Noah Centineo moves away from rom-coms with ‘The Recruit’

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Actor Noah Centineo, star of the Netflix series “The Recruit,” poses for a portrait at the International Spy Museum in Washington on Dec. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

There’s a moment in the new Netflix series “ The Recruit,” starring Noah Centineo, when his character, Owen, finds himself in the middle of a shootout.

As he ducks from a hail of bullets, Owen recognizes one of the people working for the other side as a woman he met in a bar. He momentarily forgets about the life-threatening situation at hand and gives a small wave of acknowledgement to her. The woman responds by shooting at him. How rude!

It’s moments like these that make “The Recruit” an atypical CIA drama. Yes, Centineo’s Owen is a CIA employee who finds himself in the field à la Jack Ryan, but instead of immediately knowing what to do and how to defend himself, this CIA employee is an attorney who is immediately in over his head.

“That’s a differentiation between our show, ‘The Recruit’ and many other spy genre shows and films,” said Centineo. “Usually, the lead is an accomplished spy, you know, someone that is very experienced and very good at what they do.” Owen, he says, is “fresh out of law school.”

“The Recruit” is created by Alexi Hawley, the showrunner behind high stakes, fish-out-of-water network TV shows “Castle” and “The Rookie,” both starring Nathan Fillion.

“I have said from the beginning that the second he gets good at his job, I’m not interested,” said Hawley of Owen.

Far from doltish, Owen is a confident lawyer, quick on his feet, and probably could be an accomplished spy, if that’s what he was trained to do. The series begins on his first day on the job at the CIA where he’s tasked with grunt work but discovers a credible blackmail threat against the agency by a former asset (played by Laura Haddock). His boss tells him to investigate, and Owen’s baptism by fire begins.

“I love that Owen’s constantly trying to take all the information that’s being thrown at him and wield it as a weapon to keep himself alive, because if he wasn’t as smart as he is, he would have been dead,” said Centineo.

The role is a fitting one for the actor, who is best-known as the loveable jock Peter Kavinsky in the “To All the Boys” YA film franchise starring Lana Condor. He most recently was seen in “Black Adam,” starring Dwayne Johnson. Centineo excels at loveable, and while Owen is also charming, he’s also more nuanced.

“It was centered around a 24-year-old guy, and how many of those kinds of actors are out there who mean something? And (Noah) is one of them,” Hawley said. “So, of course, you’re like, ‘We’re never going to get him. How are we going to get him? Like, he’s so busy.’ And, you know, ultimately he really responded to the script, and he dove in all the way. … I knew he was great, but he was better than I ever could have imagined.”

Centineo also signed on as an executive producer, giving him an education that he describes as a “masterclass.”

“Actors are shielded from a lot of the minutiae, a lot of the problem-solving necessary, a lot of the behind-the-scenes escapades and mechanisms that occur to ensure that a project is filmed, edited and put forth. And for me, I wanted to be subsumed with it,” Centineo said. “I wanted to know everything. I wanted to learn everything. I wanted to kind of soak in as much as I possibly could.”

The eight-episode first season of “The Recruit” is now streaming on Netflix. And Centineo has already begun thinking about Owen’s future challenges.

“I think I want to see him continue to get more and more comfortable, while also increasing the stakes and making the pond deeper and deeper because I think that’s what this world can be like. Right behind one door lies another and ad nauseum. That’s terrifying.”

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