The internet’s favorite rom-com boyfriend has done it again. After winning people over as Peter Kavinsky, the sensitive hunk with a thing for spin moves, in Netflix’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, 22-year-old Noah Centineo is back as Jamey, a slightly more sensitive hunk (who’s less into spin moves) in Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, on Netflix now.
In Sierra Burgess, Centineo stars alongside Stranger Things breakout Shannon Purser, whose titular underdog teams up with the popular cheerleader, Veronica (Kristine Froseth), to essentially catfish Jamey. (But her intentions are pure, we swear.) The film marks the second time in less than a month that Centineo stars as the oh-so-dreamy object of teen-girl desire. In other words, welcome to the era of Noah Centineo.
EW spoke with the rising star about fame, rom-coms, and the challenge of shirtless selfies.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How has your life changed since your sudden rise to rom-com fame?
NOAH CENTINEO: Nothing’s changed in my day-to-day, outside of maybe taking more meetings and having more opportunities. I’ve never been in a position where I’ve been able to say no to projects until these films came out. Now there are more options. It’s exciting now to be able to look at projects and say, “Well this is right for me; this isn’t right for me.” I’ve never had that before. It’s a beautiful thing!
What is it about these characters — Peter Kavinsky in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and Jamey in Sierra Burgess Is a Loser — that people love?
I think Peter is a refreshing look at a male romantic-comedy lead. He’s got this egotistical, brutish male side and his walls are up really high, but as you get to know him over the course of the movie, you learn about his family, his dad, and understand why his defenses might be so high. And he’s sensitive. He loves Lara Jean [Lana Condor] in a way that a lot of people want to be loved. Jamey is even more sensitive, more emotionally intelligent, and book-smart as well. He’s more pensive, but they’re both jocks.
Are you, Noah, more of a Jamey or a Peter?
I’m more of a Jamey more of the time, but I’m definitely not opposed to stepping up and doing a Kavinsky activity if it’s necessary. I am both, depending on the day. There’s a lot of Noah in those characters.
Which scenes have the most Noah influence?
The kitchen scene at Peter’s house with Lara Jean in To All The Boys where we’re talking about her mom and my dad. I love that scene. I can relate to that a lot. And any of the phone conversations between Jamey and Sierra. It was so comfortable because it felt like I didn’t have to really act much.
So you can relate to struggling to take the perfect shirtless selfie…
Oh for sure. I would be surprised if most guys couldn’t relate to that. And if they say they can’t, I think that they’re just insecure about how they’re a goofball. [Laughs] I’ve spent a long ass time trying to get the right photo to look all muscular. It’s hard! It’s not easy. But I’m not really about that anymore. Now it’s just like, “Hey let’s go to dinner and hang out in real life.”
What do you think modern viewers want from a rom-com?
It’s love. We all want love, we all want to be taken care of and supported and cherished. Peter does that for Lara Jean, and Jamey is so present. I think that we kind of wish that we were in the films — at least with To All The Boys, Sierra Burgess is a Loser is a ride, I don’t know if I would wish that upon anyone. Catfishing sucks. [Laughs] I’m really not an expert in rom-coms but I do love love and I know people love love. So that would be my reason why people love the genre. We love to be loved!
Jamey and Peter both drive a Jeep. What about a Jeep says “jock with a heart of gold”?
I’ll tell you what it is. The Jeep says, “Hey, look at me, I’m adventurous. I can go camping, I can take you on a wild ride, and you would absolutely love it. Girl, I’m not afraid to take the top down, get a little wet, have you stand up and feel the wind in your hair on the PCH. [Laughs] Like, let’s go have some fun!”
Both of these movies feature nontraditional female leads. Was that part of their appeal to you?
Both of these films do an excellent job of normalizing ambiguity, and I am so into that, whether it’s with directors or actors or writers. In this industry, they’re really pushing that agenda, and I had nothing to do with it, but I can definitely say that moving forward, that is something that I’m paying a lot of attention to. I want to do my part pushing that agenda as well.
Moving forward, are you embracing your spot in rom-coms or are you interested in breaking into other genres?
Every actor wants to play the heroin addict. That’s what we say. I definitely have that bug; I’d really like to do some auteur, existential pieces, darker films, something that’s really reflective of life. But I also love the genre of rom-coms and I don’t see myself completely detaching from that.
What are the movies that you grew up on?
As far as rom-coms it was 13 Going On 30, What Happens In Vegas, but as far as other movies I grew up on, my dad would show me Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, Schindler’s List, Radio, and The Matrix, which is still one of my favorite movies to date. And then a lot of Disney movies, Dreamworks, Pixar. There’s balance.
If you love The Matrix, would you want to do an action movie?
I would love to do an action film. There’s actually a film right now — they’re looking for the right female role but I read the script and I’m absolutely in love with it. It’s rare that I read a script and I immediately go, “This is perfect. I can see myself in this.” But when I read this one, I was like, “This is a role that I know I can kill and it’s an action film and it’s hilarious and it’s dramatic and it’s so good.”
With your newfound fame, do you feel a need to create a divide between Noah and these characters to let fans know that you’re not Jamey and you’re not Peter?
I don’t really care. [Laughs] No one’s really going to know me until they know me in person, so whether they have this idea of who Noah is or this idea of who Peter is, both are fabricated. I can only do so much on my social media to try to let who I am come out. You don’t really know someone until you know them. You might even be with someone for years and hang out with them and still might not know them. So to me, it’s not really that important to try to differentiate; I just keep on keeping on.
What do you want people to know about Noah?
It’s not that I want them to know about me, I want them to know more about themselves and what they want. I take self-love very seriously and I take loving others very seriously and knowing yourself. I think Shakespeare said, “To thy own self be true.” Some s— like that, it’s in Sierra Burgess. [Laughs] It’s really profound: Know yourself and be true to yourself and love yourself. It’s really important to me. I hope that anyone who stumbles across my page or across me in real life, I’d hope that they’d start to consider what they want and what their passions are and what they love and dive into that.
I went to VidCon and it really was incredible to interact with fans but it also kind of bothered me because they’re all people with their own lives and their own dreams, who could do so much with the time that they spend following and raving over other people. There’s something so beautiful about idolizing someone and loving someone, but at the same time, I feel like if people were to spend a fraction of the time that they spent paying attention to other people on themselves, they’d feel so much more fulfilled and whole. Instead, we’re deifying social media influencers, and we’re deifying actors, and we’re deifying artists when we’re all human. We could all do these things that make us super happy. We just gotta connect to it, connect to yourself.