After the success of the first Netflix original film, The Kissing Booth 2 follows the continuing developments in the relationship between Elle Evans (Joey King) and her reformed bad-boy boyfriend Noah Flynn (Jacob Elordi), who’s now living life at Harvard. In her senior year of high school and with a long distance romance that’s proving to be more difficult than she ever could have imagined, Elle learns that life’s complications never stop coming and that she must decide where her heart truly lies.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, British actress Maisie Richardson-Sellers talked about the appeal of playing smart and worldly fellow Harvard student Chloe, wanting to be a part of projects that make people feel good and that give them a break from real-life struggles, the bits of her that seeped into the character, the Chloe-Elle dynamic, and what it was like to work with co-star Joey King. She also talked about the incredible family she got to be a part of on The CW series Legends of Tomorrow, why she ultimately stepped away from the show, and her desire to return, if the opportunity were to arise, as well as what it was like to be a part of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
MAISIE RICHARDSON-SELLERS: It’s funny because when I was actually auditioning for it, I didn’t know what it was. Even though they changed the names, she was still this smart and opinionated, and yet kind and compassionate woman, and we can never have too many of those, on screen. And then, I found out that it would film in Capetown (South Africa), and I love Capetown. I filmed there once before, for seven months, and I had amazing cultural experiences and conversations there. So often, we can forget the power of creating projects that make people feel good about themselves and that give people an off night from the world and their daily lives and struggles. So, I’m a big fan of doing both. I try to do some projects that are more meaningful and complex, and then some that are more light-hearted and fun and that are an escape for people. This seemed like the perfect one of those. It’s a fun world. It’s quirky. I really enjoyed the first one, and it just felt like an organic thing to be a part of.
Chloe seems like someone that you’d want to be friends with and hang out with. What did you most enjoy about playing this character?
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: She’s so smart. She’s traveled the world and speaks five languages. She’s lived everywhere. She’s studying at Harvard. It’s also really important to see people of color in those kinds of positions ‘cause we don’t often see those roles going to people of color. That excited me about the project, as well. The more diverse the representation is and the more we’re showing the nuance of the representation, then it’s that whole thing of, if you see her than you can be her. She can inspire young girls to go to Harvard and be this character in what is a very white male world. For me, it’s quite a powerful representation to be able to portray.
This also seems like the kind of character might have changed a lot, over time. How much of the character that we see now was always there, in the scripts, and how much did you have a sense of freedom and finding her?
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: Vince [Marcello] and Jay [Arnold] wrote her really well, on the page, but I studied anthropology and archeology at Oxford, so we decided that she was probably majoring in something like anthropology or human rights law. So, in this one scene, when I tell a story when I first see Elle, I tell this story from this amazing man that I met in Port Elizabeth, where I’d been on a Safari adventure. They brought things like that into her, organically from me, but also, we worked really hard on making sure that we didn’t cross that line between her being, in any way, a mean girl. She’s very kind. When you watch the film and see the ending, you’ll notice just how truthful she is and how honest she actually is. What happens is how people interpret her behavior. That’s what changes. So, by always being true to her and always making sure that she is this supportive, curious, vivacious woman, it made her someone that, like you said, I wanted to spend time with. That’s what we were aiming for.
She’s one of those characters that you want to hate, but you can’t because she’s just effortless cool and genuinely nice.
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: Exactly. She’s just as much one of the boys, as she is one of the girls. She has this ability to shape herself to whatever the situation or energy is within in a room, but in a way that’s organic and genuine, and not contrived. So often, when we see two women on screen, they’re often pitted against each other and there’s a conflict, especially when there is a love triangle. They’re often at loggerheads and against each other, and we really fought hard to show that, even though there is the suggestion of that, it’s not actually true, when you watch the scene. Chloe is never rude to Elle. She’s never cruel to Elle. She’s actually very kind and welcoming to Elle, and that was really important to me because I think that’s a really positive thing to be showing, especially to the younger generation.
Do you feel like Chloe is oblivious to the fact that Elle could see her as a threat, or is it something that’s just not a concern to her because she knows it’s not that way?
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: It’s so tricky, that one. I think she realizes too late, what’s going on. One of her problems is that she’s very much the keep calm and carry on sort. She’s not great at showing vulnerability. The problem there is that, therefore, she kept some things back from Noah and from Elle that she probably should have just had an honest conversation about, earlier on. She also didn’t wanna overstep because, at the end of the day, it’s Noah’s job to tell Elle what’s going on. She doesn’t really know Elle. They’ve never spent any time alone. So, I think she stepped back and things spiraled before she had a chance to realize what was really going on.
How was the experience of working with Joey King? Is it easier to have a little bit of an antagonistic relationship with someone, on screen, when you actually really like them, off screen?
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: It’s harder. She was so much fun. We went to dinner, and we just had this amazing four-hour, rambling conversation and we just fell in love with each other. We were constantly talking and texting. So, to have that closeness made it harder to keep a straight face and actually build that tension. She’s such a fantastic actress and it was such a pleasure to play with her. You can really experiment and try things because you feel safe working with her, which is a really nice place to be.
