Why Noah Centineo and Laura Marano Were the Perfect Leads for 'The Perfect Date' (Exclusive)
By Philiana Ng
Staying in this weekend? Why not press play on Netflix's latest teen rom-com?
In The Perfect Date, Hollywoodheartthrob Noah Centineo plays Brooks Rattigan, an academically gifted, not-so-cool high school senior who has dreams of attending Yale. After being paid to pose as a fake boyfriend to the combat boot-loving Celia Lieberman (Laura Marano), he teams up with his tech-savvy best friend, Murph (Odiseas Georgiadis), to create an app where he offers up his services as the ultimate fake date to make extra cash so he can make his Ivy League goal a reality. Along the way, he meets the girl of his dreams, Shelby (Camila Mendes). But when business starts to boom, Brooks is forced to rethink everything.
With the film now streaming on Netflix, ET jumped on the phone for a quick chat with producer Matt Kaplan -- who also produces the popular To All the Boys I've Loved Before film franchise -- about the latest teen movie, why Centineo and Marano were the ideal romantic leads and embracing the patented romantic comedy tropes.
ET: You worked with Noah Centineo before on To All the Boys I've Loved Before. Was it his performance as Peter Kavinsky that was the driving force behind casting him in this?
Matt Kaplan: A big thing having spent time running Awesomeness Films that we always were trying to create there was this idea that we had to break talent. I think there was a serious time where young adult films were underserved. That was the reason we started to make a bunch of them, and part of that goes into, who do you believe in on the talent level? A lot of young, great actors weren't seeing the same kind of roles as they were when I was younger, when you had the Ferris Buellers of the world being made. As soon as Noah auditioned for To All the Boys, I knew he was someone we were going to continue to want to work with.
Right now, you seem to be cornering the teen/YA market when it comes to executing those movies. Why is it important for you to continue to cater to and engage with that audience?
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It fits in the area that I love, because, ultimately, you can explore themes and have stories that really resonate for kids, and I remember how impactful those movies were for me [when I was younger]. There's so much societal pressure going on right now between what's happening on social media and the pressures kids feel with college. We all kind of felt like, specifically with The Perfect Date, it was the perfect movie to make at this time. With how successful Netflix has been with it, we really enjoyed having the opportunity to reach as global an audience as they can.
You obviously didn't plan this, but the college admissions scandal that has been making headlines adds relevancy to The Perfect Date that was unexpected.
Yeah, we definitely didn't plan that part but yes, you're totally right. It's in the zeitgeist. Where Noah is coming from in this film, he doesn't have the opportunity around him that other people do and he has to work for it, but with that pressure comes soul searching of "Who am I?" and "What do I truly believe in?" that I hope kids can take a look at when deciding what their lives look like in their late teens/early 20s.
In terms of the cast, this is an Austin & Ally reunion, with Noah and Laura sharing the screen again. What were you looking for in casting Celia Lieberman, because she is a very specific female character? Why was Laura perfect for the part?
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Laura is Laura. She's such a charismatic, likable young woman who had all the attributes we were looking for in Celia. She came in and auditioned and it permeated across the entire film and on set. She carries herself so gracefully but has such a light, sarcastic tone that we felt would be a great match with Noah. Obviously, they had already had their relationship [on Austin & Ally] but now, seeing them as grown-ups felt like was a perfect match.
Talk about filling the role of Shelby. The way that character is crafted, she is supposed to be the woman of Brooks' dreams, which is a very particular role to fill in a teen movie. Was Camila Mendes always the first choice?
Yeah, she was. Camila Mendes is obviously a talented actress. We needed someone who could hold her own with Laura, and they felt different but both have such strong qualities that she was the perfect casting. And again, it was a wish list and Camila is a very busy person with Riverdale, so we had to work around schedules but when we were able to make it work, I think everybody -- from Chris Nelson, the director, to myself, Noah and Laura -- were really excited to have her.
The Perfect Date certainly leans into the tropes teen movies have patented, such as the "makeover montage" where you see Brooks transforming into different personas and that the crux of the story revolves around fake relationships. These are all elements of teen rom-coms that are tried and true. What other teen genre staples were important for you to showcase in this movie?
We want to make movies for specific, targeted audiences. And one thing we were keeping in mind in the process of making this is that a lot of times rom-coms skew more female or male. I think on this particular film, we tried hard to make it for both genders so that guys could enjoy it, girls could enjoy it and bring back that nostalgic feeling from my youth of the Ferris Bueller kind of movie. But again, kids today haven't seen many of those movies, and for them to have the availability of these types of films once again through these streaming platforms has been an amazing opportunity to create new content and talk about themes of today.