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First Love
Madeline Whittier is desperate to experience the much more stimulating outside world, and the promise of her first romance. Gazing through windows and talking only through texts, Maddy and her new neighbor, Olly, form a deep bond that leads them to risk everything to be together...even if it means losing everything.

"I wanted to import the whole book into the movie," says director Stella Meghie of author Nicola Yoon's novel Everything, Everything. "There was just so much between Maddy and Olly, the little moments that I wanted to get in, like every text conversation. Nicola wrote something so funny and sweet and honest and even fantastical, and it was important to me that the film feel like that, too."

Amandla Stenberg, who stars as Maddy, had much the same reaction to the material-both the book and the script-adding, "I was immediately drawn to the whimsy and the quirkiness of the story and the real life, tangible emotional aspects of it that I could connect to, especially as a teenager. I also loved that this beautiful and meaningful teen romance movie involved seeing an interracial couple in a completely subliminal way."

Though her main characters are both 18, Yoon's initial inspiration for the book came when she was a new mother. "I thought my daughter was going to eat dirt and catch a cold and all the things that moms are nervous about," she confesses. "Then I started thinking about what life would be like for a girl who needed protection the way you protect an infant, but for her whole life. Next I switched from the mom's perspective to the girl's, thinking how a normal teenager wants to rebel against her parents, but what if you can't, I mean really can't?

"And then," Yoon continues, "what if one day a super cute boy moves in next door and this girl's whole life changes? Because super cute boys change everything all the time," she smiles.

Nick Robinson stars as Olly Bright-that boy next door. "I felt like this was something I hadn't seen before, that Nicola was a new voice in the world of YA literature," he says. "I've done some work in that genre, but this felt like a really fresh take on it, very original."

Producer Leslie Morgenstein offers, "Throughout the book and now the film, we experience things as Maddy does, so we meet Olly through Maddy's point of view. We instantly feel her curiosity pique, and as she gets to know him, so do we. He's a little bit dark, which is probably due to problems at home, but despite that, he's funny and he has a big heart. He's the spark that ignites within her this desire to get out of her house, to risk her life to have a chance at love."

Producer Elysa Dutton concurs. "I think this urgency for love really resonates for people, especially at the age these characters are. First love is so exciting, and for Maddy, she's missed a lot of firsts so she's not going to miss this. Even though she knows this is potentially a life-threatening decision, there's no choice for her but to take this risk, to really live."

"I think Stella's love for Nicola's book, and her incredible understanding of what is both mainstream and unique as a filmmaker, made her able to craft a tone in this movie," Stenberg says. "It completely complements the book, but it's its own thing, too."

"I just feel that we can all relate to this story about testing your limits, about taking your shot at life. I definitely did," Meghie relates. "And falling in love for the first time is beautiful to watch at any age. We've all been there...or will be."

Stenberg notes, "Olly wears all black. He skateboards. His favorite word is 'macabre.' I think he throws Maddy for a loop because her life is contained, orderly, clean and routine, and he provides her with a more expansive view, even if they're not able to interact that much at first. They connect because Olly is trapped in his own life, too; they both experience a degree of isolation at home, for different reasons."

"Olly's resilient," Robinson adds. "He rolls with the punches. He's kind of become the impromptu caretaker of the family due to some real difficulties with his dad. Maddy has an amazing imagination, and Olly is part of her imaginings a lot of the time. And of course he's intrigued by her, this girl in a glass tower. Can he get her attention? How long will she stay at the window? I think at first it's a relationship built on the idea of each other."

Both actors enjoyed the process of exploring this unusual and often awkward first love relationship-finding the normalcy within its inherent irregularities.

"I had never met Amandla before this film but I'd heard only great things, so I was really excited to work with her," Robinson recalls. "She's just a really cool person and I had a great time getting to know her."

"Nick's an incredibly sweet guy," Stenberg shares. "We had a lot of different adventures while we were shooting, just driving around Vancouver, listening to music, going down to the river and traveling through the woods. We definitely bonded and became great friends."

"Both Amandla and Nick were fantastic," Meghie states. "Nick brought that kind of thoughtfulness I was looking for. He comes across very wise and honest and makes you really believe Olly, even when the things he says are overly sweet.

"And Amandla is just angelic," she continues. "Like Maddy, she's intelligent and mature, and also romantic, and she definitely brought those sensibilities to the character. My main goal was to make sure that people would believe these two characters fall in love, and Amandla and Nick really clicked from the start. Their chemistry was just so natural and I think that shows in the film."

