Movies & TV

WATCH: We Showed the Stars of Netflix’s 'Always Be My Maybe' a Poster of Star Cinema’s 'Always Be My Maybe'

Keanu Reeves co-stars in a romantic comedy that Ali Wong says was made for both girls and guys.
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You’d be forgiven for thinking Netflix’s newest romantic comedy sounds suspiciously familiar. Always Be My Maybe was also the title of a Star Cinema flick starring Arci Muñoz and Gerald Anderson released in 2016.

Apart from the title, both films share absolutely nothing in common, but when we got the chance to meet the stars of the Netflix rom-com, we couldn’t resist asking them about it.

“I did hear about it,” said Randall Park. “But it was after we finished production.”

It was the first time co-star Ali Wong had seen or heard about it, though.

“That’s crazy,” she told us. And then she zeroed in on Anderson, who is Filipino-American. “That looks like a white man!”

Inspiration from R&B

Park and Wong, who also co-wrote and co-produced Always Be My Maybe, said they went through a bunch of other titles before settling on this one, which references the title of a popular Mariah Carey song.

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“We had so many other title ideas,” Wong said. “We were brainstorming. And then one night, I was listening to Anita Baker and Janet Jackson, all these R&B songs for inspiration. And then, Randall was the first person I texted. We were in Vancouver. And I just said, how about Always Be My Maybe?"

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“And I replied, 'Yes!', with a bunch of exclamation points,” Park said.

Wong said that, initially, there were some concerns that it wasn’t exactly aspirational for anybody to be somebody’s maybe.

“But if you’re like a grown-ass person, as an adult, if you live long enough, there’s always going to be someone from your past that is your maybe.”

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Rise of the Asians

Always Be My Maybe is the latest in a string of Hollywood releases that topbills Asian-American actors. Fresh Off the Boat, a TV series featuring an Asian-American family, has just been renewed for a sixth season; Killing Eve, which stars Korean-Canadian actress Sandra Oh, is one of the most critically acclaimed shows in recent years; and then of course, there’s Crazy Rich Asians, which was a huge commercial and critical success.

“It’s really sad that we have to have something be successful to become a proof of concept, for the gatekeepers to actually want to buy it,” said Michelle Buteau, who plays Ali Wong’s character’s best friend Veronica in the movie. “But my thing is, don’t tell yourself no, before other people tell you no. Just keep doing it. Keep creating content, keep showing up to auditions. Keep doing what you want to do. And that’s what Ali and Randall did. They persevered.”

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Wong also expressed hope that the film breaks down commonly held notions about rom-coms being chick flicks.

“I hope that with anything that I’m a part of making, the goal is like Friday Night Lights or like a Jay-Z and Beyonce concert,” she said. “I want it to be something that men and women can enjoy equally. And I think this is the kind of movie that a lot of men will enjoy just because you’ve never seen a character like Marcus before. So many men will feel seen, men who have lived at home for a long time, but who are like, hot. And they have an artistic passion, and they have a day job. You’ve just never seen a grounded version of that kind of guy on camera. I think a lot of guys are going to find it cathartic.”

A funny Keanu

In the film, Wong plays Sasha Tran, a celebrity chef who reconnects with childhood friend Marcus Kim (Park), when she opens a restaurant in her hometown of San Francisco. The supporting cast includes superstar Keanu Reeves, who goes back to his roots in comedy and delivers a hilarious, must-see performance.

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“He was the ideal choice,” Park said. “And the original choice. We just didn’t think we’d get him. What are the chances of you wanting Keanu and getting Keanu to be in your movie? Thankfully he was such a huge fan of Ali’s. And knew every joke on her stand-up comedy special Baby Cobra. And that sealed the deal.”

At turns funny, thoughtful and poignant, Always Be My Maybe avoids many of the clichés associated with Asian characters and instead portrays them as regular folk looking for love and finding out that it might be closer than they realize.

“Ultimately we just wanted to make a good movie that reflected who we were,” said Park, “I think the Asian-American aspect is definitely a part of who we are, but we just wanted the movie to be good. If the movie sucked, we’re probably be doing a disservice to the community.”

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Always Be My Maybe is streaming on Netflix now

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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