Interview: Jennifer E. Smith Talks Bringing ‘The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight’ to the Screen

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Netflix’s Love at First Sight has officially premiered, adapting the Jennifer E. Smith novel The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. The movie follows Hadley (Haley Lu Richardson) and Oliver (Ben Hardy), two people who meet in a chance encounter after Hadley misses her flight to London. When the pair end up on the same flight, in the same row, they spend their time getting to know each other better. However, a chaotic arrival at Heathrow separates the duo, maybe forever. But fate has other plans for them.

Smith made her publishing debut in 2008 with her YA novel The Comeback Season and has since published 11 additionaly books spanning children’s, YA, and adult. In conjunction with Love at First Sight, we had the chance to chat with Jennifer about her book being adapted for the screen, her hopes for it, and more.

Note: This interview was edited for clarity.

Nerds & Beyond: First of all, I want to congratulate you on the adaptation! It’s so exciting to see this book brought to the screen. It’s been about 11-12 years since it first published. Did you ever have any expectations or hopes that this would eventually become a movie or TV series?

Jennifer E. Smith: I did, yeah. It’s been in development or under option ever since it was published, even a little bit before it was published. So, all these years I’ve definitely imagined it and hoped for it and dreamed of it. As it turns out, it was very much worth the wait because this is a version of the story that I think is just so beautifully done, and I feel really fortunate that it’s happened. [I’m] also really excited for readers who have really embraced this book over all these years and have been waiting a really long time for this.

Nerds & Beyond: You are involved as an executive producer, so what has your experience been like being able to part of that process, and watching this adaptation come to fruition, especially now that it is so close to being released?

Jennifer E. Smith: It’s been really a wonderful experience. The team has been great. I looked at my role as mostly to advocate for the readers and for the people who have loved this book all this time and to make sure that the source material was being well accounted for. It turned out I did not need to worry at all. From the first time I met with the screenwriter – Katie Lovejoy, who so brilliantly brought this book to life and just really, really loved the material – to meeting with the director, Vanessa Caswill, who, the first time I talked to her, she had a book that was highlighted and marked up and full of post it notes. And the actors just all the way through. Everybody knows this book means a lot to a lot of people and just treated it really well all the way through the process. So, I was really grateful.

Nerds & Beyond: As this was in the earlier stages of development, writing, all of that, were there any plot or smaller details that you were adamant about keeping in the movie?

Jennifer E. Smith: There’s not a lot that’s in the book that’s not in the movie. It’s really, I think, quite rare. This is actually my second adaptation, and I’m really cognizant of the fact that sometimes in translating something from page to screen there have to be differences, and there have to be changes. I completely understand that, and I was mentally prepared for it. But in the end, this captures the feel of the book, the heart of the book. There are so many big important scenes in my mind, like when [Hadley and Oliver] almost kiss outside the bathrooms on the plane, and when they talk about the cumulus clouds out the window, and all throughout – Hadley and her dad.

There wasn’t a lot that didn’t make it in. There’s a lot of great details. The one thing is, there are some things that were added to it that I think really elevate the whole story, which is having Jameela Jamil is the narrator, which was Katie Lovejoy’s, the screenwriter, idea. Oliver’s back story is a bit different but the kind of feel of it all is the same. It’s a very faithful adaptation, which is not always the case. So, I feel lucky.

Rob Baker Ashton/Netflix

Nerds & Beyond: What are you most excited about for fans of the book to see with this adaptation? What do you hope those who haven’t read the book yet take away from the movie?

Jennifer E. Smith: I hope that people who watch this film leave with a sense of hopefulness. It’s cozy. It’s warm and fuzzy, but it packs a punch. It’s not just about romance and falling in love. It’s also about family and grief and life and death and all the things that can happen in a very packed 24-hour period. I hope that fans really love that. And if you haven’t read the book, I hope you will. Also, I think that it’s such a faithful adaptation that those same tones and feelings that come through in the book really come through in the movie as well.

Nerds & Beyond: Looking back now on the book, and just its general legacy throughout the years, are there any specific elements of the story that still stand out to you? What are you still most proud of? Alternately, if you could change anything about the book today, would you?

Jennifer E. Smith: This book, I never expected that people would still be reading it. I don’t know what I expected, but the book came out 13 years ago, and the fact that it’s still being embraced by readers is – I’ve written a lot of books now. I think I’ve published 11 books and this by far is the one that I still hear from people the most on, and that is a gift. That’s not a given at all. So, I feel really, really lucky.

I think when you look back at your previous work, you always think you could do better. I wrote it a really long time ago. I was a different person, a lot has changed in my life, the world has changed a lot. So, there are absolutely things that I would do differently, but I think the movie really distills what the heart of the book is and I’m still really proud of it. It’s very cool to see it in a different medium now. As a writer, you sit alone in a room with your imaginary friends and all of a sudden, to see these scenes that I’ve imagined in my own head for so many years coming to life on the screen, it’s a really special experience.

Nerds & Beyond: My last question for today, what’s next for you after this? Are there any upcoming projects you’re especially excited for?

Jennifer E. Smith: Yeah, I’m always working on something. I have a new adult novel that will come out. My last book was a novel for adults called The Unsinkable Greta James and I have another one out probably sometime later next year. Then a sequel to my picture book, The Creature of Habit, will be out. I’m always working on lots of things at the same time, but for right now, I’m just really, really excited about this film.

Love at First Sight is now streaming on Netflix. Watch the trailer below.

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By Julia
Julia is a writer/editor/content assistant for Nerds who joined the team in 2019.
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