I’m such a fan of Legends of Tomorrow, and it seems like it would have been such a blast to be a part of that show. You got the opportunity to play two really interesting characters there, with Amaya and Charlie. What did you most enjoy about working with that cast and crew, over the seasons, and getting to play not just one really cool character, but two of them?
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: I want to act in as many different bodies, lives and worlds as I possibly can, so to be able to do that twice within one show, as two so polar and contrasting characters was fantastic. It’s such a gift. It was really fun to play Amaya and who she was, and then to be able to recreate all of those dynamics and relationships with all of those actors again, as Charlie, was so fun. People that Amaya was close to, Charlie was very much at loggerheads with, and vice versa. So, I got to rediscover the whole show and the whole cast again, which was really an awesome gift. It’s such a family. I cannot tell you how lovely it is, being on that set. You walk in, and you’re hugging everyone and you know everyone’s name. We were hanging out on the weekends with some of the crew. It’s such a wonderful group of humans. Everyone’s so talented and passionate about what they do, which feeds into the whole way that the show runs. We have wonderful writers. There’s a very diverse group of writers who are really emotionally invested, as well. There was always a writer on set, which makes you feel much more involved in the process. I miss them. I’m gonna miss them so much. It was a fantastic four years. I feel like I grew a lot, as a human and as an actress, being there.
Now that you’ve left the show, are you curious to tune in and see what comes next, or is it too bittersweet?
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: I’d love to see it. I’m always messaging the writers going, “What can you tell me? What’s the next season?” I’m trying to get the inside scoop. The truth is, no one is ever gone on Legends. I’ve made it very clear to them that, if they ever need Amaya or Charlie for a mission, I would be back there in a heartbeat. So, it’s never the end. I stay in touch with everyone and we text each other. Before all of this madness, we would be getting together and going to dinner. It’s definitely a family. I don’t feel like I’ve lost them. In some ways, it’s still going to continue, but I’m going to miss the crew in Vancouver.
When you left the show, part of your statement for leaving sounded like you wanted to do more behind the camera stuff. Is that a priority for you now? Are you looking to get more into working behind the scenes on stuff?
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: Definitely. I had many conversations with our showrunner about it. I’ve just been having this dream of this production company for about two years, and I finally managed to get it off the ground. It’s called Bareface Productions, and we just finished our first short film. It specializes in creating stories that focus on the experiences of marginalized communities and individuals, and LGBTQIA people from around the world. One of the key things that we do is that we have diverse representation, at every single phase of the creative process, from casting to directing to writing to producing. Everyone is representative of the stories that we’re trying to tell, which is something that, sadly, I rarely see within Hollywood or the TV world. It was taking up a lot of time and, with the shooting schedule, I just couldn’t do both. We shot Kissing Booth last year, as well. I wrapped Legends in January and, since then, I’ve been pouring all of my time and energy into developing our team and upcoming projects, and building out the production company and our contacts. I can’t wait. I’m so excited about the things that we have coming. I can’t wait to share them with everyone.
I first became aware of you when you played another dual role, on The Originals.
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: Yeah, it seems to be my specialty.
What was it like, as an actor, to play and establish a character, and then play that character with someone else possessing them? Is that a whole different type of acting challenge?
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: I loved it. For me, any kind of challenge is why I do this. It feeds me so much, creatively. It was such a gift. Playing Rebekah, I studied Claire Holt closely and I was trying to recreate a character. Whereas with Eva, I managed to create my own tactic. That was also fun, to have that contrast. I also love the supernatural world, whereby I died several times on that show. There is nothing normal about being on a supernatural show. It goes hand-in-hand with the world that you’re in. I also love doing real-life, naturalistic stuff, as well. For me, acting is all about the diversity of roles. It’s not about playing one role. It’s about how many roles I can embody, in an organic and true way. It just makes sense to me, to play a wide range of characters.
You also got to be in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. What’s it like to be in a Star Wars movie? What do you take away from being a part of a production of that size?
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: It was insane. It was my first time, ever, in front of a camera, and I had no clue what was going on or what I was doing. It was definitely a baptism by fire. I arrived on set, and my first scene was with Carrie Fisher. It didn’t make it into the film, but you can find it online. And she was just an absolute dream. What could have been a terrifying experience turned into the most wonderful, gentle day. JJ [Abrams] was so cool. He wouldn’t even look at the monitor. He would just sit right next to us, on set, looking from one to the other. That’s how he was checking that he was getting the performance that he wanted. So many directors are 50 feet away, behind a screen in another room, shouting at you from a distance. It was such a blessing. I learned a lot about filmmaking and about acting, as well, just from that those few days that I was there.
The Kissing Booth 2 is available to stream at Netflix on July 24th.
Christina Radish is a Senior Reporter of Film, TV, and Theme Parks for Collider. You can follow her on Twitter @ChristinaRadish.