Anna Cathcart didn’t expect her character Kitty in Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before to explode the way it did. She had played the charismatic matchmaker for three films and it looks like Netflix couldn’t get enough of Kitty. Now Cathcart returns as the title character on her own series, X.O. Kitty.
Since the events of To All The Boys trilogy, Kitty has been yearning for the love of her life, Dae (Minyeong Choi), who lives all the way in Korea. Determined to be with him — and connect to her Korean roots — Kitty is accepted into the same boarding school Dae attends. Of course, not everything goes perfectly. During Kitty’s time at Korean Independent School of Seoul aka KISS, she deals with heartbreak, identity, and coming to terms with herself. When Cathcart was told Kitty was getting her own spin-off, she thought of the many possible ideas behind it.
“[I was hearing little snippets of [ideas],” Cathcart told The Nerds of Color. “It was always going to be Kitty going to international school. There were different locations that they were thinking about. I’m just excited to play this character again. It’s like seeing an old friend but also like catching up with somebody I haven’t seen in awhile.”
Kitty does go through the motions as she settles in her relationship with Dae and dealing with interesting characters that threaten that relationship — Yuri (Gia Kim) and Minho (Sang Heon Lee). Cathcart is excited for the relationship dynamics of the characters, but wants everyone to know she’ll always be Team Kitty.
“Kitty is going to choose to not choose,” Cathcart revealed. “She’s going to follow her heart and be with the person that feels right for her and is right for her which is something I love about Kitty. She’s not going to do something because someone else is pushing her. She’s going to do it because it feels right for her. So definitely team whatever Kitty feels is running.”
Cathcart tells us more about Kitty’s journey in love and identity and which YA trope she finds the most fascinating.
The Nerds of Color: The series takes a dive in what love is — romantic love, friendship love, self love. What kind of love is Kitty really looking for?
I think just love that feels true to her and love that feels authentic and real for what she wants in that moment, which I think is really special to see that she’s being honest with herself or trying her best to be honest with herself, even when it’s not easy. And to try to give yourself the space to figure out what love means to her and what that looks like in this time of her life, which she’s somebody at the start of this journey at the start of the series. She’s like, ‘I know love. I got it all figured out. It’s easy. I know it’s gonna be me and Dae forever.’ She’s very certain about that. And then, very quickly, everything gets turned upside down. So she’s really just learning what feels right to her. I’m very proud of her for allowing herself to be honest and figure out what’s true for herself.
Kitty is a teenager still figuring herself out and her sexuality as well. What were the discussions about Kitty’s sexuality?
We definitely want to make sure that Kitty was never apologizing for how she was feeling or for who she was. It’s something that’s really important [to me]. I’m really proud of how the show portrays the storyline and explores this type of love at this point in her life and her trying to figure it out. I think it’s also really important that she doesn’t have it figured out by the end. It’s not like she’s trying to explore this and she’s like, ‘Oh, I got it now. Like, I’m this label. This feels right to me.’ She doesn’t figure it out by the end of the series. She still [doesn’t] really know what’s going on — and that’s okay. That’s part of growing up and exploring who you are. It is that uncertainty and that’s what makes it so exciting and so beautiful. But I was really excited about this storyline as well in the way that it was handled.
Kitty also goes to Korea to figure out her mom’s story and her connection to that side of herself. With your mother being of Asian descent, how closely connected are you to this?
Growing up as somebody who’s mixed race and now getting to play a character who’s [also] mixed race — coming from a mixed race family — is super special. [It’s] really cool to see the impact that it’s had on other mixed race kids and families that I’ve met. [There are so many] different people who have watched the shows and have been impacted by the story and impacted by that specific type of representation, which is so special and really cool to see that. It affects people all over the world and people that sometimes I don’t get to always interact with those moments. It’s really eye-opening. I put it in perspective of how much this kind of story can reach people from all over which is really, really special. I definitely don’t take it lightly. It’s a very, very cool thing to get to be a part of.
