In real life, Leah Lewis is a fiery Sagittarius. In Nancy Drew, Lewis’ character George Fan gives the actress Sadge or Scorpio vibes. She understands energy — as most good actors do — and knows how to channel it when she brings her characters to life.
Lewis is filming in quarantine and adapting to the new restrictions. Despite the pandemic, the 24-year-old actress starred in Alice Wu’s latest film The Half of It and is bringing George back on-screen for the second season of Nancy Drew. We got a chance to chat with the Chinese-American actress about good chemistry on television, her secrets to healthy real-life relationships and bringing Asian representation to the screen.
Related: How the zodiac signs fall in love.
Let’s talk about George and Nick’s sweet romance
While Lewis is especially excited to see where George’s blood bucket curse goes on the supernatural mystery drama, fans of the series are just as eager to find out what’s in store for George and Nick’s relationship. Following Nancy and Nick’s split in season one, a romantic connection developed between George and Nick — and audiences are ready to see where this pairing goes.
“George’s life is constantly hanging in the balance,” says Lewis, who notes George is super tough, very head-on and not so emotional. “I think it really starts to shake up her view of the world — how she values things in her life, her family, her secret relationship with Nick and the way she feels about this crew she’s never really had before in her life.”
With George and Nancy’s friendship finally beginning to flourish, the second season of the series promises interesting plot points, character development and changing dynamics. Never forget: Nancy doesn’t know George and her ex are dating. Though secret relationships tend to offer that taboo type of passion, Lewis attributes the good chemistry on-screen to her real life friendship with co-star Tunji Kasim, who plays Ned “Nick” Nickerson.
“He’s my confidant on set,” says Lewis. “The way we work together — I feel our friendliness off-screen really transcends on-screen. We’re so different — and our characters are also so different.”
According to Lewis, it’s the differences between these two characters that compliment each other. “It’s really often seeing both of them kind of fight against their impulses — George being shut down, and Nick being like, ‘let’s fix things and protect things’,” says Lewis. “To see them work together and put those impulses aside and create a new relationship that I don’t think either of them have experienced before.”
“I feel like Nick is a Pisces,” says Lewis, “Or a Virgo.”
Sounds right. And, in case you’re wondering, if Nick is a Pisces and George is a Sagittarius, the stars would suggest a pretty heated match made. So, there’s that.
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The key to a healthy relationship, according to Lewis
While George may have a thing to learn about love and relationships, Lewis has been in a long term relationship in her own life. So, of course, we sniffed out her secrets to a healthy relationship.
I feel like it’s working on yourself and also giving them the space to be cared for as well
“I think the key to a healthy relationship is really listening to the other person — which I was not always a pro at, when I first started dating my boyfriend,” says Lewis, who has been dating singer Payson Lewis for more than a year. “But really just getting to know your partner for who they are and learning how to accept that.”
Her advice doesn’t stop there. “I feel another key to a successful relationship is just learning to get to know yourself. Taking care of yourself also so you can be in a relationship and take care of the other person. I feel like it’s working on yourself and also giving them the space to be cared for as well,” says Lewis.
Related: What your mommy issues mean for your love life.
Bringing Asian stories to life on screen and why this representation matters
George has a sharp tongue, she struggles with reading the room — but she loves her family and people around her. She keeps things close to her heart and has a let’s get it done approach. While Lewis may not be as clumsy or abrupt as her Nancy Drew character in real life, there is still much of herself she gives to George.
For one, she gives this version of George Asian representation. “I grew up in an American household. For me, I’m still learning more about my roots, y’know,” says Lewis, who was adopted from China and raised in Florida by American parents. “Our showrunner and our producer is Asian — Melinda [Hsu Taylor], and she’s authentically Chinese — so she knows more about the culture and the small details. What gets me into it is being excited to learn about it.”
When it comes to positive, accurate representation, having a showrunner who understands and recognizes the nuances of the authentic storytelling being delivered is key. Lewis recognizes this and is really happy that it’s being shown on screen. She notes that Nancy’s love interest is Indian on the show as well.
“I think it’s awesome they’re actually staying true to different cultural things that would be in a traditional Chinese household. There’s a scene when George gets back from something really crazy that happens with the crew and her mother, instead of talking to her, ends up cooking her noodles and they sit there in silence,” says Lewis, who explains that the executive producer was drawing from personal experience to help create that sense of authenticity in that scene. “The fact that they’re including things like that… it’s really important for people at home to see different lifestyles and different cultures.”
While she brings positive Asian representation to life as George, let’s not forget that not even a year ago, Lewis brought incredible queer Asian representation to our screens for her character Ellie Chu in Netflix’s The Half of It.
So, I asked her who her favourite character to play was. And if you’re like me, you needed to know.
“I got to say, it’s definitely got to be Ellie Chu,” says Lewis. “Just because she is so different than who I am as a person. It’s not even just playing her — but getting to see how people received her — and shared their stories of what they had gone through based off of watching her experience. That was probably the most rewarding thing for me. I mean, playing George Fan has got to be the most fun thing in the world — but I think Ellie Chou… I’ve never, ever done a character like that before — and it was such a challenge — but I felt her in my bones in a way I don’t think I’ve ever felt another character before.”
Nancy Drew airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on W Network. Viewers can also watch episodes live or on demand via STACKTV.
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