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Leo Woodall Felt 'Protective' Over Playboy Character Filming Netflix's “One Day”: 'Serious Responsibility' (Exclusive)

The 'White Lotus' star tells PEOPLE how he and costar Ambika Mod broke the ice to tell this "beautiful" decades-spanning love story anew

<p>Teddy Cavendish/Netflix</p> Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall in

Teddy Cavendish/Netflix

Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall in 'One Day'

It wasn't the first time Leo Woodall was tasked with creating chemistry on the screen, but One Day just felt different.

The White Lotus star, 27, tells PEOPLE that he quickly found himself "very intrigued" by Netflix’s new TV series, which is an adaptation of David Nicholls’ 2009 novel.

“There was a real vulnerability deep inside this character, where the face of him is [a] confident, privileged, golden boy, and I think digging deeper into him, there was a lot of fragility and vulnerability,” he says of his character, affluent Oxford playboy Dex.

“I felt a lot of empathy for him. I felt quite protective of him once I started to get closer to the role,” he continues. “And I also just think it was a beautiful story.”

Related: One Day Review: The White Lotus's Leo Woodall and Ambika Mod Star in a New Romantic Classic

<p>Ludovic Robert/Netflix</p> Ambika Mod as Emma & Leo Woodall as Dexter in 'One Day'

Ludovic Robert/Netflix

Ambika Mod as Emma & Leo Woodall as Dexter in 'One Day'

The story, which previously played out on screen in an Anne Hathaway-led 2011 film, sees a transformative chance meeting on Dex and Emma’s (Ambika Mod) final night at Oxford change their lives. After spending the night together — half romantically, per Dex, half platonically, per Emma — the trajectory of both of their lives change completely, and they spend the next two decades reuniting on the same day every year, tracing hardships and successes, and alternating between denying their chemistry and accepting it.

“I think there was definitely a serious responsibility that me and Ambika both felt to tell their stories,” he admits, noting that Dex and Emma’s story “already meant so much to fans of the book.”

It “definitely was different” than his romance onscreen in The White Lotus, which saw sparks fly between his character, cocky Essex boy Jack, and Haley Lu Richardson’s Portia, the floundering assistant to Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge).

Working on the Mike White hit series alongside Coolidge, Richardson and stars like Michael Imperioli, Theo James and Aubrey Plaza was "one of the best times ever," he says. "A lot of it was kinda just one big holiday."

<p>Ludovic Robert/Netflix</p> Leo Woodall in 'One Day'

Ludovic Robert/Netflix

Leo Woodall in 'One Day'

It also brought some real-life love into his life, as he and costar Meghann Fahy's relationship sprouted from their time spent together in Sicily filming the show. Neither Woodall nor Fahy, 33, have confirmed their relationship status publicly, but they had an adorable — and cuddly — date night together at the 2023 Emmys in January.

Nights like that — where much of the cast is reunited — are "definitely a rarity," he says. "And it was really fun."

Related: The Best Shows on Netflix to Stream Now

For One Day, he broke the ice with Mod, 29, in a classically English way — over gin and tonics at lunchtime.

“It happened quite organically,” he says of their chemistry. “And then by the time we'd started filming, it was maybe two weeks [later] or something, we'd clicked a bit more and we were getting more comfy with each other.”

He continued of his and Mod's bond, “We knew it was going to be a long road and we were going to have to lean on each other. And that was a great support network, I think."

<p>Netflix</p> Ambika Mod as Emma & Leo Woodall as Dexter in 'One Day'

Netflix

Ambika Mod as Emma & Leo Woodall as Dexter in 'One Day'

Woodall admits he’s “a sucker for a nineties romcom,” so it makes sense that his “favorite day” for Dex and Emma — between their meeting in 1988 and the show’s conclusion in 2007 — is when they’re finally content.

“When everything is just good and — spoiler alert! — they're happy,” he shares. “That was very nice. There was no real drama for a minute. They weren't falling out, they weren't in different head spaces. That was very sweet to film.”

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One Day is now streaming on Netflix.

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