NEW YORK CITY (Nov. 5, 2020) — New York City is a central character in the upcoming Netflix series “Dash & Lily,” set for release Nov. 10. The joyful and bright new show follows cynical Dash (Austin Abrams) and optimistic Lily (Midori Francis) as they get to know each other through a series of anonymous dares and letters on the pages of a notebook.
Though the love story between the titular characters unfolds beautifully and maturely in a way that’s typically uncharacteristic of the modern young adult genre, adventurous and heartfelt “Dash & Lily” is just as much about Manhattan at Christmastime as it is about two young people finding themselves and each other.
“We see New York as almost a character in itself, and New York City during the holiday season is unlike any place in the world,” executive producer Nick Jonas said. “There’s something really special about it that you can’t explain.”
Filmed in Manhattan last winter, “Dash & Lily” features locations like the Strand Bookstore, Union Square Holiday Market, Two Boots Pizza in the East Village, Macy’s Herald Square, Grand Central Terminal, McSorley’s Old Ale House and more. Netflix even created a “Dash & Lily’s Guide to NYC” for people to follow along on their notebook quest.
COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2020
“New York City has an excitement, a sense of possibility — when you’re here you feel like anything can happen,” said David Levithan, who co-wrote the novel that inspired the series. “We wanted to reflect the way that the city transforms itself during the holiday season. A new set of customs and rituals come out for a very short amount of time every year, and the city feels very different during those couple of weeks. We wanted to capture that magic.”
Showrunner Joe Tracz was a long-time admirer of Levithan and co-author Rachel Cohn, who also penned “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.”
“I loved how their writing captured how it feels to be a New Yorker, to have these epic adventures where you go to parts of the city that feel magical and heightened,” he said. “‘Dash & Lily’ is full of that same sense of everyday wonder.”
He also said showing an authentically diverse Manhattan was important to the creators. “One of the things that makes New York so amazing is you have people from every kind of community here,” he said, citing inspiration from the work of Nora Ephron. “I’ve lived in New York for much of my adult life, and when you see or read New York stories, your New Yorker BS detector goes up. You’re like, ‘Oh, that feels like the city. That doesn’t feel like the city.’ ‘You’ve Got Mail’ and ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ they feel like New York. New York and love stories go so well together, because in a city full of people, you’re always looking for the one person who fits with you.”
This entertaining eight-episode story about belief, possibility and Christmas might be just what people are searching for in a difficult year when hope is hard to come by.
“This is a really challenging moment in time, and ‘Dash & Lily’ presents a romantic comedy set in a world that is unabashedly aspirational,” executive producer Shawn Levy said. “I have always believed in positive, hopeful, humanist stories, and after this year I believe even more passionately in giving the world more of those stories. We need them, and we need them now more than ever.”
The show is especially memorable for what it gives young people: especially young girls like Lily who would rather play board games with her grandpa than go to an underground punk concert. She would rather wander the aisles of The Strand than stand on the outskirts of a party. It’s rare to see a young woman on screen whose first priority is not popularity, and Francis brings her authenticity to life effortlessly. “Midori has this effervescence that is pure Lily,” Levy said. “She is this shiny, sparkly human and her light is immediately evident, which made her a perfect Lily.”
But Abrams is unarguably the standout, after an already-incredible career sharing the screen with Keri Russell, Ben Stiller and the cast of “This Is Us.”
“Austin has a different light burning within him,” Levy said. “For a show that was going to be a cotton candy, feel-good confection, we knew it needed some really grounded authenticity, some subtlety and some nuance.”
“Dash & Lily” is nuanced, sharp and witty, carrying a special warmth that we will all be missing this holiday season. Both characters learn what it means to be authentically themselves – in person, on the page and in the city they call home. “We belong in Manhattan,” Lily says at one point in the series, and she’s right: this charming story couldn’t be told in any other setting.
“This story is ultimately about the triumph of optimism and the possibility of happiness in the face of cynicism in a world that sometimes does its very best to squash our best hopes and assumptions,” Levy said. “Right now it’s bittersweet for everyone to watch movies and shows set in a pre-coronavirus world. It feels like a time capsule. And certainly the bustle of New York City in ‘Dash & Lily’ is a reminder of a simpler time. And I hope it’s also a reminder of a time that we will someday get back to.”
Jonas agreed. “I think it’s going to bring a lot of people joy and these kinds of stories are so important at a time when we all want to have our spirits lifted, and feel some encouragement, feel that holiday magic.”
“Dash & Lily” will begin streaming Nov. 10 in the U.S. (Courtesy of ALISON COHEN ROSA/NETFLIX © 2020)