Canadian actress Nina Dobrev, who is best known for her long-running roles on “Degrassi” and “The Vampire Diaries,” is excited for viewers to see her in the Netflix holiday rom-com “Love Hard.”
The film follows a Los Angeles writer named Natalie (Dobrev) who has been unsuccessful in finding love on dating apps. Finally, after meeting her perfect match on an app, she flies 3,000 miles to surprise him for Christmas only to find out she’s been catfished. The film also stars Darren Barnet, Jimmy O. Yang and Harry Shum Jr.
It was the appeal of the universal quest for love and the character’s innate flaws that drew her to the script.
“The story felt very relatable whether you’re a writer or you’re not,” she said in a Zoom interview. “Most people have been on a dating app. Most people have had a nightmare dating story. I would argue that every person on the planet wants to find love. So that concept and that theme, and also the fact that my character is interesting because she is searching for perfection and yet, she doesn’t see that she’s not perfect.
“She’s flawed, but she’s looking for someone who’s flawless and it takes the whole film for her to realize that she has to turn the lens around and look at herself as well. That was a … theme that I wanted to explore more. As in any comedy, the scenarios were so crazy I was laughing out loud reading the script and knew that it was going to be really fun.”
Dobrev feels that the film comes at a perfect time as the “world also needed an escape and to laugh,” given the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Love Hard” was filmed during the pandemic in Vancouver and Dobrev knew that whatever she was going to shoot, she wanted to be laughing. “So making a romantic comedy felt like the right thing to do at the time, and the director was amazing and the whole cast came together really beautifully. So it just felt like it was meant to be.”
While the Bulgarian-born actress has never created a profile on a dating app for herself, she has “definitely been on them with friends.” She feels that dating has gotten much harder, especially with today’s isolation, and apps might be the only way to find connection.
“I find that the whole concept is very interesting, especially now in 2021. I don’t know how people would meet if they didn’t have a dating app, because everyone’s sort of isolated and in their own bubbles. So it’s a very important tool for connection. But at the same time, when you’re judging connection based on physical appearances, that’s where I think dating apps missed the mark. I mean, it’s hard for me to say because I’ve actually never had that experience personally.”
However, Dobrev, 32, admitted she enjoyed browsing dating profiles on her friends’ phones. “I would be lying if I said that I didn’t steal their phones every day. I see it as like a game, kind of just swiping and deciding their fate for them. And sometimes I’ll help them write messages and all that. Because when you’re not invested in it, like if it’s not for you, I can be a lot funnier and wittier. And because I don’t necessarily care, I’m not going to meet the person ever. So I can say, in a way, I suppose my friends are catfishing people,” she laughed.
So if Dobrev were on an app, what would her bio say? The actress, who moved to Canada at the age of two and was raised in Toronto, hesitated since this is something people might think about for hours. “Maybe, ‘Don’t text, call me and we’ll see if we fit.’ I don’t know.
“I really do think if I was on a dating app, I wouldn’t want to waste my time. I’d be like, ‘OK, we’re going for coffee like today. Don’t text me and try to be cute with me. Like let’s go to coffee and see if this is a thing or not.’”
“Love Hard” is not just a holiday rom-com but considers topical issues. Dobrev’s Natalie points out why the Christmas song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is not a consensual song and refuses to sing it. She and Josh (Yang) then sing a more appropriate version of the carol.
“That was in the original script when I got it and that was one of the moments that made me laugh out loud,” Dobrev said. “And I thought it was so clever and so topical and important to make it a consensual song when it really is very, like, creepy and rape-y.”
Having to go into the studio and lay down the track “gave me a lot of anxiety,” but the director reminded her it was supposed to be a funny scene. “My character is not supposed to be a classically trained, great singer. I felt a little bit better about it, but it was still nerve-wracking.”
Dobrev liked the Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson and Jennifer Lopez rom-coms of the 1990s. Her all-time favourite is “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” which starred Julia Roberts.
But those moves are not being produced as much by big studios. Netflix has revived the genre in the last few years with hits like the “To All the Boys” franchise, “The Kissing Booth” and more.
When it comes to the holidays, Dobrev wishes it was Christmas every day. “We always rent a house somewhere in the mountains and every year it’s in a different mountain. And I get my whole family to fly in and we just cook all day, and ski or snowboard and play in the snow, and watch movies and just hang out by the fire.” Her favourite Christmas movie is “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
In the film, Natalie and her online date debate whether “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie, long a real question about the Bruce Willis action film.
While Dobrev’s Natalie believes it is, the actress doesn’t. “ Yeah, I don’t see it. I see the argument. But I think of it as a straight up action movie. But I see how some people could think that.”