The first time we meet Marco Peña, the handsome new guy in school, in The Kissing Booth 2, we're technically introduced to his abs before his face.
In fact, the lead-in to his first scene is basically a rambling ode to his "snack" status and unreal good looks, thanks to the bumbling Elle (Joey King). And Taylor Zakhar Perez, who plays Marco in the film, told Refinery29 that scene made him blush as much as anyone else.
In The Kissing Booth 2, the follow up to the 2018 film, Elle is struggling to adapt to the challenges of a long-distance relationship with Noah (Jacob Elordi). Making it ever more difficult to focus is the arrival of the charming, multi-hyphenate (and potential new kissing booth attraction) Marco. Elle is first shown a video of the new student working out, and she basically gives over to any sense of restraint as she ogles his tanned body and chiselled features. "This guy is a snack," she exclaims, "and maybe he's the dessert, too ... it's like his sweat produces its own glitter!" What she doesn't know, however, is that she's accidentally broadcasting her thirst over the intercom to the entire school, including Marco.
"In the scene where you first get to meet Marco outside of the video is when he turns around and looks up to the rest of the class," Perez tells Refinery29, laughing. In response to Elle's compliments, Marco's classmates begin to chant his name in celebration. "I had so much anxiety and embarrassment — but also secondhand embarrassment for her..."
Chicago native Zakhar Perez has a few TV credits under his belt, but probably didn't imagine that his breakout role would lead him to become Netflix's newest snack. "People are called far worse things," the actor diplomatically told Glamour. But luckily, instead of wanting to totally disappear into the floor, like many in the same situation would do, Zakhar Perez was more focused on the surreal, ridiculous aspect of the whole situation — and looks back on it with content disbelief.
"In that moment in the film, you might really be getting a glimpse of Taylor being giddy, like 'oh my gosh this moment in the movie is so fun,'" says Zakhar Perez. He takes a beat. "But if it were me in high school, I think I my palms would've been sweating — and I would've tried to hold in all my laughter."
Luckily, as the film goes on, we discover Marco isn't just an "ice tray" of abs: he boasts many other talents. Zakhar Perez, who studied musical theater, sings and dances in the film, and also plays guitar (which he had to learn for the movie, as he grew up playing piano). And as Elle begins to peel back the layers, and discovers the sincere, thoughtful person underneath, the world begins to see that Marco — and Zakhar Perez for that matter — might be a snack indeed, but one full of rich, complex nutrition.
The Kissing Booth 2 is now streaming on Netflix.