Noah Centineo was just two steps from By Chloe, a fast-casual vegan restaurant on Lafayette Street in Manhattan, when he was recognised. “You went to Boca High, right?” said a brunette woman in her 20s, wearing a tank top and skirt. “Yeah,” Centineo said cautiously, looking up. “So did I,” the woman said, pulling out her earbuds. Turns out they had an acquaintance in common from their high school days in Florida. Centineo is used to being recognised these days, though not just for going to Boca High. As the 22-year-old star of the Netflix teen comedy To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, he sent the internet into a collective swoon last month, playing Peter Kavinsky, the jock with a heart of gold. Suddenly, he seemed to be everywhere. BuzzFeed found “22 Tweets About Peter Kavinsky That Are Thirstier Than You.” W Magazine called him the “internet’s newest boyfriend.” His Instagram following ballooned by millions in one month. Centineo swears it has not gone to his head. “It’s on a two-dimensional screen. It’s not like it’s really happening in real life,” he said, drinking a kale and spinach cold-pressed juice. “You start noticing your numbers and people start reaching out to you.” “That’s really been the surreal part of it,” he continued, “random people who I haven’t spoken with in years or people that I’m close with who are like, ‘Oh my God, you’re on my Instagram feed, you’re on my Twitter, you’re all over Tumblr.’” Centineo was in town from Los Angeles, where he lives, to promote his latest project for Netflix: Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, a gender-swapped, digital-age retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac set in a high school. He had back-to-back interviews, and to get out some of his abundant boyish energy, he suggested a stroll around Nolita, a neighbourhood that he tries to check out whenever he is in New York. But Centineo may not have been prepared for the triple-digit temperatures and sweat-inducing humidity. It was not even noon and already his tangle of dreamy curls was starting to droop. Faint pools of sweat appeared on his striped T-shirt and button-down, which he wore with chunky sneakers by Valentino. While Centineo is not new to the small screen (his TV credits include a 53-episode run on the progressive family drama The Fosters), To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before has been a career breakthrough. What is it like becoming a verified celebrity overnight? “It’s all of the above: It’s humbling, it’s inspiring and it’s really motivating,” he said, as he popped into Carre d’artistes, an affordable art gallery on Prince Street, for some robust air-conditioning. “I’ve been working for this for 14-plus years.” Centineo grew up near Palm Beach, Florida, where he got his start in community theatre. Local modelling gigs and commercials landed him an agent and bigger roles in Los Angeles. At a certain point, his agent said he had to move west if he wanted to continue. “That’s when I looked at my parents and was like, ‘Yo, I’m about it. If you move me there I’ll be successful. This is what I want to dedicate my life to,’” he said. Outside the gallery, Centineo noticed the corner traffic light and took its very presence as a dare. “Should I climb it?” he said, with a mischievous grin. Before receiving an answer, his 6-foot-2 frame was already clambering on top of a trash can. Centineo has not let fame dampen his wild, youthful charms. After his little stunt, he stumbled into the Elizabeth Street Garden, hoping to find shade. The collection of odd statues caught his interest, and he wound his way through overgrown pots of plants and circled a gazebo before spotting cover near a gardening shed. Shelter at last! Not once during two hours with a reporter did Centineo pull out his smartphone to check his Instagram or Snapchat, which is surprising for an actor who so convincingly plays a teenager living in a social-media-saturated world. He is no Luddite but is consciously trying to manage his tech intake. “The other day I went up to some dunes in Malibu and just turned off my phone for, like, eight hours,” he said. “I leave my phone in the car when I go hiking or when I’m at the gym.” As he made his way out of the garden, a timid young woman with dyed-blond hair stopped him and asked for a photo. Another Boca High alum? No, she had seen him on TV.