'XO, Kitty': Canadian Netflix star Anna Cathcart leads loveable show, embracing Korean drama genre
The "To All The Boys I've Loved Before" spinoff follows fan-favourite character Kitty Song Cove to Seoul as she explores teenage love
Starring Canadian actor Anna Cathcart, the To All The Boys I've Loved Before spinoff XO, Kitty (now on Netflix) has quickly become one of the most adorable, charming and heartfelt new shows to watch, also starring Sang Heon Lee, Minyeong Choi, Anthony Keyvan and Gia Kim.
The story centres around Kitty Song Cove (Cathcart). Our favourite teen matchmaker is now 16 and instead of putting her focus on her older sister Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and Lara's boyfriend Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), Kitty's prioritizing her own romantic life.
Kitty's boyfriend Dae (Minyeong Choi) is in South Korea and the distance is getting to be too much for her. So Kitty has a plan, she applied and got accepted to the Korean Independent School of Seoul (KISS), where Dae is enrolled and the school Kitty's late mother also attended.
Convincing her father and stepmom to let her spend a year abroad, Kitty has two core goals. Firstly, she wants to have a shared experience with her late mother. But Kitty also doesn't want to have "virgin" lips anymore, expecting to have her first kiss with Dae when she arrives.
As you may expect, things don't go according to plan. While Kitty thought she'd run into Dae's arms and their love story would continue, she's shocked to find out that Dae actually has (another) girlfriend at KISS, Yuri (Gia Kim). Yuri isn't just a student at KISS, she is incredibly popular, her father is a wealthy hotelier and her mother is the principle of the school.
“It's been an honour to get to come back to this character and to kind of have her story be shown this time,” Cathcart told Yahoo Canada. “Now we're seeing her dynamic with her world and with her friends and her love life, and it's her own stakes, which I think is also different for her.”
“She's very used to pushing her sisters into things and feeling very confident, and very in control. For the first time now, she's maybe not so confident and things are shaking up around her in ways she didn't expect. So it's a very new environment for her to figure out and for me as an actor to come back to this character was so much fun. It's like seeing an old friend, … But it's also you at a different time of your life. So I need to relearn you in different ways as well.”
In the midst of this complex love triangle are Dae's friends Q (Anthony Keyvan) and Min Ho (Sang Heon Lee), and they completely have opposite relationships with Kitty. Q and Kitty start a friendship, particularly when she uses her matching skills with a boy Q has his eye on, while Min Ho and Kitty initially completely clash as opposites.
Throughout the season, many of the characters in XO, Kitty are effortlessly switching back and forth between Korean and English, and the show was filmed in Seoul. It also taps into the notable patterns of increasingly popular Korean dramas where it can oftentimes be classified as corny or overly dramatic, but there's something so enticing about the twists and turns in a K-drama, just like XO, Kitty is able to achieve.
While this this is certainly a young adult-targeted series, don't be turned off. There's a charm to XO, Kitty that extends beyond age as your emotions and pushed and pulled between happy laughter and absolutely heartbreaking reveals.
“The fact that I would be filming in Seoul was really exciting for me,” Anthony Keyvan said about what drew him to the series. “I'm so used to filming in Vancouver, Atlanta, Los Angeles, so it was kind of a no brainer for me.”
“I felt like this was such a once in a lifetime opportunity to come out and do something like this. I love the [young adult] space, so I was really happy to be on a show like this one. I also love that it is an entirely API [Asian and Pacific Islander] cast, and that was really what drew me to the show and wanting to be a part of it.”
'It was a life or death situation for her'
One of the most compelling and emotional dramas in XO, Kitty is Yuri's storyline, executed by the captivating Gia Kim.
As we learn in the show, Yuri's relationship with Dae is all to appease her parents and the public, because she's really in love with Juliana (Regan Aliyah). Yuri and Juliana used to be schoolmates who sparked a romantic connection, but Juliana gets sent to another school after inklings of this relationship became apparent their parents.
Throughout the 10 episodes we see Yuri struggle with trying to hide who she is, hide this relationship she's established with Juliana.
"I think I had to make it a life or death situation because it was a life or death situation for her, because Juliana is her only source of happiness in her life," Kim said. "The only time she's not crying, or actually when she's happy, ... is when she's with Juliana."
"Without her [Yuri's] just pretending to be OK. She's flashy. She has it all. But inside, she's really unhappy. It just made me really feel for her because she is supposed to have everything, everyone thinks she's has it all, but really all she wants is not available to her, and she's not allowed to have that. I think that's why there's that breaking point that she has with her mom and she really is like, 'I can't do this anymore.' I think all of the drama that led up to it was what made the tipping point."
'Everyone can feel lost'
Canadians, in particular, should certainly celebrate the immense talent that is Vancouver's Cathcart, leading this series as the spunky teen Kitty that you can't help but fall in love with.
Something we learned about the Canadian star is that she loves her Tim Horton's and misses it when she's away, specifically a Tim Hortons cold brew. But don't even think about comparing Timbits to Dunkin' Munchkins donut holes.
"I am a very big fan of Timmies, I feel like it's like part of your Canadian blood," Cathcart said.
"There's so many things that [I'm just so excited about] when I come home that I'm like, 'I'm back home. I'm back home in Vancouver. I need to go back and feel at home.'"
Anna Cathcart is absolutely lovely, and she clearly loves her @TimHortons. Fun moment when her #XOKitty co-star Anthony Keyvan tries to compare it to Dunkin'. @Netflix_CA pic.twitter.com/55FBUHmQVf
— Elisabetta (@Elisabetta_B) May 19, 2023
One of the great things about XO, Kitty, evident in Cathcart's portrayal of the lead character, is that the series allows teens to have flaws, like real teens. It's now a show where everything works out for everyone, or there's this facade that these 16-year-olds are really able to figure things out.
“They're so full of truth in the sense that teenagers don't have it all figured out all the time,” Keyvan said. “We see so many of these shows where we portray like 'perfect teenagers' and a lot of us are extremely flawed, a lot of us are still figuring everything out.”
“I think our show does a good job at showing, no matter where you're from or what your background might be, what your family is like, at the root of it everyone can feel lost, and can feel scared and overwhelmed when they're on their own journey of figuring out what's important to them,” Cathcart added. “Who they are and what that means, and how they want to present themselves to the world and all of that can feel a lot sometimes, but I think they're learning."
"Kitty, especially by the end of the season, she's learning that, that's kind of part of the experience. Part of the beauty of growing up is that uncertainty and that you don't know what's going to happen next, and that's OK. That is also something that I really hope people can take from the show too, because a lot of times the anxiety of not knowing is debilitating, but it's OK to feel that. That's so normal. I want people to know that this is all so normal.”