Check Out ‘The Recruit’ on Netflix

'To All the Boys I've Loved Before' heartthrob Noah Centineo fills TV Week in on his tense, quirky CIA legal drama The Recruit

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before heartthrob Noah Centineo fills TV Week in on his tense, quirky CIA legal drama The Recruit

From Homeland to Tom Clancy’s Ryan-verse, the corridors of the CIA have become well-trodden ground in pop culture, but in The Recruit, our hero is a far cry from Carrie Mathison or Jack Ryan. In fact, fresh-out-of-law-school Owen Hendricks is far from a hero. Period.  

When the untraditional espionage series came to his attention, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before alum Noah Centineo was immediately drawn to the CIA newbie who makes a surprising discovery while plowing through mounds of junk mail sent to the agency. “The show opens with a letter of extortion. Someone who is in prison [Laura Haddock] claims to be a former asset for the CIA,” explains Centineo. “When Owen goes to meet her to vet whether her claims are true, it becomes apparent very quickly that they’re going to need each other. The probability of her releasing information if he does not get her out of prison means Owen has a gun to his head, and at the same time she needs him to get her out. That relationship becomes a vicious cycle.” The RecruitNetflixThe scenario would be complicated enough for a grizzled CIA veteran, but for a guy who’s on day two, it is near comical. “I think everyone can relate to it—even though it’s the CIA—through the scope of someone entering their first job in life,” says Centineo. “And it’s a pretty cool lens into the CIA. He’s able to look at problems that are thrown at him from a very fresh perspective, so there are pros. But there’s an indefinite amount of cons that come with it.” The RecruitNetflixWritten by The Rookie creator Alexi Hawley, Centineo loved the tone of the script. “It walks the line of comedic and dramatic very well, in a way that Alexi wrote uniquely,” he says. “And I loved the character of Owen, a fish out of water learning the tricks of the trade and how to get his footing.” At Langley, Owen quickly discovers that the work environment is an aggressive game of musical chairs, and—at least in the beginning—it seems like Owen is the one who will soon be left without a seat. “Everybody’s hamstringing the person next to them to get a chair,” he says. “The dangerous part about it is that everybody’s looking for a scapegoat, and if you’re not careful, you will become the scapegoat of everyone else’s case.” 

And while Owen has signed up for document discovery, not dangerous missions, he nonetheless soon finds himself dodging bullets. “He falls into the world of espionage and keeps saying, ‘I’m just a lawyer,’ ” Centineo explains. “That really gets tested.” Luckily for the actor, he had legendary action director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) holding his hand through the process. “Doug is an incredibly talented director, but also camera operator, and that was something that I did not know about him before we started working together,” says Centineo. “There are scenes where I end up in a body of water and we both actually got in that water together in the wintertime. He was in a full wetsuit and I was in a suit and a wetsuit underneath. It was just amazing. He’s not someone who’s afraid of really leaning into what’s necessary to get the job done.” The RecruitNetflixThe show is action-packed but because Owen, as a character, is no 007, Centineo didn’t have to look like one either. “He’s never trained for that. He didn’t want to train for that. He’s not generally a violent person at all, so it wasn’t like I needed to look badass for this role—quite the opposite,” says the actor for whom diving into the action sequences—sometimes literally—was a joy. “I love it. I like big stunts. I like falling, taking hits. I like being thrown. It’s all very fun and it’s high intensity and stunt guys are awesome,” he says.  The RecruitNetflixYet equally, for Centineo, the appeal of The Recruit was graduating from his high school roles and into intellectually meatier characters, dealing with inner conflict. “His father died overseas serving in the military, and I think Owen, having an aversion to picking up a weapon and following his father’s footsteps, still felt the need to be closer to his dad and to maybe even serve his country, in a way. It’s a very personal thing to go to the CIA,” the actor explains. “And I like how he’s got a resilience to him and is somehow able to compose himself despite the challenges that are presented to him. At first you’re like, ‘How did this guy get this job?’ And then you start to realize, ‘Oh, OK, he does have a little bit of ability… but he’s also way in over his head.”  

The Recruit is streaming on Netflix