In Netflix's latest teen romance, the Cyrano de Bergerac-inspired Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, Centineo plays Jamey, the soulful and endearingly sweet star quarterback from a rival high school who mistakenly texts with the unpopular Sierra (Stranger Things' Shannon Purser), thinking her number belongs to the very popular cheerleader, Veronica (Kristine Froseth). And while Centineo aces his performance as Jamey, he actually wasn't even supposed to be in consideration to play him.
"[X-Men: Apocalypse actor] Ben Hardy was originally attached to play the part [of Jamey]," screenwriter Lindsey Beer told ET. "He had been in one of the producers’ other movies and they thought he’d be great for it and they attached him. His schedule ended up not working out, so we had to audition other people."
During the casting process, Centineo had come in to audition for a much smaller part in the film and for a far more unlikable character than Jamey.
"It was for Spence, Veronica’s boyfriend," director Ian Samuels revealed to ET. "Completely different [from Jamey]." Actor Will Peltz ended up playing the role of Spence, the quintessential douchebag college beau who [spoiler alert!] breaks up with Veronica over DM, in the movie.
When it became clear that Hardy was unable to play Jamey, the creative team behind Sierra Burgess went back to square one in their search for the romantic lead.
"We were having a really hard time finding Jamey," Samuels admitted. "When you’re casting, you have a character description and a lot of the Jameys that were coming in just felt… I don’t know, there was maybe something too on the nose about what we were seeing, in terms of the jock-y football player. But we really wanted Jamey to really be likable. You have to fall in love with him to believe in this relationship. Our casting director, Tamara[-LeeNotcutt], did an amazing job and she had Noah come in for one of the supporting roles and he was so charming in the room."
"With Jamey, we were looking for somebody who could play a more soulful type and somebody with the puppy dog eyes who the girls would like, but who kind of had a unique sincerity to him and Noah absolutely did. It was kind of crazy, honestly," Beer said. "I didn’t have a specific actor in mind when I wrote this and I wrote it a long time ago, over six years ago, but I did have a generic image in mind of Jamey and Noah just looked and embodied him to a T, it almost weirded me out. It was like he had incepted my brain six years ago and made me write the part for him."
Notcutt, who cast Centineo as dreamboat Peter Kavinsky in To All the Boys I've Loved Before after seeing his Sierra Burgess audition, shared her thoughts on why she felt he was capable of taking on Jamey after seeing him originally for that supporting role.
"He was so charismatic. He’s very charming. He’s got a great look. He’s really tall and I already knew that I wanted to cast Shannon. She’s a very tall girl. He matched her in height and everything, and not very many actors -- especially that age -- are that tall," Notcutt explained. "Even though he was confident, there was something very goofy and awkward as well. He’s grown up a lot in the last two years, it’s been quite amazing to watch. He’s just super adorable, very charming and fun. He felt like a real teenager."
And to think we were this close to being deprived of the Summer of Noah... Thankfully, the rest is history.