A month ago, Noah Centineo was best known for his role as Jesus on the Freeform series The Fosters. He was not yet a household name and could still go to Chipotle without being mobbed by teen girls and their mothers. But a lot can change in a month, and in the wake of Centineo's turn as high school heartthrob Peter Kavinsky in August's Netflix teen movie To All the Boys I've Loved Before, he seems to be everywhere. He's played with puppies at BuzzFeed. His Twitter has been thoroughly scoured by the entire internet. His Instagram went from 250,000 to 8.6 million followers.
Now, in the wake of the release of Centineo's next Netflix film, the teen-centered Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, TV Guide's Megan Vick and Kaitlin Thomas decided it was the perfect time to dissect the young actor's meteoric rise in the pop culture zeitgeist. Is he just a flash in the pan, or is Netflix's new teen dream boy here to stay? We're going to find out.
KAITLIN: Megan, we've talked a lot about whether or not Noah Centineo is the new king of teen rom-coms offline, so I'm glad we're finally bringing this conversation to the people. But before we get started, I think we need to address the fact that although Noah has starred in two Netflix Original movies, there is a third teen rom-com in which he stars that is also available to stream on Netflix. Although I have not seen SPF-18, I confess that I saw his face on the thumbnail for it a couple weekends ago after I was done reliving the glory of Mamma Mia. I obviously scrolled straight past it and went for a show about teen horse girls instead. I am not ashamed to admit this. So, before we break down whether or not Noah is Netflix's Teen Dream Boy, what the hell is SPF-18?
MEGAN: Oh boy. I watched it long before we decided to write this article because that's the kind of life I live. SPF-18 is another teen rom-com about a girl and a guy who think they are meant for each other when they graduate high school, but a week at Keanu Reeves' beach house proves the universe had other plans for them. Noah plays Johnny, a sensitive surfer artist who has given up the sport he loves because his dad -- who was good friends with Keanu Reeves, hence the beach house -- died in a surfing accident. His girlfriend Penny is really concerned about this, but not concerned enough to stop herself from falling for the "mysterious" singer-songwriter who camps out on the private beach in front of the house and ends up crashing with them. It's OK though, because Johnny ends up falling in love with Penny's cousin Camilla, who is played by Bianca Santos, who actually played Jesus' girlfriend in the first two seasons of The Fosters before Noah took over the role from Jake T. Austin. Johnny and Penny end up being friends but are in love with their new partners. Keanu Reeves and Pamela Anderson make cameos. It's... a movie.
KAITLIN: OK, I don't even know what to do with this, Megan. I really don't. I think that for once in my life I made an excellent decision when I chose to watch a show about teen horse girls. I mean, I was probably never going to watch SPF-18 anyway, but now I am definitely never going to watch it. In the wake of To All the Boys I've Loved Before, which was actually a very charming movie that reminded me of the '80s and '90s teen rom-coms I watched growing up, this would absolutely feel like a punishment.
MEGAN: Oh, agreed. These movies are on two different levels, but Johnny is also a romantic hero, and even though Netflix never releases viewership numbers, I'm willing to bet that so many girls who fell for Noah/Peter in To All the Boys I've Loved Before have inflated SPF-18's numbers as well. We all do crazy things for love, and the internet really, really loves Noah Centineo right now, and so do I.
KAITLIN: So... I have to make another confession: I really don't get the Noah obsession that is sweeping the nation. I don't. I liked him just fine in the movie! I thought he gave a charming performance as Peter Kavinsky, but I was shocked when women everywhere -- even women older than my own 31 years -- were losing their s--- over Noah on the internet. What am I missing?
MEGAN: I covered The Fosters from series premiere to series finale, so I admittedly came into the Summer of Noah with an appreciation for the actor and his charms before I saw any of these Netflix movies. I was excited for him when I saw the trailers for these films, and I expected him to get a lot of love after I watched them, but I was also surprised by the level to which everyone lost it. I mean, even Gabrielle Union was tweeting her thirst! Glen Powell definitely didn't get this level of admiration after Set It Up!
But then I started watching some of Noah's interviews and that's what turned me from supportive fan to a 30-year-old woman in need of an intervention. The kid knows how to work a room, and he's been setting Olympic-level thirst traps for anyone willing to do even a cursory Google search about him. I legit haven't been the same since I saw his "5 Firsts" BuzzFeed video and he talked about his best date where he and a girl read for three hours and watched the sunset on the roof. Even if that's not true, the fact that he thought of that proves he knows what he's doing is intelligently feeding the hype.
KAITLIN: I'm glad you brought up Glen Powell, because a lot of people definitely had their eyes opened to how freaking great he is after Set It Up came out earlier this summer. I definitely understood the hype that followed, but I was also already on the Glen Powell train prior to the movie coming out. I mean, do you know how many times I've seen Everybody Wants Some!!? It's a lot. Anyway, I digress. It's true that Glen didn't receive the same amount of attention. Why do you think that is? Is it because that was a more traditional romantic comedy and not a teen rom-com like To All the Boys?
MEGAN: Have you watched it more than five times? Because I've officially watched To All the Boys five times and Noah's new movie Sierra Burgess Is a Loser twice. I think the teen angle definitely plays into it, because internet hype is created and controlled by teenage girls and always has been. There's also a social media aspect to it. Both Noah and Lana Condor have been toying with the fans and whipping them into a frenzy on Instagram. Glen and Zoey posted some cute pics during press for Set It Up, but it wasn't at all close to Noah and Lana's activity. Most importantly, though, while I also thought Glen was very charming in Set It Up, his character Charlie was kind of an asshole until the very end, while Peter Kavinsky is much more of the rom-com archetype. He had some flaws, but he was more of the daydream personified romantic lead you expect in these movies. Noah's character Jamey from Sierra Burgess fits the mold even more so, though the movie as a whole is less romantic than To All the Boys.
