‘Dash & Lily’s Midori Francis on Dares, Books & Finding Holiday Spirit in 2020
If you like warm and cozy things around the holiday season, look no further than Netflix’s adorable romance series Dash & Lily.
The show follows two very different teens who connect via a dare-filled notebook in New York City’s Strand book store. Dash (Austin Abrams) discovers the book in the shelves, and he’s immediately transfixed by the tasks a mystery girl, Lily (Midori Francis), poses in the notebook’s pages. His interest sparks a magical back-and-forth exchange as they slowly get to know each other through different entries in the book.
While they don’t connect face-to-face initially, viewers follow them throughout the decorated streets of NYC’s boroughs on exciting adventures that range from raging at an underground concert to eating some interesting cuisine. Below, Francis opens up about playing Lily, filming during the holidays, her own book tastes, hopes for a second season and much more.
How does it feel to be part of a show that’s struck a chord with so many viewers? What has the fan response been like?
Midori Francis: I’ve had all different experiences with fan bases, and I have never had the experience that I’m having now with Dash & Lily fans. On my personal page, it’s so hard to find a single negative comment and the messages that I’m receiving are so positive. I really think that’s just a testament to the kind of people who love Dash & Lily.
Our show is, at the end of the day, hopeful and optimistic and loving. So it’s probably been my favorite experience, hearing how a lot of young women connect with Lily and have a lot to say about what it felt like to watch her growing pains. I just feel so lucky that the kinds of fans that the show has brought in are literally the kindest.
It’s definitely a sweet story and Lily’s certainly the type of character who doesn’t let others dictate who she’s going to be. What in particular drew you to the role?
I think that the fact that Lily marches to the beat of her own drum is something that I was excited to play. Especially being in my twenties and playing a teenager, I feel like I now have the life experience and knowledge that marching to the beat of your own drum is actually the coolest thing ever. When I was actually 17, I didn’t quite know that, and I definitely didn’t go as boldly in my own direction as Lily does.
And so it was really a beautiful and cathartic experience to treat Lily with a lot of love and respect and to let her own freak flag fly. So I would say that Lily gave me so much back, everything that I put into her.
The show is filled with dares. Are there any in the show you’d be too afraid to do in real life or ones you’d actually like to do?
I think something about the Grand Central station one was really cool for me, because I live in New York and I’ve lived here now for over six years. I’ve been into Grand Central multiple times, and never have I looked up and seen the mural on the ceiling with all the constellations. So that’s definitely something that, if I had somebody who I loved who was visiting, I would love to give them that dare.
I love that it wasn’t a new place, because anybody who lives in New York has been to Grand Central. It was about discovering something that you overlook and I love when you think you know a place or a person and then you’re surprised.
What was the filming process like? New York City can be pretty hectic at Christmas time.
When we first started, it was not Christmas time. It was early October, so it was a little weird. Lily is hardly ever not in a coat, and I was sweating underneath my jacket, and there were still Halloween decorations everywhere. We were setting up fake Christmas trees and fake snow banks that looked so real. Bless the art department.
So actually, I think some of the challenges were like, “How do I superimpose New York’s Christmas magic into this moment?” because it was not there yet. And then also, it’s a funny challenge to be told, like, “You have to find all of the magic in New York and look out for all of these beautiful things.” And then you’re approached by an angry New Yorker who’s really upset that there’s Christmas trees.
New Yorkers did not care at all. I feel like our Christmas magic was an inconvenience to them. But I found that I also kind of loved that. It’s not quite L.A. where you have people trying to be in your show. You just have people who are inconvenienced by your show, and there’s something so sweet about it.
Lily is an avid reader who spends a lot of time at the Strand. What section would fans find Midori in?
I mean, to be completely honest, I love the self-help section. There’s just so much to choose from, like relationship trouble? There’s 800 books for that. Don’t know what to do about a decision in your career? There’s 800 books for that. And I just find it so comforting. It’s like a big hug. I’m not embarrassed to admit it. And then I love poetry. I write poetry and love to consume poetry, so I’d probably take a random book of poetry, go through it and hopefully discover something new.
Dash & Lily have polarizing feelings about the season. Who do you relate to when it comes to Christmas spirit?
I’m definitely more of a Lily. I mean, I love Christmas. But I’d say that we all have a little bit of both in us. I think we’re catching Dash post breakup, and he’s feeling particularly lonely. And I think we all know that, depending on where we’re at in our lives, or what’s going on, especially this year, there is so much to mourn and so much hardship going on. So I feel like it would also be very honest and real to tap into the idea of like, well, “Why is there so much forced cheer right now?” So I think that of course I have a Dash within me, but the Lily in me has a hard baseball bat and is swinging at all the Dashes inside me.
What ways are you tapping into that holiday cheer? Any advice for fans that are looking for that themselves?
As a person who loves Christmas, I really put so much stock in this one day of the year, and I’m all about tradition. And I feel like part of me is just letting go of that. I think that’s probably really important for people to understand, is that you can’t compare this year to any other year, and you can’t really mourn what you can’t do, because this year is going to be different.
I know that my family’s going to try and do Christmas carol Zoom, it might be a total disaster. I don’t know how that works on Zoom with all of the delays. I don’t know if you’ve tried to sing Happy Birthday on Zoom, it’s so crazy, but we’re going to try it [Laughs]. So I would also say, take advantage of the fact that it’s 2021, and I know Zoom is not the real thing, but it does create space and connection.
The show is based on the YA series from David Levithan and Rachel Cohn. Is there any hope for a second season?
First of all, I just want to say how much I love David and Rachel, the authors. They’re the nicest people, they’re so supportive. David sent me this big package with all of these cards and postcards and photos from set, and Rachel very much gave me her blessing of playing Lily, which as an actor, knowing that you’re matching what they had in their imagination and making them happy is the best feeling.
In terms of another season. I know Season 1 feels very much to me like it wraps up very beautifully with [Dash and Lily] meeting. With COVID and everything going on right now and all of the uncertainties, I’m just really appreciative and grateful that we had Season 1. I’m just trying to stay present with that, because it’s not even Christmas yet, and I know that there’s still going to be a bunch of people who discover it.
Anything you’re watching or bingeing on TV right now and loving?
I just watched The Prom on Netflix. It was a very trippy and weird and flashy and very entertaining experience watching it. I hadn’t seen the musical, so it was really awesome to be introduced to the world of all that music, and now I’m currently looking up all of the songs from the Broadway musical. So now I have a good new musical running through my head, which has been awesome. Unorthodox [is another one]. What I love about Unorthodox was that the suspense over the 4 episodes was so perfect and following that young woman’s performance was inspiring.
I have yet to check out The Queen’s Gambit, even though everyone is watching, and I think I’m going to drink the Kool-Aid and start it at some point too.
Dash & Lily, Season 1, Streaming now, Netflix