In the new To All The Boys spinoff series, Kitty is "thrown upside down into this whole new world that she was not expecting to find in Korea," Cathcart tells PEOPLE
Warning: This post contains spoilers from season 1 of Netflix's XO, Kitty.
In a new spinoff series from the world of Jenny Han's To All The Boys I've Loved Before, Cathcart resumes her fan-favorite role of little sister Kitty Song Covey, but gone are the days where she focused her efforts on the blossoming relationship between her older sister Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and boyfriend, Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo).
Now, Kitty's all grown up. She's 16, on the cusp of her sophomore year of high school, and she's got her own love life to worry about.
After months of frustration dealing with distance in her relationship with Dae (Minyeong Choi) — who she met while on a family trip to South Korea in 2021's To All the Boys: Always and Forever — Kitty decides to take a leap of faith: she applies, and gets accepted, to KISS, the Korean Independent School of Seoul, where Dae attends. As fate would have it, KISS also happens to be the school she discovers her late mom attended during her own year abroad.
As she arrives in Seoul, ready to surprise Dae at the KISS back-to-school party, she's as self-assured as ever.
"Kitty definitely feels like she fully knows what's up," Cathcart, 19, tells PEOPLE of her character's relationship in this week's issue. "She's like, 'It's us forever. It's us for life. It's just gonna be me and you. We're gonna get married. I know love. This is it. It's great.' She's very decided on that."
What she doesn't expect, though, is for Dae to have a surprise of his own: a secret girlfriend that's none other than a beautiful and wealthy socialite known nationwide, Yuri (Gia Kim).
"Immediately when she gets there, within seconds after she sees [Dae], that's all kind of thrown out the window," Cathcart says. "And she's thrown upside down into this whole new world that she was not expecting to find in Korea."
Though she eventually learns that Dae's supposed affair is not exactly what it looks like, the 10-episode series sees Kitty juggle a plethora of surprises that, rightly so, feel life-altering — perhaps none more so than her realization that she might have romantic feelings for someone else.
That surprise is amplified as she comes to terms with the fact that her potential new crush is Yuri – the girl Dae has been dating.
The unexpected romantic storyline that emerges between Kitty and Yuri is something that Cathcart says she's "very proud of."
"She's learning to be honest with herself and be honest with the people around her," the Canadian actress says. "Which is something that's very difficult to do in many situations, at many stages of your life — but especially while you're growing up, and when you're in high school, and when there's so many different pressures and different things that are overwhelming."
For Kitty to not only honor her feelings, but to "be accepted by the people that she loves" when she reveals them, is something that Cathcart says is "so special to see" play out on screen.
"I'm really excited that we explore that type of storyline, and that we have that form of representation in our show."
In a particularly poignant scene in the season's final episode, Kitty seeks comfort in her dad (John Corbett) as she opens up about her newfound crush, admitting she's unsure about what kind of label to give her sexuality.
That scene, which Cathcart describes as a "big, monumentous moment" for the character, sees Kitty's dad remind her of the strength in vulnerability. "What she's doing is strong, and does take a lot of courage."
The ambiguousness of the conversation was another purposeful move by the show's creators.
"By the end of it, she doesn't have an answer, like, 'Oh, this makes sense to me. I like Yuri, and it means this, or this label feels right with me,'" Cathcart says. "She doesn't have it all matched and fit perfectly, which is also something that I really like about it — is that it is so uncertain, and she's learning to be okay with it and know that's kind of part of the journey and part of what makes it real."
She adds, "That's what so many different people go through in their own lives as well, so I hope they can find comfort in seeing Kitty go through that."
What begins as a trip largely underscored by Kitty's frustration with her long-distance relationship turns into a months-long journey that sees the high school sophomore explore her family's culture and identity — as well as come to define her own.
"I think it's cool that it wasn't just focused on purely her love life," Cathcart says of the series' deeper storylines. "It's not always just about that. There's so much more to Kitty, and so much more to her story and her life."
She adds, "I think it's cool just to show that a lot of types of love are important to her, even family love."
By the end of the season, Kitty goes from lovestruck — tunnel vision on Dae alone — to juggling three potential love interests.
"She's been exposed to a whole other world that she's like, 'Love is so many more things than I might have thought it could be, and with so many more people than it could have been,' and just possibilities are opening in front of her eyes," Cathcart says of the season's cliffhanger, which she calls a "very fun twist."
"I love that scene. I was freaking out when I was reading the script," she teases of the declaration of love her roommate/frenemy Min Ho (Sang Heon Lee) unexpectedly delivers while seated beside Kitty on her flight home. "I know that Kitty definitely did not expect it. It wasn't something that she had on her mind, and going into the season at the very, very start, it was Dae and only Dae and he's the only one. And now there's so much more to explore."
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XO, Kitty is now streaming on Netflix.
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