Wonderland.

NOAH CENTINEO

The internet’s boyfriend on reprising the role that first made us fall head over heels for him in To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You.

Noah Centineo covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland hand on head

Shirt AMIRI, trousers ICEBERG, shoes AMIRI, necklaces EMANUELE BICOCCHI

Noah Centineo covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland hand on head
Shirt AMIRI, trousers ICEBERG, shoes AMIRI, necklaces EMANUELE BICOCCHI

Taken from the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland. Order your copy of the issue now.

Having already claimed the honorary title of the internet’s boyfriend, Noah Centineo is reprising the role that first made us fall head over heels for him in To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Reflecting on his prodigious rise to fame, the actor speaks to us about inciting cultural change and what romance really means to him.

“Romance is conversation,” Noah Centineo decides, deadly earnest. “Just speaking to each other, looking into each other’s eyes and letting your eyes dilate, you know?” We’re ten minutes over our allocated interview time, and I’m reluctant to hang up the phone now. He’s not done, either: “You know, making everything sacred — what they say, what you do with them, how you treat them, whether it’s mentally, with conversation or emotionally. Respecting them and treating them like your sacred place, and vice versa. That’s romance. Romance is worshipping the other person, I think, and allowing them to worship you as well.” I’m not blushing, you’re blushing, but is anyone really surprised? Google the actor, and you’ll find dozens of articles unpacking exactly how he acquired the honorary title of the internet’s boyfriend. If you’re not already convinced, see above, and let me fill you in.

It all kicked off in the summer of 2018. In London, we’d all been giddily absorbed in obsessing over Love Island and the World Cup on rotation, left craving escapism and excitement when both came to equally high-stakes finals and the sticky heatwave that accompanied them cruelly ended too. Enter Noah Centineo.

In Netflix Original films To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, released two weeks apart in August, he portrayed floppy-haired, jeep-driving jocks — but not the kind of cold, tortured high school heartbreakers we grew up watching Chad Michael Murray portray in the early 00s. Centineo’s Peter Kavinsky (To All the Boys) and Jamey (Sierra Burgess) were endearingly unaware, or at least unaffected by their sporty clique status, both guided by the purest of intentions and eager to embrace the all-consuming ache of a first love. Bringing them to life, Centineo carried himself with charisma that felt effortless — balancing an air of teenage self-consciousness and naivety with carefully-placed mannerisms that were definitely, one hundred percent intended to make you melt. So when the internet inevitably swooned with adoration in response, the title stuck.

“I kind of feel like it has to be an honour, right?” Centineo laughs, when I ask what he thinks of the label and if he feels boxed in by it. He doesn’t, and if anything, it’s something the 23-year-old has leaned into, speaking at length in interviews and on camera about his own deep appreciation for all things romance-related (again, see above), and taking part in video challenges that fall under titles like Noah Centineo Reads Your Love Letters and Noah Centineo Plays With Puppies.

“I’m absolutely over the moon to be given that title. I accept it; I’m super grateful for it. I fucking love that title,” he affirms. “I think that people just want to be loved and treated as they want to be treated […] People felt that with Peter, and I think that’s why he became this obsession. I just so happened to be the actor that was playing him.”

Noah Centineo covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland vest top
Noah Centineo covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland colourful

(LEFT) Tank top STYLIST’S OWN, Jumpsuit FENDI, boots FENDI, Bracelet CARTIER, necklace EMANUELE BICOCCHI
(RIGHT) Under Jacket HILTON, Over Jacket HILTON, trousers FENDI, shoes ALLSAINTS, necklace EMANUELE BICOCCHI

Noah Centineo covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland vest top
Tank top STYLIST’S OWN, Jumpsuit FENDI, boots FENDI, Bracelet CARTIER, necklace EMANUELE BICOCCHI
Noah Centineo covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland colourful
Under Jacket HILTON, Over Jacket HILTON, trousers FENDI, shoes ALLSAINTS, necklace EMANUELE BICOCCHI

It’s a modest assertion, but not one I can get on board with. Though he’s gone on to play a few more renditions of the dreamboat love interest — starring as whoever you want him to be as a professional stand-in boyfriend in Netflix’s The Perfect Date and appearing as a flirty nerd in Charlie’s Angels (both 2019) — the reason so many of us basically collapse into our own teenage selves over Centineo cuts deeper. In a world where celebrities so often carry themselves with an elevated, impenetrable front, the actor comes across disarmingly unbothered by our frantic efforts to define him, appearing uncalculated and entirely himself.

