By Maureen Lee Lenker
November 12, 2020 at 09:00 AM EST
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Dash & Lily is a holiday rom-com for the books.

The new Netflix series, based on YA book Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, bookends its central love story between festive Lily (Midori Francis) and grinchy Dash (Austin Abrams) at the iconic New York City bookstore the Strand. It's there that Dash first finds the notebook that will bring him and Lily together (over a shared love of literature, no less). And it's also there that he makes his final romantic grand gesture (one so squee-inducing, it practically outdoes the Beast gifting Belle a whole library, a high bar among hopeless romantic bibliophiles).

"Everyone knows the Strand," says Abrams. "It is a little bit romanticized in terms of a bookstore in New York, so I think it does lend itself to that."

For producer Shawn Levy, celebrating the uniqueness of places like the Strand was baked into the show's DNA as a romance. "I know that not everyone gets excited and enamored of bookstores, but I certainly do," he says. "The more unique the bookstore, the better. We know what a chain bookstore looks like. We know how the aisles look, the smell of the place, the feel of the floorboards. It's just different than independent, long-standing, baked-into-the-community bookstores and the Strand is that. You feel it in the bones of the place and in the details of the place. And that's what we tried to capture in the show."

Adds producer Nick Jonas: "[The show] does a good job of giving a real look at the city, while still giving that beautiful romantic feel and the Strand as a center point in our story is such a nice thing."

The show was always intended as a love letter to the bookstore among other New York City landmarks. But it feels particularly potent now that it's premiering in the wake of COVID-19 and the Strand's pleas for customer support in a landscape particularly challenging for indie bookstores.

The entire cast enthuses about the show's ability to raise awareness for the Strand in a moment where they could use the boost. "I love how they tied the Strand into the story and they’re giving a business like that a chance to get some traction, especially right now," reflects Dante Brown, who plays Dash's best friend Boomer.

Troy Iwata, who plays Lily's brother Langston, lives in New York City and knows how special the store is to so many. "I’ve lived in New York for six years and the Strand is definitely a staple of the city," he adds. "I know a lot of people that just hang out there. It’s a place of refuge for a lot of people to go and find a new book… Our show shows the very mainstream touristy places of New York City but it sprinkles in some lesser-known places and that makes it really unique and special."

Levy notes that he and other members of the production team have been doing their part to buy from the Strand and support its efforts to stay afloat.

"It's just so great to have this beloved, iconic, New York establishment as the centerpiece to the series," he concludes. "It's especially poignant now to see the outpouring of love from New Yorkers and people in other states as well. It's really beautiful and I'm thrilled to play a small part in the love letter to the Strand the show provides."

Watch the video above for more. Dash & Lily is now available on Netflix.

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