How ‘Along for the Ride’ Stars Developed Their Onscreen Relationship for the Netflix YA Adaptation

Emma Pasarow and Belmont Cameli also tell TheWrap about filming that food fight and why the YA genre resonates

In the new Netflix feature film adaptation of “Along for the Ride,” based on the novel by author Sarah Dessen, stars Emma Pasarow and Belmont Cameli fell into a pretty natural rhythm of acting out their characters’ budding relationship. But one thing the actor and actress were not on the same page about was the food fight scene.

When Auden (Pasarow) meets Eli (Cameli), he proposes a quest of daring activities to Auden — especially things she’s never tried before — and one of the items on her list includes starting a food fight. Fast forward quite a bit, and Auden’s wish comes true, with a fun story behind the filming of the scene.

“The food fight was absolutely insane. We shot until the sun rose in the morning. For continuity purposes, for timing restrictions, we could only do one take of [Belmont] pouring the beans on my head,” Pasarow said in a zoom interview with TheWrap. “And [Sofia] told me that she was going to tell me. We were going to do the scene up until the beans a million times then we’d finally do the beans and she’d tell me when they were going to do them.”

Eli, who became less social with his friend group following the loss of his best friend, shows up late to a traditional hot dog party, where Auden walks up to him to pick up where their flirty banter leaves off. Eli responds to Auden’s jabs by pouring a pot of beans onto her head.

“[Sofia] told me ‘Let’s not tell Emma when we’re going to do the beans because I want to see her face when we do it,’” Cameli told TheWrap. “And so she came up to me she had like this cute little hat on and she’s like ‘Okay, Bel we need like a code to know that only you and I know when we’re going to do the beans. I go ‘You just peel that hat off. And when I see you without the hat on, I’ll know that’s the take.’”

“And she like stuck her head out the door because she was inside watching the monitor and she like pointed her hat. I’m like,’ Okay, I think that’s the code but I’m not positive but I’m just gonna assume that it is.’ And I poured those cold beans on Emma’s head and that’s her live reaction. She had no idea it was coming.”

Auden meets Eli when she heads to her dad’s for the summer. Her dad and new stepmom live in the small beach town of Colby, and while Auden did not have many friends back home living with her mom, she sees this as a chance to start clean before college. But soon her nocturnal habits resurface, and the only person she sees on a nightly basis is Eli.

Another significant scene that signals the close bond Auden and Eli will eventually form comes earlier in the movie when Eli takes Auden to a frequent haunt that as night owls, both of them really enjoy.

“We did a pie shop rehearsal for like a couple hours in this big empty warehouse, where we eventually ended up totally deconstructing the scene and then it became something else entirely but still remaining true to the scene material,” Cameli said. “That was the first time that we met I got to really play together in person.”

The pie shop sits underneath the town laundromat, and is run by Clyde, who serves pie and coffee long into the hours of the night. Director Sofia Alvarez envisioned the scene on her first read through Dessen’s book, and she values it as a showcase of how well Auden and Eli hit it off.

“That was the only scene we had a long rehearsal with ahead of time, and it’s the first time Auden and Eli talk at length. So we rehearsed it, and then we shot the whole movie, but we didn’t shoot it until the second to last day,” Pasarow said. “And what’s so wonderful about that is at that point, we had known each other for seven weeks, six weeks and had spent so much time together doing outrageous things, night swims, food fights, we were deeply close. And so when we’re able to revisit the scene where they first meet each other, we were able to capture that sort of feeling you get when you meet someone you’re like, ‘I think I’ve known you my whole life.’” 

In a very opposite scenario, one of the first scenes Cameli and Pasarow filmed was a big argument scene between their two characters from the latter portion of the film.

“That one was one where we didn’t know each other very well. In a fight, you’re deeply vulnerable. Also that’s like a really pivotal moment in the movie where a lot of things are coming to a head,” Pasarow said. “But I don’t think, at least for Auden, she’s had the space and time to understand what’s going on and what she’s feeling. And so she’s sort of just reacting without thinking it through.”

The fight scene happens after Auden has watched her father treat his new wife and daughter very similarly to how he treated Auden and her own mother — by ignoring his shared duties and instead diving into work on his new book. She also gets frustrated that Eli won’t open up to her about losing his friend Abe in a car accident, which severely altered Eli’s life and made him shut down.

“Certainly both of them are scared. They have some sort of fear within them. So you know, for Eli, his fear is reinvigorating a part of himself that he identifies very closely with, but is afraid to reinvigorate. I think for Auden, she is afraid of branching out from what she is used to, what she is comfortable [with],” Cameli said. “So for both of them there’s something they don’t want to do. And through their relationship together, they kind of end up just doing those things and holding a mirror to one another which is where the complications in the relationship stem from because they’re both going through something traumatic and working on these things together.”

Pasarow similarly sums up what Auden and Eli have in common. 

“I think they met at the perfect moment in their respective lives for different reasons. They are very guarded when they meet and hold their emotions like very close to themselves,” she said. “And I think it’s through watching the other person, Auden watching Eli, and seeing him exhibit these things that she’s able to, like you said ‘hold up the mirror’ and be like, ‘Wait a second, I’m doing that too.’ And so then they kind of use helping each other to help themselves.” 

Emma Pasarow and Belmont Cameli in “Along for the Ride” (Netflix)

As for takeaways, Cameli thinks there are a lot of themes that will resonate with viewers.

This is a popular genre of film, and I think our movie does a really nice job of like Emma said, allowing viewers to put themselves in a variety of people’s shoes. I think that the relationships that Auden has with their parents are super relatable and intricate and complex and played out in a way that you don’t usually see,” he said. “And I think that the character of Eli and the way that he is either integrated or not, in his community of Colby is something that a lot of people can relate to too, whether you’re an outcast because of choice or not, but you’re on the fringe or on the outside. There’s some heavier themes in this movie, I think there’s a lot out there for people to take away. 

Pasarow agrees, specifically on the grounds that the period between high school and college is a unique one in all lives.

“We’re all more than one thing. Vulnerability is a form of strength, and I think what’s so special about the YA genre and why there’s so many movies about it, it’s because it’s the time when we’re all trying to figure out who we are,” she said. “I mean, we constantly are, but I think that’s like a highly concentrated moment, especially between high school and college when you’re looking backwards at who you’ve been looking forward to, to who you’d like to be in this new environment. It’s like really a moment to contemplate and to find space to pivot.“