KAITLIN: The fact that he spells his name Jamey is a major red flag and potentially a sign that he might be a psychopath. Like, I would not trust a person who thought they were too good to go by Jamie. But let's talk about the fact Noah's character in Sierra Burgess has literally no flaws. He's good looking. He's a quarterback. He's really smart. He is great with his little brother who is deaf. He is mature enough to address his own vanity. Can you think of any other teen-centered rom-com that follows a dude this perfect? And do you think people -- whether they recently fell in love with Noah or not -- will actually like this character of his?
Speaking as someone who came of age during the last great Teen Movie Age, also known as the Freddie Prinze Jr. Era, I don't really understand how Jamey exists or why he would be appealing to young women. I mean, if I'm being honest, Prinze's character in She's All That, Zack Siler, was an asshole. He made a bet that he could turn any girl into the prom queen! But we loved him because he was changed by his relationship with Laney Boggs. You know, much like how Glen Powell's character was changed over the course of Set It Up. So, I'm asking you, what's the appeal of Jamey? And will this movie curtail the nation's obsession with Noah or only make it worse?
MEGAN: A thing that I've been saying a lot about Sierra Burgess is that I love it as a person, but I have a lot of issues with it as a critic. His name being spelled Jamey is one of them, but neither Noah nor Jamey the character can be blamed for that insanity. I also agree that Jamey is unrealistically perfect, but at the same time, he's more relatable than Peter. While Peter was still hung up on his ex-girlfriend and cared too much about what other people thought, Jamey is insecure. He's goofy and down to Earth. Even though he's a quarterback, he doesn't ooze prom king coolness like Peter does.
I think to understand the appeal of Sierra Burgess we have to compare the leads rather than Noah's characters. Lara Jean was introverted in To All the Boys, but she was by no means on the same "loser" level of Sierra Burgess (Shannon Purser). It's not shocking that Peter found Lara Jean attractive and then actually fell for her once they talked and got to know each other. Rachel Leigh Cook only had to take down her ponytail for Zack to fall in love with her in She's All That. That part of the story isn't relatable to a lot of girls watching these films. I was much more of a Sierra Burgess than a Lara Jean in high school, so even if I critically know that Jamey is too perfect to be real, he actually stole my heart even more than Peter.
Basically, I don't think that people will love Sierra Burgess the movie more than To All the Boys. But I think Jamey will speak to an even larger contingent of women than Peter did, because he makes them believe there's a chance to be loved by someone as hot and kind as he is, even if you don't look hot in boots or have an ass pocket he wants to stick his hand in. I think the Sierra girls will only add to the To All the Boys crowd, but none of it is going to last forever.
KAITLIN: Which brings us back to our jumping off point: Do you think this is just A Moment for Noah or is this the beginning of something larger? Is this actually a brand new chapter in his career? Is he actually going to follow in FPJ's footsteps and become a rom-com, teen or otherwise, leading man, only for Netflix and not on the big screen?
MEGAN: I won't lie. There's potential for Noah to flame out after this summer because the groundswell for him is SO huge, but having interviewed him a half dozen times I can tell he's really smart and has good people around him to translate this into bigger and better things. Aside from the To All the Boys I've Loved Before sequels that are probably going to happen (and which I already have a LOT of feelings about), I want him to move away from Netflix and away from rom-coms entirely, but he's obviously at home as a heartthrob. He does have another rom-com coming out next year -- it stars Riverdale's Camila Mendes -- and has a "more comedic" role in Jackie Chan's next movie The Diary, which I'm very excited about. Ideally though, if the rumors about another Fantastic Four movie come to fruition once Fox and Disney merge, I think he'd make a great Johnny Storm. That could showcase his charm, sense of humor and also add action hero to his resume for diversification. We all know what that role did for Chris Evans, and I wouldn't hate it if Noah followed in those footsteps.
KAITLIN: Oh, hell no. I see you trying to bring me over to Team Noah by comparing him to the definitive best Chris, Megan. I SEE YOU. I don't know if I believe that Noah will follow in Chris Evans' sexy footsteps, but I'm willing to let you believe it.
MEGAN: It's a valid theory! I actually held back because we've been primarily talking about movies, but since I officially have to defend his honor, let's do this. The Netflix rom-coms show how attractive and charming Noah can be, but The Fosters shows how legitimately good he is as an actor. His traumatic brain injury storyline was a showcase that reveals he can do drama really well -- please check out this breakdown scene that will put you in tears. I could totally see him like in an indie Oscar-bait movie about a broken family where he plays the prodigal son, probably with a drug habit. I think he's the real deal, is what I've been trying to say.
KAITLIN: Look, I'm not challenging Noah's acting ability or his inherent charms, just his Chris-ness! But while I will never make Noah the lock screen on my iPhone like you did -- yes, I am calling you out on the internet -- I am glad we had this chat, because I do have a better understanding of why so many women fell in love with him over the past month. However, I'm still loyal to Freddie though. You my boy, Freddie!
MEGAN: I REGRET NOTHING.
Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, To All the Boys I've Loved Before and even SPF-18 are streaming on Netflix.