Before Olly becomes the boy next door and then much, much more, Maddy's entire world consists of three people: her mom, Pauline; her nurse, Carla; and Rosa, Carla's daughter.

Pauline is Maddy's mother, doctor and best friend-the last unusual, perhaps, for most teenage girls, but not for Maddy, who has always relied on her mom for nearly everything and in many ways, vice versa. Pauline's husband and son were killed when Maddy was just a baby, and the two have meant everything to each other ever since.

The film opens on Maddy's 18th birthday, a monumental occasion for most. Maddy's celebration includes a check of her vitals and their annual traditions: vanilla birthday cake with vanilla frosting, a game of "Phonetic Scrabble" and a movie they've watched 100 times before.

"I wrote Pauline based on my hopes for a close relationship with my daughter," Yoon attests. "She and Maddy are genuinely very close. But even though it makes you happy, love-every kind of love-makes you vulnerable, too. So in writing the book and exploring the different types of love in the story, I tried to ask the question: is love worth all the vulnerability, the potential heartbreak, and risking everything?"

Anika Noni Rose, who plays the role of Pauline, observes, "One thing that I thought was really interesting about the story Nicola wrote is that you don't often see people of color in these types of stories. Her book is so magical and whimsical, and that's not something you generally find in a story about a woman of color and her child."

Stenberg was another draw for Rose. "When I found out that Amandla was a part of this project, I was immediately even more interested," she says. "She and I have touched base before online, talking about some books that we enjoy, so I was very aware of her. I think she's extraordinarily smart, forward-thinking and socially conscious. During the shoot, I really came to love her; she's funny and she's very enjoyable company, and I was really glad we were able to work together."

Rose found Stenberg's counterpart, Maddy, and her circumstances to be fascinating. "She is a teenager who has minimal contact with the outside world, which most of us would find strange, who meets a young man who doesn't find her strange at all," she notes. "And the things that are strange about her, he actually finds endearing and interesting. So, instead of feeling like some odd creature, I think she feels more like an exotic bird...something beautiful, for the first time."

Unlike her young daughter, who is falling in love for the first time, Pauline has already loved...and lost. Rose suggests that "Pauline is very smart, very driven, very Type A, and even a bit beyond helicopter parenting. She is someone who needs for things to be in order because the tragedy that hit her life caused serious disorder. The fear left from that experience is part of what is at the base of Pauline's love for Maddy. The fear doesn't negate the love; it is what makes it so intense. Any time you hold something so tightly, you can't help but have it slip through at some point."

"We were so excited to have Anika play the part of Pauline," Dutton says. "She has such great range and we knew she could exude the warmth this character felt for her daughter. At the same time she played this mother, this doctor, who takes her job as caretaker to this very particular patient quite seriously."

As a counterpoint to Pauline's more staid devotion, Carla, Maddy's nurse, has brought sunshine into the girl's everyday life for the past 15 or so years.

"I thought it was a beautiful story, so I was immediately interested," says Ana de la Reguera, who plays the role. "I loved being part of this intimate cast and I loved my character and her relationship to Maddy. She's like Carla's second daughter; she's everything for her, too. And Amandla was perfectly cast. She's very artistic and sensitive, sweet and smart. She has everything that Maddy has, and she's the coolest girl."

For someone like Carla, de la Reguera surmises that "spending so much time with her 'patient,' you become more than the nurse," she continues. "You cook for them, read them stories, do laundry and cleaning. You're part of the household and sometimes their close friends."

And in one of Carla's greatest acts of love, de la Reguera reveals, "She is also the one who brings Olly into Maddy's world."

In addition, Carla is the source of Maddy's only other visitor, Rosa, who is Carla's daughter. Though the character never makes an appearance in the book, the filmmakers wanted to include her presence as a physical counterpoint to Maddy's confined existence, even as Rosa is preparing to head off to college. Actress Danube R. Hermosillo plays Maddy's friend and, until she meets Olly, her only contemporary.

"What really drew me to Rosa is that she has this deep passion for life," Hermosillo conveys. "She has this desire for autonomy and to travel the world and really get away from her home life and discover who she really is by putting herself in a different environment and going to university. And it's almost as if Maddy, who can only dream about such things, lives vicariously through Rosa."


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