Netflix is now the go-to streaming service for YA rom-coms, and on April 12, it's adding another one to the list. In The Perfect Date, Noah Centineo plays Brooks, a high school entrepreneur who creates an app where women can hire him to play the role of their boyfriend, an idea that's formed after he takes a classmate’s outspoken, edgy cousin, Celia (Laura Marano) to her school dance. In the past year, Centineo has established himself as the ultimate teen rom-com leading man, winning over millions of new fans with his roles in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and Sierra Burgess Is a Loser. But Centineo’s career actually began back in 2011 when he nabbed a role on Austin & Ally as Dallas, Ally’s (Marano's) crush. Years after his recurring role on the show, The Perfect Date is an Austin & Ally reunion, and the stars couldn't have been happier to have been brought back together.
“I remember on Austin & Ally, Laura was the nicest person,” recalls Centineo, speaking over the phone in March along with his costar. “For real, though. I had never been on a television show before, I had never really worked in Los Angeles before. That was my first job ever, specifically in television, and when I got to set, Laura made me feel like I was a part of the family.” “You were part of the family!,” assures Marano.
It had been years since Centineo and Marano last saw each other, but just like back in the day, their connection was immediate. “It was really cool when I found out we were doing it. I was really excited,” remembers Marano. “I hadn't seen Noah in so long, and then we saw each other that first day, and instantly it was like... yesterday we had worked together.”
Centineo adds, “We realized very quickly that not much had changed.” “Totally, except Noah keeps saying I’m smarter!,” jokes his costar. Centineo responds, “You spent more time making revolutions around the sun — you became smarter! You're mature. Your knowledge is just more vast!”
Their playful back-and-forth on the phone phone isn't that far off from what you'll get when you see them in The Perfect Date. “We were joking around the entire time back then, and it was... It's the same now, we just adopted this banter with each other in person that perfectly translated into the film as well. It was like, art imitating life, life imitating art,” says Centineo.
“It's tough because you have so much fun on set but it is work, and it's hard to find someone who has that balance of like, wants to have fun but wants to work hard, and I feel that Noah totally has that, and I really appreciate that. We'd always be rehearsing, but we'd always be having a lot of fun too. It was really great,” Marano chimes in.
Their real-life dynamic comes through in the film, which is part of what makes it so charming. In The Perfect Date, Celia and Brooks develop a rapport while pretending to be a couple, long before they beging their romance. They offer each other support while they deal with teen woes of striving to fit in and feeling misunderstood. So it makes perfect sense that their IRL friendship would shine through onscreen.
While filming together was an incredible experience, it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, particularly when both stars were hit by a bad cold. But, luckily, according to Marano, Centineo is a total “health genius” who knew the perfect remedy to help them recover. “We went shopping at the Whole Foods-esque shop...we had boiled oregano…” recalls Marano. Centineo adds, “Clove? Cardamom, ginger root... We did a lot. Listen, Moroccan heat, that's some good sh*t.”
“That's what I learned from Noah Centineo on The Perfect Date," Marano jokes.
You may have first fallen in love with him on TATBILB, but Centineo's journey to rom-com legend status actually started with The Perfect Date. He clarifies that this was actually the first Netflix rom-com he filmed, though the announcement of the film coincided with him telling The Hollywood Reporter that he was hesitant to star in any more. But he assures fans that though he stands by his statement of not wanting to be typecast, he hasn’t completely ruled out the genre for future projects.
“I do want to move to other genres, but I am more than happy to continue doing rom-coms as long as I'm really attracted to the material. Like, in this one. This is a rom-com, sure, but it's really a lot deeper than that,” explains Centineo. “It's more like a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. The questions gets asked in the beginning of the film: 'Who am I?' And the answer changes. And I think that's very powerful, and it's a question that we all deal with in our lives at different ages, and for this film to come in the form of a romantic comedy, to actually be able to lightheartedly be able to deliver a message much deeper than that about who we are, who we want to be, the ability to change our world and reality just by committing ourselves to our ambitions.”
Marano also notes that since this one was filmed long before TATBILB, there were no expectations. They just focused on enjoying the experience and bonding with each other. “It would've been really funny filming this movie after To All The Boys came out and did so well, because it would've been the mentality of like, ‘Oh man, we're working for this, or we're working for that...'" says Marano. Centineo jokes, “I'm really arrogant now, though!”
But it's not just Centineo's presence that'll win over TATBILB fans. The Perfect Date also boasts an outspoken, empowering female protagonist who doesn’t subscribe to rom-com tropes. Spoilers ahead. Brooks gets caught up in the fantasy of being with the most popular girl in Celia's school, Shelby (Camila Mendes). When realizes that there's not much depth to her, he decides that he'll try to go for being with Celia, but she shuts him down, saying she won't be anyone's second choice. And once Brooks mends things and helps Celia trust him again, she's the one who decides to make a big romantic gesture— an action that is typically reserved for male characters in rom-coms.
“One of my favorite things about the movie is how much it breaks your classic rom-com stereotype,” says Marano. “She does not take these kind of standards, these typical aspects of what gender roles should be. She calls bullsh*t on it immediately. I love that she constantly not only is making comments to Brooks about how [people shouldn’t] look at the world in a small, narrow-minded way. Girls and guys can literally play the same roles as each other. We don't have to fall into the stereotypes and limit ourselves. And I love that she takes control of the grand romantic gesture [at the end] and just kind of the whole situation. I think she's such a boss.”
Netflix's rom-coms have paved the way for the genre to break free from outdated tropes. And with the evolution, we get self-confident heroines like Celia, who helps Brooks grow rather than changing for him without any reciprocation. Coming to The Perfect Date with a strong friendship base, Centineo and Marano were the perfect team to bring this story to life.