Photos: Michael Greenwald & Sasidis Sasisakulporn @oatjo & Netflix
In Netflix’s recently released romcom, A Tourist's Guide to Love, Amanda Riley (played by Rachel Leigh Cook) embarks on a work assignment as an undercover tourist, investigating a small Vietnam tour company where she meets the carefree tour guide, Sinh Thach (played by Scott Ly).
Throughout the film, Sinh shows Amanda that there’s more to traveling than simply following a “guidebook”, encouraging her to embrace new possibilities. Ly’s character takes us on a journey of the authentic, cultural experience of Vietnam’s Lunar New year celebration, Tết (short for Tết Nguyên Đán). From making wishes in flower lanterns in Hoai River to watching the Thăng Long Water Puppet Theatre in Hà Nội, A Tourist's Guide to Love is not your typical romantic comedy—it's a love letter to its ancestors and cultural roots.
As Timid sits down to talk with Ly, we explore how this role meant more to him than just playing a love interest, delving into the deeper significance of the character and the story.
Scott Ly: My mom and dad came during the Vietnam war with my three siblings and settled in Houston, Texas where I was born. We then moved to California where I grew up in LA, specifically the 626 area code. I chose acting as a career, and now I’m getting this opportunity to fly back to Vietnam to shoot a movie that showcases the country beyond the war. Instead, the story focuses on the people, the culture, and love. It was an honor and a blessing to be a part of it.
SL: I try to find things that I could relate to, like being spontaneous because Sinh is a spontaneous guy. He loves people and sharing his culture. I had a vision, and I kept to that vision and we shot that project and I think it looks fantastic.
SL: He's relatable. He's charming. He's nice. He's friendly. He's humble. He’s a people person. He's like a regular guy. I can relate to those things and I think most people can too.
SL: I call her “the wave”. I'm the surfer on my board letting the wave take me. I just hang tight, ride that wave, and learn from it because it’s taking me places and having me experience new things. She's a professional who’s super nice and cares about the people on set. She's also a great mentor!
SL: I would say Hội An is beautiful. If you're there at night, it's like a golden city. It takes you away. It's a surreal feeling of being put into a whole different place, a whole different culture.
SL: Japan is a place that I've never been to that I think is beautiful. Korea and Singapore too!
SL: How easygoing everyone is. I got there early to start embracing the culture, the vibe, and the weather. The entire time I was there, I didn't hear anyone argue. I didn't feel any negative energy. Everyone got along. There were so many motorcycles riding by and they were just flowing like water from one street to another. They would use the horn and they would honk the horn, but it wasn't a negative thing; it was more like, “Hey, I'm here.” I liked how everyone just got along, and coexisted. That was a beautiful thing to experience.
SL: Yeah, I'm shooting an HBO series in Thailand right now. I have my own projects that I have coming up that I want to really get going. I also want to go back to Vietnam and Thailand again. There are so many opportunities, so many great people, and so much culture and history here that still needs to be explored.
Netflix’s A Tourist’s Guide to Love was released on April 21, 2023.
Disclaimer: This interview has been edited for clarity.