Rachael Leigh Cook is no stranger to romantic comedies. She starred in the hit teen rom-com She’s All That and became the princess of the genre, now working with Hallmark and Netflix as both an actress and producer on the 2020 film Love, Guaranteed and this week’s rom-com A Tourist’s Guide to Love.
After a break-up with her boyfriend of five years, travel executive Amanda Riley (Cook) agrees to go on an undercover mission to gain insight into a tour company in Vietnam. She travels just in time for the Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebration Tết and soon finds herself embracing the culture and her Vietnamese expatriate tour guide, Sinh (Scott Ly).
As a producer for the film, Cook worked with the writer Eirene Tran Donohue and many experts, like consulting producer Dustin Nguyen, and organizations like CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) to ensure authenticity for how the country and its people were portrayed. Cook felt intimidated to the idea of it, but felt really honored that the Vietnamese government was so open about the film.
“I just feel so lucky that we were embraced by the whole country and the ministry of culture,” Cook told The Nerds of Color. “Everybody just opened their doors and their hearts to our whole production and were so supportive of us wanting to tell this love story.”
Like many Hollywood films, Vietnam has typically been told through the eyes of war. Cook and Ly know that and were so excited to bring something new that would showcase Vietnam’s beauty.
“Whenever people on the street would say, ‘hey, what’s the movie about?’ We could say, ‘it’s a love story,’” Cook shared. “We make no reference to the war. It’s just a story set today about two people finding each other against the odds.”
Ly, who is Vietnamese American, appreciates that the film is a love story that also is a love letter to Vietnam. He appreciates going back to the motherland and showing the world the beauty of the country. Like Cook, he’s grateful it’s not about the war because Vietnam is more than that.
“It’s a beautiful place to shoot and have projects made,” said Ly. “I think that it’s only the tip of the iceberg with what Vietnam and the culture and the people have to offer. I’m so blessed to be part of this.”
Ly also credits Cook for picking this project, therefore creating more opportunities and jobs for the people of Vietnam. It was through her support for the film to be as authentic and real as possible — and it shows.
“If I’m being completely honest with you, we felt like we had to run every single revision by our very knowledgeable line producer [Irene Trinh] and our screenwriter Eirene, who is also Vietnamese,” Cook explained. “We felt a great responsibility that had many people feel happy with the way that we’re representing a culture as possible.”
Check out the interview below.
A Tourist’s Guide to Love is out on Netflix now!