Anna Cathcart hero-min

The Star of “XO, Kitty” Starts a New Chapter

The delightful Anna Cathcart discusses her new Netflix hit and revisiting her iconic “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” character after a few years

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!


In To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Anna Cathcart stole the show as Kitty Song Covey, Lara Jean’s witty kid sister whose antics set off the events of the original rom-com trilogy. Now it’s her turn to step into the spotlight. XO, Kitty follows our favorite matchmaker—now a high school junior—as she transfers to school in South Korea to surprise her long-distance boyfriend and learn more about her late mother who attended the same school. The 10-episode series is a captivating combination of rom-com, K-drama, love triangles, twists, friendship, and self-discovery.

We started off our Zoom call excitedly comparing our similarities (as half-Chinese 19-year-olds from Vancouver, British Columbia who even attend the same university) before remembering the whole point of our call. Cathcart proceeded to share with me the joys of growing up mixed Asian, how she’s navigated big life events alongside Kitty, and of course, her leading role.

The following interview contains slight spoilers for XO, Kitty.

Hayley Palmer: You and I are both from Vancouver—a place with a very large Asian population. I’ve always found my experiences really differ from mixed Asians in other areas. Can you tell me a bit about what it was like for you growing up in Vancouver?
Anna Cathcart: I definitely agree that my experience is very different from a lot of other mixed kids that I’ve talked to. I mean, Vancouver is just so diverse, but also has a really large Asian population. In my high school there were tons of halfies, and in my elementary school there were a lot of halfies, so I never felt out of place. Which is so incredible for me to look back now and realize [because] that wasn’t everybody’s experience and I was really lucky that I got that. It was really amazing that I’ve always felt very proud of my ethnicity and very proud of who I was, and like it was something to be celebrated.

Like in my elementary school, my mom would come in during Chinese New Year and talk about different traditions and we would make dumplings with everybody. That kind of stuff is so special to me, especially now looking back at it and realizing how impactful that was for me growing up. So I definitely was lucky to grow up in Vancouver and I love it and think it’s amazing how much of a community we have there.

HP: I also had that experience of celebrating Chinese New Year at my elementary school, which I never realized was unusual until I got a little older.
AC: Totally! Me too.

HP: In your career you’ve gotten to play a lot of characters that are explicitly (mixed) Asian, like Dizzy in Descendants, Zoe in Zoe Valentine, and Kitty of course. From talking to other mixed actors, it seems like it’s pretty unique to be able to do that. Can you tell me what it’s been like getting to play these characters?
AC: It is really special cause it’s really cool to see a mixed family or a mixed person on screen. And the most amazing moments are when I get to meet somebody who has been impacted by that and [tells me], “Oh my gosh, seeing that made a really big difference to me,” or, “It really affected me growing up,” or, “I feel seen and understood,” or, “Seeing one white parent trying to learn the culture and trying to teach their children about it [really impacted me],” like the way that Dan Covey does in the [To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before] movies. It is so special to see that it does impact people and affect people all over the world. It’s been very, very special to get to be a mixed kid playing a mixed kid.

Anna Cathcart (right) on the set of “XO, Kitty.”

Park Young-Sol/Netflix

HP: You’ve been playing Kitty for six years now. In XO, Kitty, she’s still the same optimistic kid we remember from the movies, but a little bit older and more mature. How has this character grown up with you and what was it like revisiting her after several years?
AC: I've kind of been comparing it to seeing an old friend that you haven’t seen for a few years. Parts of them are super familiar and you still know them and love them deep down, but there’s a bunch of new things about them that you have to relearn and [you have to] reintroduce yourself to this person.

There’s definitely parts of her where the spirit of Kitty is still there, but also she’s growing up and learning new things and learning what’s important to her, and those things keep shifting around as well. So that balance was very interesting. To me, it was just crazy that I’ve been playing a character now for longer than I would’ve expected, but also in a very different way. It’s in a new environment, in a whole new world, but still within the same universe. It’s a very unique experience and I would’ve never predicted it many years ago when I was auditioning for Kitty originally for the movie. Like, there’s no way I could have predicted this to happen. So it’s pretty crazy to look back at it!

From left, Sang Heon Lee and Anna Cathcart as Min Ho and Kitty in “XO, Kitty.”

Netflix

HP: This series is Kitty’s turn to tell her own story. Did this feel monumental to you, like a chance for you to go off on your own as well?
AC: Yeah, the timing paralleled my life because I was going to South Korea for the show, which was kind of like my international school too, moving away from home and meeting new people and [facing] new challenges.

But then also going to university within the same year was a major chance for me to learn independence and figure out what that means and figure out who I am a little bit more and show myself that I can do things that I haven’t done in the past and that I’m capable and that things that might have been scary to me in the past are now doable.

So all those core themes [that XO, Kitty explores] are very similar in my life. So it’s very, very monumental for sure to see a character go through it by my side. I feel lucky to have had a friend to hold hands with throughout this.

HP: Kitty was originally in Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before books, but there’s no source material for teenage Kitty. Did you find this more challenging or was it exciting to get to explore this new part of her?
AC: It’s in the same JCU as I like to call it: the Jenny Cinematic Universe. But also kind of in a new world within the universe, which was cool. I was just dying to see what they were gonna do with it, because I’d heard about the series for many, many years. And I didn’t know exactly where we were going or what was gonna happen. So when they first sent me the scripts it was so interesting to see everybody’s vision and what they had pictured for who Kitty is now.

So honestly as a fan, I was like, “I can’t wait to see where these characters are going. I can’t wait to see what happens in this world.”

From left, Anna Cathcart and Gia Kim as Kitty and Yuri in “XO, Kitty.”

Netflix

HP: One thing I talked to your co-star Anthony Keyvan about was that I really liked that XO, Kitty has a very large cast of queer characters and they all had varying experiences. Someone was discovering themselves throughout the series, someone was out to the whole school, and someone else was in a secret relationship. What do you think the significance is of having this wide array of experiences shown on screen?
AC: I think that it means so much to so many people to see various stories. And it’s not like the queer experience is all one blanket statement that everybody can relate to. There’s different storylines within our show that explore that and how it doesn’t look the same for everybody, which I think is something that can be really comforting for people to see. Because it can be really daunting if you see somebody following one path and yours looks different, or you might feel different from a friend and that can be scary as well. So it’s really cool to see different stages of that and different spaces that [the characters are] in.

I’m very proud of Kitty for being honest with herself and the people in her life. [I’m proud of her for] giving herself the space to figure it out and to also not have it figured out and to not blame herself for that and to never apologize for what’s going on or how she’s feeling. I think it’s a really special story. And I’m really happy that we portrayed it in that way and I can’t wait for people to see it. I hope they feel comfort in it. 

HP: Definitely. I am so excited to see everyone’s responses to the show, I think it’s going to be so exciting. It was so nice getting to talk to you.
AC: You too. Maybe I’ll see you on campus one day!

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

Published on June 12, 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.