"The following is overnight. The career is not."
That's how Noah Centineo explained his seemingly overnight success to The Hollywood Reporter in November 2018. And while it may have seemed like the heartthrob came out of nowhere to become the internet boyfriend of the last year, beginning with the August drop of Netflix's runaway hit teen rom-com To All the Boys I've Loved Before (which was followed mere weeks later by the streaming service's second Centineo-starring film, Sierra Burgess Is a Loser), he's right.
Like most instant stars in Hollywood, there was nothing all that immediate about it. Not for the actor who took a one-liner role in a Disney Channel series and turned it into a recurring role at an age when most of his peers were merely worrying about passing their driver's exams. No, Centineo put in the work and, with a 2019 People's Choice Award nomination for The Comedy Movie Star of 2019 at this year's ceremony (held on Sunday, Nov. 10 only on E!) for Netflix's The Perfect Date, he's finally beginning to reap the rewards.
And he has his sister to thank for it all. In fact, we all do.
There's an alternate universe out there where an eight-year-old Centineo was never forced to tagged along with his older sister Taylor to an open casting call at a South Florida talent agency as she pursued her dream of being a model and, in turn, was never encouraged to audition himself. That darker timeline Centineo probably never left the Palm Beach area. Maybe he's still dreaming of playing soccer professionally, maybe he's just graduated from college and taken some 9-5 job at an office park somewhere. Regardless, without that day, there's little chance that TATBILB's Peter Kavinsky would've been played by him. We'd probably be writing this article about some other guy.
Luckily for all involved, that's not the case.
"My sister wanted to be a model and I was dragged along to support her," he told Pop-Culturalist.com in 2017. "I give [my success] to her. She gets really tense when I tell the story, but I give it to her."
Community theater and attendance at a public arts middle school gave way to local modeling and commercials, which, in turn, helped him sign with agency after agency until he was traveling out west for pilot seasons. A role at 15 on Disney's Austin & Ally went from one line to five to multiple episodes. From there, it was clear to him that he needed to be in Los Angeles full time. He just needed to convince his family. “That’s when I looked at my parents and was like, ‘Yo, I’m about it. If you move me there I’ll be successful. This is what I want to dedicate my life to,’” Centineo told The New York Times in September 2018.
So, halfway through his sophomore year at Boca Raton Community High School, he and his mother Kellee decamped to West Hollywood. "I dropped out — halfway through sophomore year I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting, and I did one semester to finish my sophomore year," he told Vulture. "I was working a good amount so I couldn't balance school."
And upon arriving, he began doing the teen actor thing, bouncing around Nickelodeon and Disney Channel from episode to episode. He finished his junior and senior years in the sort of independent study program that most child actors rely upon to keep work a priority. "I moved across the country to become an actor, not an academic type," he told THR laughing. "I know myself, I'm not gonna be a mathematician or a professor."
After moving, Centineo got his first taste of what it means to click with an audience. "I was at the AMC movie theater in Century City with my mom. We were walking through the lobby and these girls came up to me and they said, 'Are you Dallas from Austin & Ally?'" he recalled with BuzzFeed Celeb. "And I was like, [acts stunned] 'Yeah, yeah.' And they were like, 'Could we have a picture with you?' And I was like, 'Yeah, of course. Sure, thank you!' And we took pictures. And my mom was kind of just standing there, beaming. I was like, 'Dang. Dang!'"
But by the time he was about to become a legal adult, reality began to sink in and his parents became worried about his career prospects. After all, an episode here and there does not a career make. "My parents were, like, ‘We've been out here for almost three years and you haven't made it as an actor.' They didn't see it," he told The Los Angeles Times in 2018. "I wasn't on my own show. I wasn't famous."
As he told MTV News in December, "My parents were like, 'You've got to go to college.' I was like, 'No, because if I go to college, I'm not going to be able to dedicate all my time to acting.' And they were like, 'Well, you've got to go to college and get a job.' So I got a job and I enrolled in college, but I was begging them, 'Please, just give me the summer, give me the summer.'"
It didn't help that the one pilot he had booked—a potential Disney Channel series called Growing Up and Down—wound up being passed over by the network, leaving Centineo in murky contractually-obligated territory.
"I went through a really dark patch because I wasn't actually allowed to work. I was contractually obligated to be on hold for a certain amount of months. And that sucked miserably," he explained. "When you take away a person's ability to act on their purpose, they kind of deteriorate, I think. So, that's what happened. I was like, 'Maybe I should just not act. Maybe I should go to a third-world country and do something of actual worth.'"
