Anthony Keyvan plays Q in “XO, Kitty.”

Anthony Keyvan Is Hopeful for the Future

The “XO, Kitty” actor talks his new show, the future of the acting industry, and the importance of hopeful queer stories

Anthony Keyvan plays Q in “XO, Kitty.”

Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Words by Hayley Palmer

Mixed Asian Media: JoySauce is proud to present something very special—a partnership with the ultra talented team over at Mixed Asian Media. In JoySauce’s mission to cover stories from the Asian American and Pacific Islander diaspora, we’ve always considered it incredibly important to include mixed AA+PI perspectives. Since their team already has that piece on lock, we’re delighted they were willing to join forces to help us share even more fresh, funny, interesting, irreverent stories each week. Take it away, MAM!


Anthony Keyvan is no stranger to the teen drama. In his breakout role on Love, Victor he played Rahim, a character introduced in the second season to complete the main love triangle. In XO, Kitty, he plays Q, an American jock who quickly befriends our main character. The series follows To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’s Kitty Song Covey—now a junior in high school—as she travels to South Korea to attend the same school her mother did. The 10-episode series is a captivating combination of rom-com, K-drama, love triangles, twists, friendship, and self-discovery.

Keyvan sat down with me to discuss the show, Asian representation, and finally getting to play a character he identifies with.

The following interview contains slight spoilers for XO, Kitty.

Hayley Palmer: Tell me a bit about your background and what it was like for you growing up mixed Asian.
Anthony Keyvan: Big question, just hitting me with the hard ones! Growing up in Southern California, I was lucky to be in a place where it’s relatively diverse, so I never felt like I was missing that with my friends or anything. However, that didn’t necessarily translate in the industry. I started acting and modeling when I was 5 and I’m really happy to see where the industry has taken a turn these days. Whereas when I started out, there were a lot less opportunities for kids like me, especially ambiguous kids like me.

A lot of times I wouldn’t be considered for a part because I was too much of one or not enough of the other. So I definitely felt super unconfident a lot of the time, and I felt like I wasn’t good enough or white enough. A lot of the parts that I would go out for would say “open ethnicity” to kind of check a box. But then they would always go with a white person, or the [character’s] last name would be like, Johnson. So for someone like me, I just wouldn’t fit that image that the creatives were looking for.

But I’m really glad that I stuck it out because I feel like a lot of people would’ve given up because of how much rejection there is for people like us. But I’m really excited to see where the industry is going and to be on a show that [has] a fully AA+PI cast is just a dream come true. It’s something I never thought I would see, ever. And to be so young still and to be experiencing that is just such an honor and I can’t wait to continue telling these stories in the future.

From left, Anna Cathcart and Anthony Keyvan play Kitty and Q in “XO, Kitty.”

Park Young-Sol/Netflix

HP: In XO, Kitty, your character Q is half Iranian and half Filipino, just like yourself. What was it like for you to play a character like this
AK: The best way I can put it was, it was a breath of fresh air. I’m so used to looking a certain way, so I would go out for Latinx or Hispanic [roles] and I just knew deep down, I was like, “This is not right for me.” And you know, there were times I would book these parts where I even had to speak Spanish and pretend that I was something that I wasn’t. And I get that that’s what acting is. But I am a strong believer that these opportunities should be given to the correct people, the people who are able to bring this story to life authentically.

[For] my character, they were looking for someone ethnic, [but] weren’t completely tied down to a certain race or part of the world. And when I booked the part, I had a conversation with our showrunners and I was like, “I’d really love for my character to be like me.” And they were so open and ready to do that. So for the first time I played a Filipino and Iranian kid. There’s not many of us out there, but I hope this kind of representation can resonate with kids who have backgrounds from really different places that normally you would never see representation for. So it’s really special to me that I get to do that and I just really hope I get to continue doing that.

HP: Yeah, I think it’s really special how both Q’s and Kitty’s mixed backgrounds are touched on in subtle ways. I think your character mentions having family in the Philippines and Iran and there’s a line where Kitty walks into the cafeteria and someone’s like, “Is she half, is she just white?” It felt very authentic to me.
AK: I’m really glad that you said that. I’m happy it resonated with you.

