Monday, September 26, 2022

‘Along for the Ride’ stars talk turning Carolina Beach into Colby, falling in love and Britts Donuts

CAROLINA BEACH — Last spring, set directors strung colorful twinkly lights, hung an array of knick-knacks and placed vinyl on a record player in a Carolina Beach scuba shop. The building was unrecognizable, setting the scene of the “secret pie shop,” where Eli and Auden’s love story begins.

Carolina Beach Scuba was one of the many locations scouted for Netflix’s upcoming teen romance film. Based on the novel of the same title by North Carolina author Sarah Dessen, “Along for the Ride” releases on the streaming service this Friday, after its original April premiere date was delayed. In most cases, the filmmakers heavily relied on landmark Carolina Beach scenery — from the boardwalk to the shore strand — to bring to life Dessen’s fictional town of Colby. In some instances, like in the case of the secret pie shop, buildings were redesigned from top to bottom.

“It was completely making something from scratch,” leading actress Emma Pasarow told Port City Daily. “So Clementine’s [the boutique in the film set up at Nest Realty] is one of those places.”

“We never knew what they were previously because we would show up and the Sarah Dessen world already existed,” her co-star Belmont Cameli said.

In the film, Cameli plays Eli, a local beach boy with curly waves and a piqued interest in the town’s newest visitor, Auden (Pasarow’s character). Focused more on academics in high school than seemingly silly traditions, Auden moves to Colby for the summer to bond with her disconnected father (Dermot Mulroney) and save for college by working in her stepmom’s (Kate Bosworth) boutique. But there’s another reason for the change of scenery: She wants to see if she can become a different version of herself.

Eli challenges Auden to embark on a “quest” to embrace a carefree teen life of food fights, trespassing and night swims. But in a town where no one’s a stranger, Eli is rather mysterious and closed off himself.

The film was written and directed by Sofia Alvarez, known by most as “Fia,” who also served on the Netflix trilogy “To All the Boys,” based on the Jenny Han novels. (A TV adaptation of Han’s “The Summer I Turned Pretty” was filmed in Carolina Beach also last year and is setting up in town for season two). “Along for the Ride” is expected to garner the same type of success.

Ahead of its May 6 premiere, Port City Daily spoke with the young, up-and-coming actors, Pasarow and Cameli, as well as veteran Bosworth (“Blue Crush”). They dished about turning Carolina Beach into Colby, embracing their characters and what they hope viewers take away from the film.

Emma Pasarow and Belmont Cameli

“Along for the Ride” stars Belmont Cameli (left) as Eli and Emma Pasarow (right) as Auden. (Courtesy Emily V. Aragones / Netflix)

Port City Daily (PCD): How did you guys feel about shooting in Carolina Beach? Did it make for a good Colby?

Belmont Cameli (BC): When I flew in and I got into Carolina Beach, which is where we set most of Colby, I mean, it was outstanding. It already looked like Colby did in my mind from reading the screenplay, reading the book. It was very easy for us to get into character there.

I got on a bike right away. I started riding all around the streets and mapping it out. It was a lovely place to film, and the people down there were exceptional, especially the crew that works down there. We really enjoyed it. And I got to go to that beach quite a bit, which was also wonderful.

Emma Pasarow (EP): Such a dream. And Sarah Dessen is from North Carolina. So even starting with the book, it feels like it’s in the makeup of the world that she writes about and it so perfectly worked to shoot.

PCD: What did you like to do in your free time when you weren’t shooting for the film?

BC: There is one restaurant in Carolina Beach called Havana’s. And by the end of shooting, I think I’d had every single entree, and it turned out that the duck was actually my favorite. It had an apricot chutney on it. It really, really changed things for me.

EP: But you’re forgetting the most important thing.

BC: What am I forgetting?

EP: Britts Donuts!

BC: Oh, true! Britts Donuts.

EP: We lived walking distance from Britts. And it was the biggest treat. We were on set a lot of time so we didn’t get as much time to explore as I would have liked to. But long walks on the beach — great for clearing my head. And then Britts Donuts. Just so many of them.

PCD: I want to talk about the book, too. What did you think about the adaptation and how you were able to bring it to life?

EP: I think Fia did a wonderful job. The book is over 400 pages, and a movie is less than two hours. So, everything can’t go from page to screen. However, I think Fia did a really wonderful job taking the most important storylines and putting them in the movie. And then for the details that didn’t make it in, there are some Easter eggs that are in the art direction … But I think that it was a really great distillation of what the book is.

PCD: Did you have a favorite scene?

BC: Pie shop was just the most unreal scene that came to life. And we’d been waiting to do pie shop. We shot it actually at the end. To be in that space was cool.

EP: I would say the pie shop for me was my favorite. There’s something so delightful and relatable to that first conversation you have with someone you have a crush on — and not only having that conversation but learning that they are even cooler and more interesting than you thought they were. And I think that that juicy moment was so fun to play with. We auditioned with it, and then we shot it the last day so it felt very full circle.

