Austin Abrams 'Happy' to Bring 'Calming' Holiday Joy with Netflix's Dash & Lily: 'We Could All Use Some Cheering Up'

For those in need of a pick-me-up before the holidays, Austin Abrams has a present for you.

The actor, who's starred in NBC's This Is Us and HBO's Euphoria, headlines Netflix's new YA rom-com series Dash & Lily, based on the best-selling Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by authors Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.

In the eight-episode show, created by Joe Tracz and produced by Nick Jonas and Shawn Levy, Abrams, 24, plays Dash, a melancholy dude in no mood to celebrate the holidays — until a quirky optimist (Midori Francis) lifts his spirits with a red notebook full of dares and messages.

Months before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was declared a pandemic, Dash & Lily was filmed in New York in 2019 and captured the festivities of Christmastime on camera. This year, however, many will be unable to visit the Big Apple, much less travel at all, for the holidays.

Abrams tells PEOPLE he hopes families will be able to safely gather and enjoy some escapism during a time when things look entirely different. "That's the essence of what this is," he says about Dash & Lily bringing joy to all ages.

PEOPLE: New York plays such a big role in this series and thankfully, it wrapped before the pandemic.

ABRAMS: What I'm really happy about is, I am happy that we got to film it just right before the pandemic happened. So I am happy that I feel like there is a sense of nostalgia because New York obviously isn't like that right now. I think it'll hopefully be really nice for people to be able to watch. It's a bit calming and warm, which I'm happy about. I am happy to be part of that.

No one had any idea that this was going to happen, but I am happy that it's coming out now. As I said, being able to see New York, how it was last year. I feel like it's nice, I feel like that's a nice thing to see and I feel we could all use some sort of cheering up to a degree just because times are so freaking tough right now. I am very happy about that.

Fans last saw you on television in early 2020 as Marc, Kate's not-so-great college-era boyfriend on This Is Us.

It's funny you're talking about Marc. It would definitely be a different show if Marc was the character, other than Dash.

How different or similar is Dash from your other characters? What are the differences between you and Dash?

I feel like there's a fair amount of differences in a lot of ways. What was awesome is there's David Levithan and Rachel Cohn's book that I could read and it very clearly has all of [Dash]'s thoughts, that's super helpful. But I feel like Dash definitely has a fairly cynical perspective on life, I suppose. I don't personally feel as cynical about life as he does.

Will fans of the book series be happy about the TV adaptation?

It's pretty close. I think there are some creative liberties. Especially, I feel like the end is a bit different than the book, but it's pretty similar. I am happy that I feel essentially it did capture the essence of the book, which I think is always the best. I feel like, a lot of times, when you know a movie or some sort of idea other than the original novel has done its job is when it's really captured the essence — because that's not an easy thing to capture. I am happy because I do feel like it did that justice.

Speaking of books, you and your costar Midori exchanged your own notebook, like your characters Dash and Lily.

We would exchange a little something back and forth just to kind of get to know each other, especially because our shooting process was very similar to what the show actually is. We only have, like, a few scenes with one another, so we would just be passing each other as we were working. We kept some sort of communication through that way, just to kind of get the feeling of what it would be like. I don't know if it added any sort of benefit to what we were doing. Hopefully, it did.

How does it feel being in a lead role compared to being a part of the ensemble?

I feel like the same amount of pressure is applied for everything I decide to do. But I personally, I really do love the position. I love being able to rise to the occasion. You're able to have more of a relationship with the people that are creating it, you're able to actually have somewhat of a hand in what you're doing, which I love. I love being able to be a part of the process. But at the same time, that's not to say, doing something like supporting characters can't be wonderful as well, because then you can end up doing something that's just super out there.

I do like both aspects, but I really do like the leading aspect just because I'm able to really work with directors and writers. And also it seems that people do seem to listen to you a little bit more and that's always nice to be heard, to a degree.

These eight episodes are based on the first book. Since there's already a popular second book, The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily, will we get to see more of you as Dash in a possible second season? 

I know that they've written some of it. I don't know where it's going to go. I haven't been able to read anything yet, but I hope it goes somewhere. I suppose the story would naturally take itself. I feel like that's the best I can really hope for.

Dash & Lily hits Netflix on Nov. 10.

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