HP:It definitely did. What do you think XO, Kitty brings to the genre of rom-coms or romantic dramas that’s new or unexpected?
AK: Oh my God, that it’s basically a K-drama at the same time! I’ve never seen something like this on TV where it perfectly balances that American YA [young adult] vibe with a whole K-drama vibe. It’s kind of cool and ingenious and I hope that it reads well because there’s not a lot to compare it to.

From left, Anthony Keyvan and Théo Augier Bonaventure as Q and Florian in “XO, Kitty.”

Netflix

HP: Did you draw any inspiration from existing characters—or even people that you know—to bring Q to life?
AK: Not necessarily. I feel like Q is very similar to me in a lot of ways, like how I would interact with my friends. So it was a lot of just drawing from my own personal high school memories. One difference though is I was the furthest thing from a jock, so it was definitely a different kind of thing for me to do. Honestly, Mason Gooding’s [character] on Love, Victor, I kind of channeled him as Andrew being like the jock, varsity, kind of douchey guy.

There are some moments where you’re like, “Shut up Q. We get it, you work out.” It wasn’t a lot of deep diving. It was more just remembering what it was like to be in high school and channeling those jocks that I was not, but I was around.

HP: Kitty is a self-proclaimed matchmaker and I read that you were a matchmaker of your own with your Student Body co-stars. Which character do you think you’re the most similar to and could it possibly be Kitty?
AK: [laughs] Oh my gosh. I feel like a lot of people would say I’m very similar to Min Ho because people think I’m fashion forward or whatever, and kind of like…snobbish. But I don’t know, I just like to be funny! I feel like I’m a lot like Q and I feel like I’m a lot like Kitty. I feel like I’m also a lot like Min Ho, so it’s hard to say like, if there was a BuzzFeed quiz, who I would fall into categorically. But I feel like there’s a lot of them in every one of us.

From left, Anna Cathcart and Anthony Keyvan as Kitty and Q in “XO, Kitty.”

Park Young-Sol/Netflix

Hayley: A nice combination. One thing I really like about XO, Kitty is that it has a very large cast of queer characters, all with varying experiences. And I really appreciated that their queerness was kind of unique to each of them. What do you think the significance is of having this wide array of stories shown on screen?
AK: Well, obviously we know everyone’s coming out story or story about being queer varies. Some people have to stay closeted for the sake of their families like Yuri, whereas Q is comfortable and is able to show himself out to the world and not make it a personality trait, that’s just who he is. And I think that’s also really important in normalizing queerness too. We’re so used to seeing these super traumatizing coming out stories—that, yes, in a lot of cases are true and resonate with a lot of people—but at the same time there are people who have different stories. And it’s kind of cool to see if you are a person in the closet who wants to come out, that it doesn’t have to be crazy and awful and traumatizing and scary. It could also be really supportive and beautiful. Kind of like what we see with Q and with Yuri as well. 

So I think it’s really cool that we have a variety of queer characters and [can see] their own journeys as queer people. Because again, everybody has a different story, so we get to touch on different versions of that.

HP: Definitely, that was a great answer. OK, this one’s just a fun question to end on. I really love that the titles of your two most recent projects are sign-offs, Love, Victor and XO, Kitty. So what would you like your sign-off to be for this interview?
AK: Come on, oh my gosh. That’s so hard! OK, how about…“Live, laugh, love, Anthony” [laughs].

HP: Oh good one, I love it. Well, thank you so much for talking to me. I’m very excited for the world to see XO, Kitty. I’ve been trying so hard to keep everything to myself since watching.
AK: Same here. I’ve been sitting on this for like a year!

HP: I know. I was thinking to myself, “How are the actors not telling everyone they know about this?”
AK: Oh, it was so hard. But [there were] a lot of emails from Netflix being like, “Don't spoil anything!”

You can catch Keyvan and the rest of the cast of XO, Kitty on Netflix now. And be sure to check out our interview with his co-star Anna Cathcart.

Published on June 19, 2023

Words by Hayley Palmer

Hayley Palmer is a student living on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. She spends her free time sitting around with friends, re-reading the same books, and playing ice hockey. Hayley makes all sorts of art, from digital illustration to photography to collages. You can find her work on Instagram @twohalftruths.