Love Lessons From Netflix’s New Rom-Com Queen Lauren London

The star of You People reflects on true love, motherhood, and a new chapter.

Lauren London

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Lauren London didn’t even want to be a part of You People. She actually felt “apprehensive” when first approached to star in Kenya Barris and Jonah Hill’s new Netflix romantic comedy, out on Jan. 27. “It's been so long since I've done a film [with] this big of a cast,” she tells InStyle. Best known for her seminal roles in films like 2006’s ATL and 2007’s This Christmas, it’s been over 15 years since she’s approached a project of this magnitude. So, what changed her mind? A little bit of soul.

“What drew me to it was [the fact that] these people have a soul connection,” she explains of the film’s main characters. “They really do enjoy each other. They really are friends first, which is what develops into love.” 

After Ezra Cohen, a Jewish broker living in Los Angeles (played by Hill), mistakes Amira Mohammed (London’s character) for his Uber driver, You People unfolds as the story of two young adults from different walks of life who take a chance and fell in love. When it comes time for them to introduce each other to their respective families, hijinks ensue — it is a rom com, after all.. What sets You People apart from the quintessential romantic comedy about interracial relationships —  2005’s Guess Who? (or even the original Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner in 1967) — is the biting honesty about what being in a mixed-race romance is like. 

In 2023, interracial relationships on screen no longer hold very much shock value, but are still often treated as a punchline or an idealistic, colorblind pairing where differences are never acknowledged. You People feels like it was written by people who have been there themselves and have a stake in portraying that love (and struggle) without veneer.

“I think that's the whole point, is to bring awareness through comedy,” London shares. “There's a lot of tough conversations in this film. I think bringing awareness to how things might trigger certain groups is important.”

Lauren London in You People


Seeing a Black woman and white man fall in love in film amid the social commentary that has been circulating since the heightened awareness of racial injustice sparked by George Floyd’s murder in 2020 will (and already has) elicited strong feelings in many, including disbelief that London and Hill could realistically play a couple. London acknowledges that critique and hopes that the jokes — paired with the film’s more serious topics — will bring more nuance and understanding to the conversation.

“Comedy is big medicine,” she points out. “I wanted to be attached to something that will bring laughter and help heal.”

The movie’s industry buzz wasn’t the only reason London joined the cast. The script spoke to her on a personal level, too.

“I'm just in a different place in life. I think being 38 and my life being so different now than it was 20 years ago, is the biggest difference in my roles from then to now,” she adds.

While she doesn’t explicitly touch upon her own healing, London has been on a journey. After losing her partner, Nipsey Hussle, in 2019, she largely withdrew from the public eye, choosing to mourn in private and focus on her family. She names her two sons, Kameron and Kross, as the “greatest loves of her life,” and describes motherhood as an unexpected gift. 

“I had my first son when I was 24, and I was really afraid. I didn't think that I was going to do good, and I wasn't prepared. I didn't know what was going to happen or what I was going to do,” she reveals. “It has been the greatest joy of my life, being the mother of these two beautiful children. And I did not know that it was going to be so magical. My biggest blessing are my kids.”

London knows deep, true love — and when it comes to acting, she only wants to pursue projects that align with the person she’s become. “I'm a strong believer that real love starts with the soul. So, I think you'd have to watch the movie and really see the connection that is undeniable between these two characters,” she shares. “Granted, they come from two separate worlds and you wouldn't necessarily put them in a space together if you're just going off of what you see. But soul connection and people really having real-life connections is an undeniable thing.”

As an L.A. native, London brings who she is and what she knows to her role as Amira, a costume designer from Baldwin Hills raised in a Muslim family. On our call, she recalls filming scenes in Black-owned eatery Simply Wholesome and adding touches to her character’s wardrobe that felt authentic.

“I wanted to make sure that a lot of her beliefs and where she stood spiritually were incorporated, so she wears a lot of ankh pieces and ankh rings,” London notes. “I also felt the classic gold ‘Amira’ nameplate chain and bamboo earrings were very important to incorporate in her wardrobe.”

Vintage lovers and sneakerheads alike will be plugged into this film, too, with the eight-time Emmy-nominated costume designer Michelle Cole onboard (you’ve seen her work on Black-ish, In Living Color, and Martin), You People made sure to pepper each character’s wardrobes with eclectic pieces that speak to their personalities and the burgeoning love story of Ezra and Amira as they meshed lives (and closets). London appreciated the small details that brought Amira’s character to life and even kept some items as a momento.

“[Amira] had a lot of vintage T-shirts. I had on a vintage Whitney Houston tour shirt I really appreciated and loved, a Janet [Jackson] shirt,” London says. “I did get to take some stuff home, yes, I sure did. Shout out to the costume designer for that.”

Like the conversations (and occasionally controversial questions) brought up in the film, the wardrobe and hair in You People serve as a vehicle to simultaneously highlight the beauty and the history of each character’s culture. For London, a rich array of hairstyles and textures were important to see on-screen.

“For the younger women or younger girls watching this, they can see that we can rock any and everything and be powerful in multiple ponytails and braids and faux locs,” she says. “Highlighting our versatility with our hair brings power to our hair.” 

Surrounded by industry greats like Eddie Murphy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Nia Long, and David Duchovy, London took notes, saying, “I was like an extreme student. I just studied and watched them in awe a lot; how they mastered their art, their improv, their charm, their professionalism, their charisma and light. I was a big, big student.”

Besides cultural differences, religion is another layer that sets the film apart from its predecessors. Ezra comes from a Jewish background, while Amira’s family follows Islam — and without spoiling anything, the dynamic between the two sets of parents when they first meet is one of the funniest scenes in the movie. London feels that her faith plays a guiding role in her own life, describing her relationship with God as “a huge priority.” If anything, London’s spirituality is integral to her idea of what true love looks and feels like.

“What does true love look like to me?” she asks. “I think integrity and a relationship with the divine, a relationship with self, honor, community, and peace. Protection. I think true love could be your relationship with God, or even your relationship with yourself.”

Lauren London in You People


Ultimately, You People is a sharp take on the real-life conversations happening within interracial relationships today, and by showing how true love can transform the heart and mind, Lauren London evolves from student to teacher. As a mom, she shares what lessons she hopes to impart to her children.

“I always want my kids to be culturally aware, to be sensitive to everyone's differences, to stand up for themselves and to speak up when placed in uncomfortable discussions,” she says. “At the end of the day, I'm always teaching my kids that you have to look at the soul of a person. And that's my teaching; whether this movie came out or not, it's ... go for the soul.”

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