“I think I’ve always been like that. I’m not the type of person to premeditate decisions; I’ve always been highly impulsive. I’ve been shifting that lately, but I’ve always felt this way about love and about others […] I’m the type of person that can’t help but feel, whether it’s pain, or — ” He apologises; the view from his window in LA has just made him… feel something. “This is crazy, but there are clouds covering the bottom of the mountain, so from my view, you can just see the top. It makes it look like someone has painted a mountain in the sky. This is crazy, sorry! I’m like, ‘Am I fucking hallucinating right now?”

Back in the room, I ask Centineo if he’s made a conscious decision to be so open personally, and to portray characters who are, to put it simply, emotionally available. I’m not saying he’s single-handedly dismantled toxic masculinity, but for a generation who came of age obsessed with fraught relationships between humans and 100-year-old vampires, football jocks and mathletes, basketball players and their three girlfriends, what he’s come to represent is refreshing. At first he’s unsure, but after musing on what he calls “a popularisation of selfishness — not the healthy kind, where you provide for yourself, champion yourself and take care of yourself — this selfishness where you drag people through the mud and lead them on,” and the “extremely independent, capitalistic, goal-orientated” culture in America, he changes his mind. “Yeah. It is a conscious decision to talk about love and to treat people properly.”

It’s this, in all its myriad forms, which Centineo says he wants to be known for in an industry that revolves around shallow assertions of wealth, status and the unattainable. You’d be forgiven for wondering whether his indulgence of our obsessive attention betrays a darker drive for celebrity status, but his musings on cultivating an influential platform paint a picture completely devoid of personal glory. “I want to shift culture,” he says grandly, before correcting himself: “I don’t want to shift culture. I want to be a part of shifting culture from ‘What can I get? What can I achieve?’ It doesn’t matter if I’m facing that change, or a person that pushed a button behind the curtain and nobody found out, just some tiny little cog in the machine.”

For the actor, feeling that change within himself stems from the year he spent entirely sober in 2017. “It was the day before my 21st birthday, and I decided to get sober because I recognised that the only decisions I had ever made and regretted were done under the influence of some substance and I was hurting people in my life,” he explains carefully. “I should have been happy — everything you’ve ever been told tells you that if you’ve got a little bit of fame, glory and money you should be happy, right? What else is there? But I felt really sad and lost and I felt hopeless, so I just thought… I’m going to cut out everything: no cigarettes, no drugs, no alcohol, no weed, no pharmaceuticals, nothing, you know? It really rips the band-aid off of life. You get this absurd clarity and your mind is a lot stronger.” We’re treading different territory to the person I was expecting to speak with — the Centineo who goes viral playing with puppies or recounting his first kiss — as our conversation shifts to the person he was before that summer of 2018.

Noah Centineo covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland head side curtain
Noah Centineo covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland side hand
Noah Centineo covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland curtain

(LEFT) Shirt TRIPLE RRR, trousers FENDI, rings CARTIER, necklace EMANUELE BICOCCHI
(MIDDLE) Tank top DZOJCHEN, shirt by DSQUARED2, trousers LES HOMMES, shoes LES HOMMES, necklace EMANUELE BICOCCHI
(RIGHT) Shirt TRIPLE RRR, trousers FENDI, shoes ALLSAINTS, rings CARTIER, necklace EMANUELE BICOCCHI

Noah Centineo covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland head side curtain
Shirt TRIPLE RRR, trousers FENDI, rings CARTIER, necklace EMANUELE BICOCCHI
Noah Centineo covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland side hand
(MIDDLE) Tank top DZOJCHEN, shirt by DSQUARED2, trousers LES HOMMES, shoes LES HOMMES, necklace EMANUELE BICOCCHI
Noah Centineo covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland curtain
Shirt TRIPLE RRR, trousers FENDI, shoes ALLSAINTS, rings CARTIER, necklace EMANUELE BICOCCHI

Born in 1996 in Miami, Florida, Centineo started acting young. He was never the cool kid in school, and thinks those who did like him only really did so because of his early roles in various Disney Channel shows. None of it mattered though, he insists — from the age of 13, academic achievements and college applications were never even on the agenda. “To have that conviction as a freshman in high school is something that made the decision to leave behind everything a lot easier,” he says, on dropping out of school and moving to LA at 16. “In my head, all I wanted to do was act. I was obsessed with the feeling that I had when I was acting.” Describing that feeling, he asks me if I’ve ever really needed to cry, and know what it’s like to finally let it out? It’s like that. And though the pandemonium that hit a year and a half ago felt sudden, Centineo insists it was over ten years of obsessively chasing this feeling, working however hard it took and refusing to settle for anything less that foretold it.

