Instead, the young actress has decided to jump into the realm of Hallmark Channel's rom-com flicks with Love in the Sun. Toubia plays dating app creator Alana, who has abandoned her sunny and peaceful life in Florida—along with her inn owner father (Shawn Christian) and dreamy high school sweetheart Kai, played by Tom Maden (Scream)—to become an entrepreneur in the city of Chicago.
Her work life is going splendid, and so is her love life (or so she thinks), as her journey home is prompted by an engagement to a man she met through her own app creation. Of course, there's nothing like running into your high school sweetheart to set doubts in your mind. And that's just what happens to Alana.
Below, Toubia previews the flick for us.
So, what inspired you to take this gig post-Shadowhunters?
Emeraude Toubia: I read the script and it talks about this young entrepreneur that strives to fight for her dreams. I thought it was really cool and was something that could really happen in the world. It also was one of the first times that Hallmark was taking on a younger lead couple. I had the pleasure of working with Tom Maden, who is such a sweetheart. It was just really nice to see that they were taking chances by doing this movie which was slightly catered to a younger audience.
Tell me about Alana. What’s she all about?
Alana is from a small town called Safety Harbor. Her dream is to make it big, so she moves to Chicago and opens a dating app company called Closer. So while she’s in Chicago, she gets engaged to a guy that she was dating for about a year, and that makes her go back home and visit her dad to share the news. She hadn’t visited Safety Harbor for a long time because her mom had passed away and she was trying to avoid that whole situation. When she goes back home, she sees her high school sweetheart again and remembers what that passionate love was like. You know, that love that lights that fire inside of you. And she ends up debating whether she should stay with the guy who is perfect on book, or the guy who takes her breath away.
It’s kind of like practical love versus passionate love.
Exactly. And she’s also debating whether she should stay home or go back to Chicago—you know, that work-life balance. How much is she willing to risk her career to stay in her happy place?
What's the Alana-Kai love connection like?
You know, they know each other without even saying anything—just by looking into each other’s eyes. He knows what she’s thinking and she knows what he’s thinking. He makes her slow down and breathe and appreciate her surroundings. He grounds her and makes her feel at ease.
Alana is also pretty sporty. She’s out in the water and she golfs!
Her passion is kayaking and being out on the water. It gives her gratitude towards nature and this amazing energy. Tom and I had a couple of kayaking classes over a weekend. It was lots of fun, and it’s not easy. You have to use so much core. The last thing you do is use your arms. So, imagine that. And actually, a little secret [on the golfing]: I don’t golf. I’ve done it with friends, but never like, officially. So, whenever you see my ball go, it’s actually Tom hitting the ball, because he’s actually a really good golfer. [Laughs]
This is your first Hallmark Movie, right? Where did you guys shoot?
Yes, this is. We actually shot in a town in Florida called St. Petersburg. I, of course, knew it was going to be pretty [shooting in Florida], but I didn’t expect it would be paradise. When I got to this town, I was mesmerized. I just couldn’t believe the crystal-clear water, the white sand, and the sunsets. I felt that I was truly just on a vacation. I don’t even know how to explain the ambiance on set. It was truly magical, and one of the best experiences I’ve ever had on a set. I know I’m just starting and I haven’t been on that many sets, but I don’t think I’m ever going to experience what I experienced on this set.
Do you watch a lot of rom-coms? Are you a romance movie fan?
I absolutely love rom-coms. I think every girl wants love. Who doesn’t want love? Whoever says they don’t is lying. I’ve always been in love with love. Not a lot of movies nowadays—big studios don’t do a lot of rom-coms. So, I’m glad that Hallmark is still doing those rom-coms because I don’t think they should go anywhere. We all go through all these different things and it’s nice to just sit down and watch romance flow and live.
Do you have a favorite rom-com of all time?
Oh my gosh, well J. Lo is my ultimate queen. I love Monster-in-Law.
Alana is a very strong female character; how do you think she compares to Izzy in Shadowhunters?
I consider them to be very similar. Alana knows what she wants and is always striving to get it. She’s unapologetic—even though right now, she’s kind of debating what she should do with her love life and her career. She’s also a girl who loves girls. She supports her best friend. It’s like that Clary and Izzy relationship. I think Alana and Izzy both strong women who speak their mind and take a stand.
Speaking of Shadowhunters, how has the response been since the finale aired? [Editor’s Note: The interview was conducted on May 7, the day after the finale episode aired on Freeform].
You know, it’s like, you don’t want to believe it’s over and then yesterday it was like, ‘Okay, it really is over.’ It’s been a really nice experience. I think the best part about the whole Shadowhunters experience though was the fans. They fight and stand up for what they believe in, you know, whatever they think is right. That’s something that I admire so much. I hope that they hop on my adventure with me and follow me wherever that is.
Because of the fans, I feel like every role I take now is about them, and I want to make sure that I am portraying roles that push them to want to be better. Everything I do, it’s crazy, but it’s with them in mind.
You said before that you’ve always been in love with love. Do you relate to Alana in her quest for true love at all?
It’s funny because I have been in that position where you don’t know what to do and you don’t want to hurt the other person, so you’re just stuck debating about following your heart. I'll say this: I think at the end of the day, you should always follow your heart.
Love in the Sun, Premiere, Monday, May 27, 8/7c, Hallmark Channel