Netflix’s ‘Along for the Ride’ stars Belmont Cameli, Emma Pasarow talk getting in character, book to film adaptation

Kaiya Little, Senior Life & Arts Reporter

In Netflix’s film adaptation of Sarah Dessen’s 2009 young adult romance novel “Along for the Ride,” Auden West (Emma Pasarow) escapes the intense academic environment under her mother’s supervision and moves in with her lackadaisical father for the summer in the carefree beach town. There she meets the mysterious Eli Stock (Belmont Cameli)  and grows up in a way she hadn’t before. Throughout the film, the two explore the ups and downs of a teenage summertime love story and bond over their shared insomnia. This coming of age romance will release on May 6.

Ahead of its premiere, The Daily Texan took part in a virtual college roundtable to speak with Cameli and Pasarow about their characters, filming experiences and prepwork. 

The Daily Bruin: Have either of you, before auditioning or filming, read the book? How did the book affect your character choices? Did you talk at all to Sarah about your characters throughout the process?

Belmont Cameli: I hadn’t read the book until I got the part, and my use of the book was research on the world of Colby. I used the screenplay predominantly and my collaborations with her and with Emma in developing the character. 

We did get to talk to Sarah Dessen quite a bit about characters, but not until we had mostly formed these characters for a while. She was so excited to be on the film set — and overwhelmed, and we all felt the same way about her because she is the author of this universe. 

The Daily Texan: Emma, are you the type of person who would jump into a random dance break with her friends or are you more of the type to stand and watch like Auden? How did you bring both of those sides into your character?

Emma Pasarow: I am definitely very similar to Auden in that I am initially reserved and can be shy — I’m very introverted. As I’ve gotten older, I’m able to let loose (in a way that) I didn’t used to. One of the reasons I love Auden is because I can really relate to academia (being) incredibly important to me growing up. Going to the university I wanted to go to was incredibly important, and sometimes at the cost of doing things like dance breaks. 

What I love about this movie, and what is so true about life is we’re all different versions of ourselves in front of different people in different environments …So, Auden maybe isn’t wanting to dance, but then that sort of spirit she actually is able to (find) with Eli. And in my life, I may not dance with a bunch of people, but I would with my best friends or my sister. 

The Seahawk News:  As you both dive into characters who are on their own personal journeys, and have their own struggles, how did you go about nailing the chemistry between you two?

BC: It was super easy for the two of us because Emma is as equally sarcastic as I am. We had a lot of fun together. I think we built the worlds of each other around one another, and there was always a constant stream of communication.

EP: This was a big, scary new experience where imposter syndrome was constantly in my head — it was so nice to have a support system, both on screen and off screen. 

Also, this movie, by virtue of what happens in it with a (story about a) quest and doing new experiences, we literally did all these things together — that’s very bonding. To go night swimming at 4 a.m., in freezing water together, we can’t really go back from that.