“Black Adam” Star Noah Centineo’s Superhuman Leap

After starring in popular high school rom-coms, Noah Centineo was catnip to millions of teenage fans. Now he’s starring with “The Rock” in one of the year’s most-anticipated superhero movies
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In Black Adam, the Warner Bros. would-be franchise-starter opening October 21, Noah Centineo stars opposite Dwayne Johnson as a DC Comics character called the Atom Smasher. His unique superpower? He can become any size he wants.

How appropriate. Because that happens to be precisely the position the 26-year-old model-slash-actor finds himself in at the moment. With 16.5 million Instagram followers—mostly  young, adoring women—and a résumé that includes Calvin Klein underwear ads as well as central role in the wildly popular 2018 Netflix high school rom-com To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Centineo is poised to become as huge as he wants to be.

And what he wants, it seems, is to make the superhuman leap from teen heartthrob to grown-up, big-screen action hero.

“Just the size and scope of it!” he marvels at his part in the $200 million tentpole production, in which, along with “The Rock,” he costars with Pierce Brosnan, Jennifer Holland, and Sarah Shahi. “It’s wild!”

With Lana Condor in 2018’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.

Centineo is on the phone from his home in Los Angeles, but he grew up in Florida, first in Boca Raton, then Boynton Beach. He caught the acting bug early on, despite some initial reluctance. When he was just eight years old, he tagged along with his older sister to a talent agency in West Palm Beach and ended up auditioning.

“They said, ‘We think you’d be really good at this,’ ” he remembers. “So I tried.”

Turns out he was good. At 13, in 2009, he landed his first major role, in a family film called The Gold Retrievers. He followed that up with some minor ones, delivering mostly one-liners in episodes of Disney sitcoms like Austin & Ally and Shake It Up. But it was enough to convince his parents to move the family to Los Angeles, where Centineo began pursuing acting more seriously—although with not a whole lot more luck. At least not initially.

“Months of auditioning two or three times a day, getting zero callbacks,” he says, describing his early days.

Noah Centineo as Atom Smasher in this fall’s Black Adam

Finally, in 2017, just when he was thinking of giving up acting, he got his big break, landing the role of popular boy Peter Kavinsky in To All the Boys and, later, its two sequels. Suddenly, he was a hit with teenage girls, with Instagram numbers to prove it (at one point, he was accumulating a million new followers a day).

It’s not surprising that Warner Bros. would want Centineo for Black Adam; the studio was undoubtedly hoping to lure some of his teen girl fan base to a genre stereotypically reserved for teen boys. But to fit the part, Centineo needed something of a makeover. For starters, he had to bulk up, although, he admits, some of his muscle tone in the film was added with computer graphics in postproduction. He also logged hours with Andy Serkis—the motion-capture actor who brought Gollum to life in The Lord of the Rings—honing his green-screen chops.

Will it be enough? Can Centineo make the treacherous jump from teen idol to action figure? Even he sounds a bit uncertain, if cautiously optimistic. “I think people are going to have to watch the film first,” he says of his chances, “and see if they accept me.”

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This story is featured in the October 2022 issue of Los Angeles