Warning: Spoilers below for The Perfect Date.
Does something feel familiar about The Perfect Date? Well, here’s a little story. The Netflix rom-com’s star Laura Marano played Ally Dawson in Disney Channel’s Austin & Ally. Ally, a sweet and soft-spoken songwriter, was simply too shy to share her music with others, so she collaborated with singer Austin Moon to make their music dreams come true. Voilà—tween TV magic!
Little did Marano know that when she took the part, she would meet a pre-To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Noah Centineo on set. On the first season of the show, Centineo played Dallas, Ally’s crush, for three episodes. Seven years on, the two cross paths again as love interests in The Perfect Date. Marano plays Celia Lieberman, an unaffected, sarcastic teenager. Centineo’s character, Brooks Rattigan (that name!), is a classmate she hires to be her “perfect date”—for a price.
Marano spoke with ELLE.com about Celia and Brooks’ “friends first” relationship, Jennifer Lawrence’s surprising influence on the role, and the failed prank she tried to pull off with Centineo.
What drew you to audition for the part of Celia?
I’ve never really played a character like Celia before. I think she’s really funny and witty and I love that she takes control of her destiny. She’s very confident in her uniqueness. She’s flawed, she definitely has insecurities, and she’s still a human being, but I love that at the end of the day, she loves who she is and she’s going to be who she is no matter what. I also love that she, at the end, made the grand romantic gesture. You don’t usually see the female characters in rom-coms making the romantic gestures. I loved it.
Are you like Celia?
I do have a sarcastic sense of humor that only comes out with a few people, but it was fun having a character that likes having sarcasm as her first language. I think I’m definitely more diplomatic than Celia is. Celia just instantly says what is on her mind. It’s always in a funny and witty way, but it can be a little dark and bitter. I always bring a little bit of myself into the characters that I play. On the surface I felt like Celia and I were different, but the more I got to play her, the more I kind of got to be her. We became one.
What were some steps that you took to prepare to play her?
I watched a bunch of Jennifer Lawrence interviews and got into character by watching Jennifer Lawrence. On the days that we were filming, I felt like it actually became quite easy for me to kind of step into her shoes and be her.
How does she differ from the typical rom-com heroine?
Honesty is such a huge part of Celia and part of the film’s message. The characters that end up being together are very honest with each other. So many rom-coms that I love and are dear to me have a heroine that might be hiding something. Everything is just out in the open between Brooks and Celia. One of the things I took note of when I was reading the script was that even though it showed their character flaws, honesty was never an issue between Brooks and Celia.
What was it like reuniting with Noah for The Perfect Date? What was your reaction when you found out you’d be working alongside him?
Noah was part of the project from the beginning. I hadn’t worked with Noah in a while or seen him in a long time, so I was super excited that we were going to work together again. He’s the same lovely, wonderful boy that he was when he was fifteen. He’s obviously more mature now, so we got closer in a way where we had intense conversations about our lives and the world.
Were there any memorable moments between you and Noah while filming on set?
We once snuck into our production office at 2 A.M. because we were convinced it was haunted. We’re also the worst pranksters, but we decided to pull a prank where we put a chair on top of a table and we were like, “Oh, they’re going to be so freaked out, they’re going to think it was a ghost.” And then no one ever said anything. We were like, “Wow, we’re legitimately the worst pranksters…well done.”
What was it like having to film the scene where Celia slaps Brooks?
It was my last scene in the movie and my last day of filming. I was already so emotional and sad because of that. But for that part, Noah suggested I actually slap him so it looked real. We filmed it a few times, but there was one particular time that it was a pretty intense slap and Noah was getting red in the cheek. I was like, “Guys, this is not a good idea!” Noah is just such a sweet, easy-going guy, so he said, “No, we’re fine!” but I could tell after a while he was like “Maybe we’re done with this part, because it’s hurting a little bit.”
Some fans of the film refer to Brooks Rattigan by his full name. Was this true for when you on set?
The names just felt like full complete names, so we’d say Brooks Rattigan and Celia Lieberman all the time throughout the shoot. Sometimes, we would improv the names into our dialogue and there was a certain point when the director would say, “Hey, maybe just say each other’s first names because it’s kind of sounding like a lot,” and we would start laughing. Brooks Rattigan does sound like such a complete name that holds a bit of weight, like it could be a president’s name. I think in a weird way, it added so much pressure to Brooks.
What do you imagine will happen to Celia and Brooks after they go to college?
Brooks and Celia solidify the relationship in a time when a lot of high-school relationships end, because college is around [the corner] and it would be long-distance. I’d like to think that they could try to work it out. At the end of the day, relationships are strongest when there’s a space for friendship, and that’s exactly what Celia and Brooks have. They were friends first and developed a really strong space of just loving to talk to each other.
How did your songs “Lie to Me” and “A Little Closer” end up on the film’s soundtrack?
I wrote “A Little Closer” specifically for the movie. I sent over a demo to the producer and she really loved it. I also sent them “Lie to Me” a few months after. I was using it for my personal project [Marano’s Me EP] and I realized the lyrics worked perfectly for the movie. After Netflix bought the film, they said “Hey, we’d love to use ‘Lie to Me’ if you’re down?” I said, “Yeah! Of course, I’d love that.”
The Perfect Date is streaming on Netflix now.