Although “XO, Kitty” doesn’t include cameos from Lana Condor’s Lara Jean or Janel Parrish’s Margot as Kitty’s (Anna Cathcart) older sisters, the show still explores sibling relationships.
Kitty’s chemistry teacher Alex Finnerty (Peter Thurnwald) is Korean, but he was adopted by Australians. Her sisterly instincts kick in when she finds a hospital bracelet from a birth center with her mother’s name on it. She tracks down the baby’s records and, upon learning it was adopted by Australians, immediately assumes it’s Alex.
“We see her get very passionate about it and jump to conclusions just because she wants it to be real and she wants her theories to be accurate,” Anna Cathcart told TheWrap. “It brings out a different side of her, and [Alex] acts like a big brother — even if we find out he’s not really her brother, he still is that brother figure for her — which is really special and means a lot to her especially when she’s in this environment when she’s away from her family.”
Later on in the series, Alex reveals that he found out Professor Lee (Michael K. Lee) his father, which is why he came to teach at the Korean Independent School of Seoul. It takes Kitty some digging to realize that her mother Eve Song covered up for her friend Jina Lim, who is now principal at KISS, back when they went to school together and Jina got pregnant.
“It emphasizes the importance of family and that people want to figure out where they might come from or who they’ve grown up with and how that changes who they are now. I love how it also doesn’t go the way it’s expected, but he still learns from it and she still grows from it and still benefits from finding someone new that she can care for and someone new who loves her,” Cathcart said. “It’s just another point in the storyline that shows Kitty [that] she doesn’t always have the right answers, and she doesn’t have it all figured out, which is something in the movies she’s very confident in knowing too. [Kitty] definitely does everything with her full heart and full passion because she loves a lot. She impacts a lot of people at KISS and a lot of people in this journey. She figure[s] herself out while she’s helping other people figure themselves out. There’s a lot of parts of Kitty that I admire that hopefully can rub off on me.”
Descended from sister films, the “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” trilogy based on Jenny Han’s books, Cathcart helms the series all on her own versus sharing the spotlight with Lana Condor as main movie character Lara Jean Song Covey.
“This show has the magic of ‘To All the Boys’ in moments, but it definitely establishes a new world within the universe that we haven’t seen before, which is fun. Kitty is definitely different than she was. She’s in a brand new stage of her life, and many years have passed, but I wanted to try and make that spirit that Kitty has still shown and still there and still present,” Cathcart said. “I hope that that comes through, and in the themes of things being romanticized and love being at the core of of a lot of things — not just romantic love but love for her friends and love for her family — all that is definitely still a main value that comes through in the show.”
Similarly to Kitty’s study abroad, Cathcart just finished her first year at university in British Columbia, where she is studying sociology and creative writing.
“I think going to Korea was a perfect, new environment for [Kitty] to really explore who she is and what’s important to her and to figure out more about her mom’s past. And then just for herself and to learn more about who she is,” Cathcart said. “It’s a great environment as well because she’s somewhere brand new and she’s taking that step of independence that she’s never done before to meet new people and and try new things that kind of push yourself out of her comfort zone. I totally get how a new environment can bring out a new side of you.”
Creator Jenny Han sent Cathcart a whole list of K-dramas to watch in preparation for the tropes and elements of the genre that “XO, Kitty” would include, like the slow motion scenes and the lighting. An Korean tradition that Cathcart enjoyed incorporating was Chuseok, or a holiday similar to Thanksgiving in the family celebration time. The KISS expatriate students celebrate Chuseok in a play on Friendsgiving halfway through the season.
“Episode Five is definitely a favorite. There’s so many different dynamics that are explored in that episode. Min Ho and Kitty’s relationship kind of starts to make a turn, and they start becoming closer. Chuseok itself is something that I wasn’t familiar with,” Cathcart said. “I’m Chinese and we don’t celebrate that. So that was really fun to get to explore as well and learn about the culture and a new tradition.”
You can stream Episode 5 and the rest of “XO Kitty” on Netflix now.