To All The Boys told the story of Lara Jean and her life going to college and still being with Peter Kravinsky, what would you say is Kitty’s story?
Her story is really about finding who [out] she is. It’s love, not just in a romantic way but it’s love in all areas of her life. She’s learning about her mom more and that’s a really big reason for why she wanted to go to Korea and why she wanted to go to the school. She wanted to be in an environment that her mom was in so Kitty can firsthand get to learn about her mom. Also, to experience something on her own because she grew up learning about her mom from her sisters and through her dad. This is a really big part of her life and it’s really important to her at this stage of family love and the love of her mom. So I think her story is just about love in all areas and not just romantic.
There are so many relatable moments in this series — not just as a mixed-race person, but also being torn between being Asian and American [Canadian]. It’s interesting to see that experience that Kitty goes through where she’s Korean, but she’s also American. Did you feel any connection towards this story?
For sure. I grew up in Vancouver where there’s a [large] Asian population. My ethnicity has always been something I’ve celebrated. I felt very grateful to be part of such an amazing culture. I’m half Chinese and half white and getting to be part of both cultures is amazing. It feels like a superpower — which I know for me is something that was a privilege to have. I know for [some] other people, it wasn’t always the same experience for [them] to be accepted and feel welcomed and validated in your identity. But it was really interesting to see Kitty explore that a little bit more now that she’s in Korea and facing her culture in a new way. She’s learning about [the culture] and becoming involved in it and embracing it more head on, which is really special. She’s also a fish out of water and in a new environment that she’s not really in control of, which is rare for Kitty. In the movies, she was very in control of herself and very certain of her environment. So it was a very cool place to see her and figure out what that meant for her.
My favorite description of Kitty was that she’s aggressively perky. Are we going to see another side of Kitty going forward?
I think just the uncertainty that she has is new for her. [She has] to adapt and realizes that she doesn’t always have it figured out. She’s not used to that, but that ‘s okay. And [the] low moments of her feeling really sad and confused is just part of the process of growing up. That’s part of life. That’s what makes the highs so high because you have the lows as well. That whole process is definitely new for her. The brand new side of Kitty is really just feeling rock bottom at certain moments in the series, which was fun to explore that side of her and the multitudes of her depth. That’s definitely the biggest thing — her change of not being so confident and that perky and very sassy. She’s changing a little bit and learning how to grow up.
The series was inspired by K-Dramas, K-Pop, and K-culture, but still very American. What was something you looked forward to most in the series?
Getting to live in Korea for four months was a once in a lifetime opportunity. That was amazing. I feel like I got to go to KISS as well — going to an international school, [moving] far away from home, meeting new people, making new friends, and facing new challenges and having new life experiences the way Kitty did. Of course, in different ways but lots of parallels in that. I was just so excited to start this adventure in my own life alongside Kitty. It was so cool to get to embrace the new culture and learn so much about it and all the amazing food. The city was so beautiful.
There are a lot of loveable YA tropes in this story — enemies to lovers, the fake boyfriend, and many others. What would you say is your favorite?
I love the trope of people who’ve known each other for a really long time [and then eventually] dating. I do like “enemies to lovers” — that’s always fun to watch. I love the whole Minho thing. Weirdly, Minho in his own “enemies to lovers” thing and Yuri is its own “enemies to lovers.” It’s more of a love square than a triangle. There’s so many directions that it’s going. There’s a lot of fun tropes we got to play with. I can’t wait for people to see it.
The series has a lot of fun K-Pop songs on the soundtrack. What would you say is your go-to song — for karaoke or in general?
The cast loved going to karaoke, which was one of our favorite activities on the off days and after work. “Butter” by BTS was like a big one for karaoke. It’s so much fun. Everybody was dancing. [We had] core memories of karaoke.
X.O. Kitty is out now on Netflix.