing, which is incredibly relatable.
Emma Pasarow: Exactly. I think if we take the learning how to ride a bike as a metaphor, she’s so afraid to learn because prior to this moment in time I think she is a perfectionist, and she excels at everything she does, but what that means is it limits what she does. She only does things she already knows she’s very good at. Learning how to ride a bike means falling in front of people, and it means admitting you don’t know something and being imperfect. It’s not until she comes to Colby that she’s willing to admit her imperfections that have always existed, but she’s kind of like willing to sit inside of them.
What did you love the most about Auden and Eli’s relationship?
Emma Pasarow: I think that Auden and Eli intuitively share their own language. It’s not always a language of words, but sort of the way that they show up for each other and exist around each other is extremely unique and specific to them. I think that when they meet they’re both at a moment in their lives, and they’re trying to think through their past. They have a lot of things to work through, and I think they use each other to work through them. Whether it was the trauma Eli faced, Auden’s parents being divorced, both of them are kind of pushing each other to become more vulnerable. I think they really help each other expand. In one of the first rehearsals Sofia taught Bel and me this term that really resonated with me, and I think it’s very true of these characters. She called them “antenna people,” the people that you meet in your life where when you walk into a room with them, all the hairs stand up on your arms. You know exactly where they are in a room even if you can’t literally see them. They kind of make your antenna stick up. I think Eli’s that for Auden. Just from a distance she viscerally feels his presence, and I think it’s true the other way around.
Your chemistry with Belmont is spot-on for Auden and Eli. What was it like getting to know each other and forming that bond that Eli and Auden have?
Emma Pasarow: We actually met for the first time over Zoom. Our chemistry read was on the computer, so that was a very strange experience. But I feel very lucky because Bel is wonderful, and we are really great friends and have stayed very close since filming the movie. So I wish I could say there was like a secret, but we really just bonded immediately. We have similar tastes in music and comedy. While I’ve done short films and plays, this was my first really big experience. It was really, really nice to have someone to lean on, and I think we really even outside of shooting really like emotionally supported each other throughout. It’s a very new and exciting experience. It was very natural and he’s the best.
You also get to work alongside some pretty iconic actors in the industry like Andie MacDowell, Dermot Mulroney, and Kate Bosworth. What was it like learning from them?
Emma Pasarow: It was a true dream come true. I grew up watching them on my screen and admiring their work, all of them. And then to not only be able to be in a room with them and watch them act, but to be able to act opposite them was unlike any experience I’ve ever had. I’ve been working towards this my whole life, and I’m still learning and hope to always learn. I think what was really exciting about working with them is I got to learn in so many different ways by watching them, picking their brains in the green room, watching them beyond acting, watching them interact with the crew and the director, absorbing how they communicate, how they collaborate was really spectacular. They all were so generous and kind to me and really took a mentor shape for me. It was unbelievable. The whole time I was like, I’m dreaming. I have to be. I still think I’m dreaming.
Have you ever thought about what happens to Auden and Eli after the film ends?
Emma Pasarow: That’s a good question. I don’t really know. I have no idea. I think by the end of the movie they set each other both on paths to continue to put themselves out there, follow their journey, and check things off of a quest list even. I would hope that both of them, either together or separately, are continuing to put themselves out there and try new things and follow their dreams, which I think they are. With Eli in Barcelona and Auden in college living with Maggie I think they really taught each other how to open up and they gotta keep doing that.