Netflix heard you liked rom-coms — specifically rom-coms with Noah Centineo — so they delivered. The Perfect Date is the third Netflix original for the actor, who caused an avalanche of obsession back in the summer with his portrayal of Peter Kavinsky in the streaming service's adaptation of Jenny Han's To All The Boys I've Loved Before. He followed that up with a role in Sierra Burgess Is A Loser, and is once again in your queue on April 12. No offence ever to Centineo, though, but in The Perfect Date, it's Laura Marano who steals the show.
That's exactly how her character, Celia, would like it. Marano, who previously starred on Disney's Austin & Ally alongside other Disney-Netflix convert Ross Lynch (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), plays a bluntly sardonic and sarcastic high schooler from a wealthy Connecticut town. Centineo's Brooks, who lives in a more middle-class neighbourhood (and has a bit of a chip on his shoulder about it), is looking to make some extra money to afford his dreams of going to Yale. Just like Centineo himself, a favour for a classmate makes Brooks realize he makes a pretty good fake boyfriend, prompting him and his friend Murph (Odiseas Georgiadis) to start an app that allows customers to hire him for that very purpose.
But Celia was the girl who started it all. Her father paid Brooks to take her to a formal that she otherwise would not have attended — and not just because she hates heels. Celia doesn't see the point in blending into the social scene of her rich Connecticut high school. She's not interested in befriending Brooks, either. However, the two naturally develop a reluctant bond during that first meeting, and the fake relationship they perform ends up getting a little too close to reality.
We spoke to Marano about joining the Netflix family, how her character is saving us from outdated rom-com tropes, and knowing Noah Centineo before everyone else went crazy for him.
Refinery29: You and Noah go way back, having worked on Austin & Ally together. Did you anticipate he was going to become the next big thing?
Laura Marano: "When I worked with him on Austin & Ally, everyone on set just loved him. He was just the loveliest guy, and there's something so endearing about him onscreen. So when I worked with him on The Perfect Date, it was actually before To All The Boys I've Loved Before had come out — they had filmed it, but it hadn't come out. I hadn't seen him in a while since Austin & Ally, and...I could see how much he had grown as a person. To All The Boys came out, and I watched it, and I got so excited for our movie. It's hard to say I knew that he was going to blow up, but I definitely wasn't surprised it happened because he's always had this inner loveliness that everyone can see and watch on screen when he's doing his thing."
Your role in this movie isn't what we'd expect from a traditional rom-com heroine. Is that what attracted you to it?
"Totally. I had so much fun, and one of my favourite things about the whole movie is it takes rom-com archetypes and stereotypes and turns them on their head. No only is Celia so sarcastic and not romantic at all, she's also the one that makes the grand romantic gesture at the end. I thought that was something that that's a really cool aspect of our film."
We have this theory at Refinery29 that the way that our generation grew up with Disney stars, the next generation is going to grow up with Netflix stars. As a Disney-star-turned-Netflix-star, do they feel like two different universes?
"You know it's funny. They definitely do have some major differences. The other day I was doing a marketing commercial day for Netflix, and I kind of smiled to myself because I realized I had been there before [for Disney]. I do think that they are such massive brands that mean so much to a lot of people, and with that comes a pretty big responsibility: Finding the right aesthetic, the right marketing plan, the right everything. Both have become a really brilliant in mastering that."
Do you have any favourite rom-coms?
"Oh my God, I'm a huge rom-com fan, are you kidding me? 10 Things I Hate About You is just the best. Clueless. Bring It On — not that much of a rom-com, but I still feel like it's a rom-com, even She's All That. I'm like, this is everything I want and more."
"I definitely did not know it was gonna blow up as much as it did. I knew it had such a strong cast and crew. Greta [Gerwig] is incredible. She was the writer; she was a great director. It completely blew up, and I was excited to be a part of it. It was so fun. Saoirse Ronan and the whole cast and crew were so ridiculously amazing...It felt like such a cool part of my career because I had never been part of a movie like that in that way."
Can we expect more music from you this summer?
"My mentality with music is just keep releasing stuff. I'm all about like content, content, content. I just released a collection of songs in my first EP, which is really cool. I've never had a body of work before. I enjoy it so much. It's such an amazing outlet for me and such a part of myself that I really do find myself tremendously enjoying sharing with people. Obviously, I'm doing it all independently, which is complicated, but I've been loving every minute of it."
Interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity. The Perfect Date is on Netflix now.