Now, with To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You due for release two days before Valentine’s Day this year, Centineo seems sincerely grateful for the opportunities the films have earned him. The one word he reaches for to describe the experience is “family”, which flourished with the addition of one of his longtime friends, Jordan Fisher, to the cast for the sequel. And though Fisher plays a boy from his girlfriend Lara Jean’s past, who sweeps in to create what might be the most agonising love triangle since Bridget Jones, he promises an equally visceral and heartwarming continuation of the story we all fell categorically in love with.

Having already filmed the third and final chapter, To All the Boys: Always and Forever, Lara Jean (no, Peter Kavinsky is not going to have a buzz cut), Centineo is ready to leave that warm and fuzzy world behind. He tells me he doesn’t yet feel like he’s proved himself to himself and has a “lot of ground to cover” before doing so, which this year will include a starring role in Jackie Chan’s upcoming Chinese period drama The Diary, and the Nee brothers’ action-adventure picture Masters of the Universe in 2021.

He may have embraced his role as the internet’s boyfriend, but as Centineo maps out these next steps, you’d be foolish to pigeonhole him as such. We can project our fantasies on to him all that we want, but as he talks more about matters from meme culture to meditation, what shines through is his openness to understanding and bettering both himself and the world around him — meaning wherever he takes his career next, we should expect something nuanced, purposeful and unpredictable.

On what it will take for him to feel like he has proved himself, Centineo doesn’t miss a beat: “I want to work with people that have been doing this a lot longer than me and are more talented than me; I want to learn. I want to soak up this moment with the next two films. I want to really impact as many lives as I can and meet as many new people as I can, explore and find new parts of myself. I’m not asking for anything specifically for my career, I just want to experience more of life — I want to connect with more people and I want to grow as an expressionist, someone who has some form of expression that I need to get out. I want to fail miserably… I’ve played pretend so often and I’ve done it for so long that oftentimes it’s hard to feel like I’m not playing pretend. That whole imposter syndrome that I’ve had for a long time, I think so many people have that, and so I just want to live my life, man. If nothing else, I just want to feel like I’ve lived.”

Noah Centineo covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland hand cheek
Noah Centineo covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland headshot
Noah Centineo covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland lying down

(LEFT) Tank top STYLIST’S OWN, Bracelet CARTIER, necklace EMANUELE BICOCCHI
(MIDDLE) Tank top DZOJCHEN, shirt by DSQUARED2, trousers ICEBERG, shoes LES HOMMES, necklace EMANUELE BICOCCHI
(RIGHT) Beanie Hat, jacket and trousers THE ELDER STATESMAN, necklace EMANUELE BICOCCHI

Noah Centineo covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland hand cheek
Tank top STYLIST’S OWN, Bracelet CARTIER, necklace EMANUELE BICOCCHI
Noah Centineo covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland headshot
(MIDDLE) Tank top DZOJCHEN, shirt by DSQUARED2, trousers ICEBERG, shoes LES HOMMES, necklace EMANUELE BICOCCHI
Noah Centineo covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland lying down
Beanie Hat, jacket and trousers THE ELDER STATESMAN, necklace EMANUELE BICOCCHI
Photography
Alex Harper
Fashion
Toni-Blaze Ibekwe
Words
Rosie Byers
Grooming
Kara Yoshimoto Bua at SWA Agency
Entertainment director
Erica Cornwall
Production
Federica Barletta
Production assistant
Penny Nakan
Fashion assistant
Anastasia Busch, Gorge Villalpando, Nikki Cortez, Michelle McDonald, Louie Bastian
Special thanks to
MSA Studios Los Angeles
NOAH CENTINEO