XO, Kitty star Anna Cathcart says TV show is not a traditional K-drama
LOS ANGELES – Netflix’s teenage comedy-drama XO, Kitty – a spin-off of the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before romantic comedy films (2018 to 2021) – was the streaming platform’s most-watched English-language series when it debuted in May.
At the same time, some viewers took issue with what they felt was an unrealistic portrayal of life at a South Korean high school, from students kissing in the library to eating cupcakes for lunch – things that would never happen in real life, they said.
But the show’s star, Anna Cathcart, says the series is not supposed to be a traditional Korean drama.
Her character, Kitty Song Covey, has transferred from an American school to one in Seoul to be with her long-distance Korean boyfriend, Dae (Choi Min-young).
Cathcart, 19, has played Kitty since the 2018 film To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, which saw her matchmaking efforts bring sister Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and her secret crush Peter (Noah Centineo) together.
In a Zoom chat with The Straits Times from her home town of Vancouver in Canada, Cathcart says: “What is unique about XO, Kitty is that it’s a fusion between an American show and a K-drama, and having that mix between both genres.
“So, it brings a different perspective to some topics, and has certain things you might not see in a K-drama or in an American show because we have bits and pieces of both.
“It definitely creates something that’s one of a kind.”
The actress – who is half-Irish and half-Chinese – is also excited that a biracial performer like herself gets to play the romantic lead in the Netflix production.
“Hopefully, people who are mixed-race and see a mixed kid in a lead role, and in a love-interest role, feel like they can celebrate their background as well,” says the star, who appeared in the Disney Channel musical-fantasy films Descendants 2 (2017) and Descendants 3 (2019).
Her experience growing up biracial in Vancouver was a positive one, she adds.
“Where I lived, race wasn’t always the focus, but it was always something that could be celebrated,” she says.
“In my school, there were many half-Asian people, so I felt very welcome to celebrate my background and ethnicity. And I was so excited to teach my friends about my culture.”
The actress has explored both her parents’ cultures as well. She has visited Northern Ireland, where her father’s family hails from, along with southern China, which is home to her mother’s relatives.
“And my mother, who was a kindergarten teacher, would sometimes teach my classmates how to make dumplings and about all the different traditions.
“Those things are such core memories for me,” says the star, who is majoring in sociology and creative writing at the University of British Columbia.
Set at an international school in Seoul, XO, Kitty is similarly multicultural.
Featuring dialogue in both English and Korean, the story has characters who are South Korean, American, French-Greek, Iranian-Filipino and Australian, and each faces a distinct set of challenges.
Cathcart suggests this may be why the show seems to appeal to so many people.
“There are a lot of different storylines and types of representation. No matter who you are, you can find something that you connect with.
“The general theme of growing up and feeling lost at times, and finding who you are, is something everybody can relate to,” she says.
For this – her first lead role – Cathcart has received plenty of moral support from her former To All The Boys co-stars Condor and Centineo, whose careers were also launched by the hit franchise.
“I’ve been really lucky to have such an amazing cast of people to look up to and have as role models throughout all three movies,” Cathcart says.
“Noah just recently surprised me (by turning up) at the premiere of XO, Kitty, which was really exciting. It means the world to have people to look up to and know I have their support.”
- XO, Kitty is available on Netflix.