Luckily for us—though, we guess, not so lucky for that hypothetical third-world country—he overcame that urge to give it all up. "And then I came full-circle and realized that, hey, if I act and if I really do this damn thing, then I can leverage the platform and still do good work. The bounce back was realizing that and saying, 'I want to help other people be—and be happier.' So now I had something a lot stronger. I wasn't just trying to be an actor, I was trying to create a platform for the betterment of society. And just as soon as that clicked, I got The Fosters."
In 2015, Centineo joined the late Freeform family drama in its third season, replacing outgoing star Jake T. Austin in the lead role of Jesus. And it was the thing he needed to restore his faith in his master plan. Through his three seasons on The Fosters—he remained until the show wrapped in 2018, and has appeared in a handful of episodes of this year's spinoff, Good Trouble—he landed his leading man gigs in TATBILB, Sierra Burgess and The Perfect Date. But it also could've been the thing to take it all away.
"Everything's available in Los Angeles to those who do go out or want it—and you're not borrowing Mom or Dad's money. If you have your own money, you feel entitled to spending your own money how you'd like to, and that's a slippery slope," he told the L.A. Times last year.
As he explained in an unearthed Instagram Live, "I had been partying quite a bit when I lived in LA. I was having a really good time. When I was turning 21, I was like, damn, I've been partying like crazy since I was 17.... I was like, wow, maybe I should take a break." So he rang in his 21st birthday by getting sober.
"It was an act of self-love," he explained to in his L.A. Times interview. "Like, 'Listen, society. You say I can drink legally at 21?' I didn't remember what the 14-year-old Noah was like before partying was a thing. I kind of just had forgotten about that because I got swept up in having friends who were young and doing our own thing and financing our lives."
By dropping the booze and the weed, Centineo was able to dedicate himself fully to "loving myself and my career," he explained to the N.Y. Times. “This feels like the fruits of the harvest coming to fruition,” he said. “What I found was, when I took care of my body, my mind and my emotions and my heart were way happier. When I wasn’t drinking, when I wasn’t smoking weed and partying, I was responsible for my actions and I could choose my actions from a more mindful place. And my life changed — drastically.”
Also changing his life drastically? His newfound stardom. Practically overnight, Centineo's Instagram followers leaped from 800,000 to 13.4 million followers. (As of press time, his follower count sits at 16.5 million. But who's counting?) Fans know when and where he will be, like the ones he told Jimmy Kimmel were waiting for him when he got off a plane at JFK and followed his cab into the city. "It was actually kind of scary," he told the late-night host. "It was the first time you look at something and you're like, 'Oh wow, my life is changing.'"
Since stealing our hearts with his late summer 2018 Netflix double-feature, Centineo's love life has been one hot topic. That happens when you become the internet's boyfriend, after all. And despite the hope that his insane chemistry with his TATBILB co-star Lana Condor might spill over into the real world, she's happily dating someone else and admitted any real-world flirtation was purely for show. "Noah and I definitely encouraged the speculation," she said in the March 2019 issue of Cosmo. "But it's because we believe in the story and the characters and we genuinely love each other. You can truly love someone in a very platonic way."
In February, after Centineo was spotted leaving the Vanity Fair Oscars Party with actress Lily Collins, she became the next target of romance speculation, only to have those rumors quashed as well. In recent days, however, the actor and his newly-shaved head confirmed rumors that he's dating Sports Illustrated model Alexis Ren by making things Instagram official.
With the notoriety, however, comes opportunity. Not only did Centineo land a role in Jackie Chan's directorial debut, The Diary, and a supporting role in this year's Charlie's Angels reboot, but he's landed a starring role in the upcoming action flick Valet and will also play He-Man in Sony's upcoming Masters of the Universe film. (And never fear—he'll be back as Peter in the TATBILB sequel in 2020.)
"The ones who usually fail are the ones who give up. It's a waiting game. I've been doing it for 14 years…so 13 and a half years of my life was spent dedicating to something," he told MTV News last year. "And in the last five months—I'm not gonna say the followers and the fame or the notoriety is a milestone of my success and how good of an actor I am, but if a lot of people are acting to be seen in that light, then it takes time."
And he's not done yet.
With dreams of stepping outside the YA rom-com realm—"I'd like to do auteur pieces, something more existential and heavy. It's possible that like romantic drama would be a cool way to segue into other genres. I'm really into Gaspar Noé's work. I'm really into the Coen brothers, and the Nolan brothers," he told IndieWire—he freely admits that he's got a ways to go. "Everything that I'm doing right now, everything that I have done or everything I have lined up are stepping stones," he told THR. "I'm not anywhere near where I want to be."
"I'm taking steps," he told MTV News. "And there's a lot of good s--t in the work for 2019. I am incredible fortunate and privileged, I'd say."
With Centineo clearly in it for the long haul, we'd say we are too.
(This story was originally published on April 12, 2019 at 3 a.m. PT.)