CRUSH­ING IT

With Net­flix rom-coms and an ex­plod­ing fan base, Noah Cen­ti­neo has achieved heart­throb sta­tus

Calgary Herald - - YOU - LIND­SEY BAHR

LOS AN­GE­LES If you have a Net­flix ac­count, chances are you rec­og­nize ac­tor Noah Cen­ti­neo. Although, like the best teen heart­throbs of gen­er­a­tions past, you’d be for­given if you only know him by his char­ac­ter’s name: Peter Kavin­sky, the high school lacrosse-play­ing ro­man­tic from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Be­fore. And yes, like Jake Ryan (Six­teen Can­dles) and Jor­dan Cata­lano (My So-Called Life) be­fore him, both names are re­quired.

Since To All the Boys I’ve Loved Be­fore hit the 125-mil­lion sub­scriber stream­ing ser­vice on Aug. 17, Peter Kavin­sky has be­come a mini phe­nom­e­non, in­spir­ing memes, tweets and think pieces from ev­ery cor­ner of the in­ter­net about why Peter Kavin­sky and his woke, pocket-twirling ways is the boyfriend we need right now.

Cen­ti­neo, 22, got more than one mil­lion new Instagram fol­low­ers in a day. Two weeks later it was up to six mil­lion. Now, it’s sit­ting at more than 8.2 mil­lion.

And this Fri­day, he’ll grace the small screen again as Net­flix drops an­other high school rom-com, Sierra Burgess is a Loser, into the homes of newly minted Cen­ti­neo fans. (An in­ter­net cam­paign has al­ready started to give his lovesick char­ac­ter Jamey a last name.)

“Luck­ily Twit­ter ex­ists on a twodi­men­sional plane,” Cen­ti­neo says, laugh­ing. “It’s not like I have six-mil­lion-plus peo­ple walk­ing around with me ev­ery day. That would be in­sane.”

The “in­stant” star­dom has been a long­time com­ing for Cen­ti­neo, a Florida-na­tive who de­cided he wanted to act at age eight. At 15, af­ter ap­pear­ing on Dis­ney Chan­nel’s Austin & Ally, he con­vinced his fam­ily to move out to Los An­ge­les full-time. When he ar­rived, he was al­ways work­ing and au­di­tion­ing, but it was, as he de­scribes it, “a slow climb.”

In fact, right be­fore he was cast on the Freeform show The Fos­ters at age 18, he had a cri­sis of con­fi­dence won­der­ing if he should even be an ac­tor. He wasn’t able to book jobs or go out on au­di­tions for six months be­cause of a Dis­ney pi­lot that never ended up go­ing to se­ries and felt that he’d lost his sense of pur­pose.

“It got dark,” Cen­ti­neo said. “I’m like, what am I do­ing with my life? Who cares if I’m an ac­tor? Who cares if I’m suc­cess­ful?

“And as soon as I re­al­ized, yeah this isn’t for me ... my life, my ca­reer, ev­ery­thing I do should be for oth­ers, there should be a deeper pur­pose out­side of want­ing to get money and be fa­mous and live my own pas­sion, that’s when The Fos­ters hit and I don’t be­lieve in co­in­ci­dence.”

And then came one-two punch of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Be­fore and Sierra Burgess is a Loser, both via the same cast­ing di­rec­tor.

Sierra Burgess shot first, in early 2017. The film stars Shan­non Purser (a.k.a. Barb from Stranger Things) as a girl who finds her­self in a tex­ting re­la­tion­ship with Cen­ti­neo’s Jamey, a football player with a nerdy side who be­lieves he’s talk­ing to a dif­fer­ent girl (a cheer­leader).

“What I love about Jamey is how he’s goofy and he’s a jock and he’s like ‘Yo, we are al­lowed to be both sides of the spec­trum in one hu­man be­ing,” Cen­ti­neo said. “I like Peter K be­cause the boy is an ego­ma­niac. He’s def­i­nitely not as smart as Jamey, but he’s sen­si­tive, and a bit more ex­treme but still really lov­ing and pro­tec­tive.”

Cen­ti­neo al­most sab­o­taged his To All the Boys au­di­tion by ar­riv­ing late to the chem­istry read with Lana Con­dor. He was given the wrong ad­dress, and was mor­ti­fied about it.

As soon as he left, he had a dozen Sprin­kles cup­cakes sent over to the folks in the room, in­clud­ing di­rec­tor Su­san John­son.

“He’s just charm­ing. He can’t not be charm­ing,” said John­son. “I pulled him aside at the end of the shoot and said, ‘You can go wher­ever you want to go and do any role you want to do. You have that much of a gift and I hope you’ll be su­per choosy.’ He’s more than just the guy who is charm­ing and cute on screen. He has depth to him that I think every­one is go­ing to be ex­cited to see in fu­ture roles.”

And, to be fair, Cen­ti­neo thought he was do­ing two indies. Nei­ther was a Net­flix movie when he signed up and both were ac­quired by the ser­vice as part of a “sum­mer of love” push and set for re­lease within three weeks of one an­other. Need­less to say, he’s tak­ing this mo­ment in stride.

“I’d like to think that my big break has yet to come,” he says. “I like to think ev­ery­thing has been slowly pro­gress­ing to­ward the ul­ti­mate pic­ture. Of what I don’t know, but we’re still paint­ing.”

And he has lofty artis­tic am­bi­tions in movies and be­yond — art, phi­lan­thropy, mu­sic — and would like to work with di­rec­tors like Gas­par Noé, Ter­rence Mal­ick, Wes An­der­son, the Coen broth­ers and the Nolan broth­ers.

“I’ll play any char­ac­ter,” he said. “Se­rial killer. Heroin ad­dict. Nice boy. Jock. Bully. Nerd.”

Now, he’s just grate­ful, although there is the dis­tinct im­pres­sion that he is a lit­tle ret­i­cent to talk about his vast new fol­low­ing.

“I rec­og­nize the grav­ity of the sit­u­a­tion and I rec­og­nize how much re­spon­si­bil­ity comes with it,” he said.

“It’s like if you’re an ac­tor your whole life, you’re work­ing and work­ing and you’re try­ing to get into this for­est with this big mon­ster and you fi­nally get into the for­est with mon­ster and it can be really nice to you, but at a mo­ment’s no­tice it can turn around and eat you. I’m fi­nally in the for­est and won­der­ing what’s go­ing to hap­pen. It’s fun.”

NET­FLIX

Noah Cen­ti­neo, left, and Lana Con­dor star in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Be­fore, a high school flick that’s made Cen­ti­neo fa­mous — not bad for some­one who con­sid­ered quit­ting act­ing.

Noah Cen­ti­neo

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