PCD: Do you have a story of how you ended up landing the role?

BC: Emma has a crazy story.

EP: This is crazy — I auditioned for it, just an ordinary audition, in January. And then I had a talk with Fia, the director, later that month. And then it disappeared. So I assumed I didn’t get it.

About three months later, on a Friday night, I got a call from my team saying, ‘Remember that thing you auditioned for? Well, it’s back. So just get ready.’ And I was like, ‘OK.’

Then they called me back a couple minutes later, and they’re like, ‘So things are moving a little quicker than we thought. You have a call with the director in 30 minutes … You have a call back on Saturday. And if you get it, you’re leaving on Sunday.’

So I was like, ‘OK, this is crazy.’ So, I did the call with Fia. We connected incredibly. It was a kismet meeting. It was so amazing. We did the callback.

I never found out if I got it on Saturday. I went to bed that night thinking I didn’t get it.

I got a call early Sunday morning, saying that I got the part. I was sobbing, and I called my mom. She came over, and I was on a plane three hours later.

BC: Oh my gosh, it’s so wild.

EP: It was. But I think because it was so wild, it paralleled how I was feeling inside. It was exactly how it should have gone.

BC: I think it was good. Because you just had to get out there and get going.

EP: Well, my anxieties couldn’t get in the way because there was no time. I just had to focus. It was so cool.

BC: I think when I first auditioned for it, I was back home and my mother played Auden in my audition, which is not ideal to be doing romantic scenes with your mom … Then I heard back and I did a chemistry read with Emma, which went just swimmingly. We have so much fun.

It was a pretty quick turnaround for me, too, not nearly as fast as Emma’s — but, yeah, I felt I was on a plane and all of a sudden in North Carolina.

Kate Bosworth

Kate Bosworth plays Auden’s stepmom Heidi, and Dermot Mulroney acts as her father Robert. (Courtesy Emily V. Aragones / Netflix)

Port City Daily (PCD): What did you think about shooting in Carolina Beach? Did it make for a good Colby?

Kate Bosworth (KB): Oh, yes. We had so much fun. I love Carolina Beach. I had actually never been there or to Wilmington, and I was able to go to Wilmington a few times, which was so cool. And it’s just such a great scene, beautiful on the water there. It’s just so ideal. So picturesque. I love football, so I was throwing a football out on the beach. All these cool little bars and … I just love all the little restaurants. It’s ideal. I could easily live there, and it was such a great backdrop for Colby. You could really imagine a coming-of-age story there.

PCD: Tell me a little bit about your character and what you liked about her?

KB: I love Heidi. I think she was one of my favorite characters to play. In real life, I am a stepmother. I’ve been a stepmother for almost 11 years. So this was a very personal role for me … I put a lot of those real-life experiences into Heidi’s relationship with Auden … The way Emma played Auden reminded me so much of [my stepdaughter] Jasper. How I tried to be liked so much when I first met Jasper was very similar to Heidi — very, like, ‘Hi, Oh my god!’ Very, sort of spazzy. That was very much my relationship with her. So I just felt it was important to bring in a lot of the warmth and love to a stepmom rather than relying on the evil stepmother trope that we see so often.

PCD: Did you have a favorite scene to shoot?

KB: I loved shooting the scene where she’s getting ready for the Fourth of July BBQ, and Auden is sitting at a table, and I’m, like, ‘How many blueberries is too much? Are there too many blueberries?’ Then I’m like ‘Are you going to a party? Oh my god! What party? Can I help you get ready?’ She’s so ultra Heidi’s spastic world. So excited about everything … from such a loving place ultimately, but it’s pretty funny to watch.

PCD: What are you hoping people take away after they watch the film?

KB: For me, it was, again, drawing on the thing that was most important in my own life, which is really leading with love. We’re all trying to figure this whole life thing out. Obviously, it really focuses on the coming-of-age story, but you’re always kind of coming of age. I’m almost 40, and I still have really big learning lessons that I receive. I just hope that I’ve gotten a little bit better at riding the wave, accepting that things get thrown at you and life changes and, very apropos with the title, you’ve really just got to be along for the ride. The more that you surrender to the ride and the least you resist it, probably the happier you’ll be.

PCD: Is there anything else that you want to add or any Carolina Beach shoutouts you wanna give?

KB: Well, anything on the boardwalk is great or along the beach … But I love Carolina Beach as a whole. I had so much fun there and I really hope to go back soon.

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Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands is a journalist covering New Hanover County and education. Before Port City Daily, she reported for the award-winning State Port Pilot in Southport. She graduated from UNC Charlotte and wrote for several Charlotte publications while there. When not writing, Williams is most likely in the gym, reading or spending time with her Golden Pyrenees. Reach her at or on Twitter @alexsands_

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