Anthony Keyvan on Playing Q in “XO, Kitty,” Karaoke, and Season 2 Plot Dreams
Within the first few minutes of a Zoom call with XO, Kitty star Anthony Keyvan, he’s talking karaoke. The 22-year-old is thinking back to when he first arrived in South Korea to film the new Netflix series, adjusting to being in a brand new place where so many things felt different than life across an ocean in Los Angeles. But there was one major similarity that reminded him of home: the passion for the sacred art of singing songs at the top of your lungs as lyrics light up on an LED screen.
“They have a huge karaoke culture out there which is really cool. As a Filipino, karaoke stays on the TV all the time in my house,” he tells Teen Vogue. His go-to song? “We Belong Together” by Mariah Carey. Does he sound good? “Absolutely. I’m Filipino. We’re all good singers.”
In XO Kitty, Keyvan plays Q: track star, fellow American, heart of gold. The series brings back Kitty Song-Covey from the Jenny Han extended universe, whisking her away to an international school in South Korea where her misadventures of love and meddling continue. Keyvan’s Q is a bit of her rock, always bringing her back down to earth when Kitty gets her head lost in the clouds.
Related: XO, Kitty Star Sang Heon Lee on Playing Min Ho, K-Dramas, and That Kitty Love Triangle
Keyvan first found out about casting for the Netflix project while filming season 3 of his last role as Rahim in Love, Victor. Throughout work for the season, he was auditioning for XO, Kitty, sending in tapes, waiting for a few weeks, getting notes, sending in another tape, and more waiting — the great repeating cycle of being an actor. He brushed up on the To All the Boys movies for research, and for the record, he was team John Ambrose in P.S. I Still Love You. “I'm always going to root for the underdog,” he says. “But being on a show like Love, Victor I know the first love is always going to win in the end.”
Keyvan found out he reeled in the role of Q on his last day of Love, Victor and had 10 days to pack up and prepare before getting on the 13-hour plane ride to Korea. He spent most of the time in the air going over the scripts for episodes one to nine, getting to know his character. When he finally landed, it was a two-week isolation for COVID compliance, strict protocols that extended into when the cast was filming. The newcomers to Korea didn’t get to explore right away due to this, so they opted for nights in their hotel rooms goofing off and cooking wholesome family dinners for each other.
“Here’s me cooking a Greek yogurt chicken in a tiny little air fryer,” he says after scrolling through “13,000” photos on his camera roll and lifting the phone to his webcam so he can share. “I cooked spicy vodka pasta for the cast, and some of them had ever had it before, and that was my go-to meal during quarantine. I would just whip it up. They really enjoyed it, you can ask any of them. Trust and believe that they will say that it was amazing.”
It was the icing on the cake to work with a cast that got along so easily, since that’s not always the case with every project. But along with vibing well with one another, they all had the common goal of wanting to do great work together and make a finished project they were proud of.
“I think once you let go of that ego that's so easy to have in this industry, you can make really beautiful art,” he says. “So I think that's kind of what helped us out. Being isolated in another country together kind of forced us to love each other, but it was all for the best. I'm glad that it happened the way it did because we were able to work really well together.”
It was also a collaborative set where the writers were open to changes, one being updating the character of Q to reflect Keyvan’s own mixed race of being Filipino and Iranian. They were receptive to moments when Keyvan felt like a line wasn’t completely true to real life, so there were tweaks here and there. He shares that a lot of Q’s jokes were actually ones that he pitched and workshopped with the writers, landing on common ground that punched up the dialogue.
At the end of the first season, audiences are left on a classic cliffhanger of what Kitty will do: will she be receptive to Min Ho’s admission for feelings for her, or follow her own heart of falling for enemy-turned-potential lover Yuri? Keyvan says Q can’t personally choose between the two because of understandable friendship politics, but he has his own suggestion — a love triangle between Kitty, Yuri, and Juliana, Yuri’s once-banished boo that eventually makes her way back into the picture. And while most of season one follows Q’s relationship with fellow KISS student Florian and ends with a question mark of if they’ll work out following a cheating scandal (of the academic variety, not relationship), Keyvan hopes that a second season of XO, Kitty will show more of Q’s family dynamic and give him his own story.
“I feel like season one we saw a lot of Q kind of pushing forward the plot for the other characters. We always need characters like that to bring them down a little bit back down to earth, but I hope we get to see more of his own discovery of himself in a way,” he says. “We didn't get too deep with Q this season, so I hope Q gets to take some time and really focus and prioritize himself.”
Related: XO, Kitty Star Minyeong Choi on the Future of Dae & Kitty, Acting, and More
Bringing in Q’s parents would also bring more exposure to storylines about being mixed race, something that Keyvan has a personal stake in. He’s thrilled to see the shift in the industry, especially because growing up he’d get auditions for characters that he wasn’t authentically, but appeared to be to casting directors. Q was the first time he got to play a character that was 100% who he is ethnicity-wise.
“I didn't really get to see a lot of breakdowns that said Filipino-Iranian. A lot of times they would say open ethnicity to kind of check a diversity box, but they would always go with a white actor. I would see these open ethnicity breakdowns with a character named Robbie Johnson. And it's like, ‘Come on. I'm no Robbie Johnson,’” he says. “I am excited to see where things go and how my character is able to open doors hopefully for future shows or projects that can be like, ‘Yeah, maybe we do need a character like that. We see how this representation has resonated with people who are mixed race.’”
XO, Kitty puts a spotlight on Korean customs that Kitty gets to experience. As for any Filipino or Iranian ones that Anthony is particularly fond of?
“I mean karaoke, hello? I don't know how many times I have to mention it.”
Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue
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