We’ve all been guilty of going to MTV for mindless entertainment like “Jersey Shore” or more fantasy like the hunky werewolves on “Teen Wolf” but a new series debuting this week reminds us that the still young-at-heart network can also deliver a strong message even when it does so in a pretty package.
TV viewers, I give you “Faking It.”
On the surface, the new half hour comedy, which premieres Tuesday night at 10:30pm, has a good looking crop of girls and guys as high school students in Texas where being anything but the norm is a good thing and boosts those important levels of popularity. That’s why when BFFs Karma (Katie Stevens) and Amy (Rita Volk) are mistaken for a lesbian couple, they decide to ‘fake it’ and, just as they thought, their cred at their school escalates fast.
But, thankfully, there’s much, more more than that potentially offensive conceit which holds one major element — it’s not offensive at all but, instead, very smart while also very entertaining and relatable.
Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of reasons to jump into ‘Faking it’ for pure laughs. There’s the snippy Lauren (Bailey Buntain), who isn’t homophobic but just doesn’t want these two girls to have more social power than she does. Or sexy horn dog Liam (Gregg Sulkin), who desires Karma (at least initially) for the conquest of nailing a lesbian. Then there’s Liam’s own BFF, the out and proud Shane (Michael J. Willett), who rules the roost with less an iron fist and more with helping Karma and Amy accept who they are (or might be) while throwing a house party.
Very much like the manner in which celebs can come out of the closet now and it’s no longer headline news or even something that actually surprises us, the show acknowledges that being out may be easier to do now than ever before but it’s still not easy. So when Amy kisses her BFF on the lips for show with the whole school watching and finds that kissing another girl is something she really likes, don’t expect her to still have an easy go of it. Coming out is still hard and confusing and Amy’s is just one of the journeys we’ll be following in the series.
I talked recently with Carter Covington, who developed the series, and discussed creating the pro-tolerance tone of the series, the gay/straight friendship between Liam and Shane and what he has to say to people who are condemning the show before they even see it.
How does it feel now that the show just about to finally air?
Carter Covington: It can’t come fast enough. I’m just so ready to release this show onto the world. The anticipation in my own mind is the worst thing. I’m just ready. I’m ready to get it out there to the masses. And need for it to be out there. I hope that it has a positive impact out there. I hope so. I’m excited to see if that happens.
How did you find the tone of the show? And, also, just the subtlety of the messages?
CC: Well, those are excellent questions because I have to say that this is the pilot and really every episode has that…everything has kind of flowed pretty effortlessly on the series. I wrote the first draft of the pilot in about three days because I was juggling my newborn son and I didn’t have a lot of time. I don’t know what I’m tapping into but it really feels like an out of body experience when I’m working on the show.
So I wish I could say I sat down and really thought about the tone. But I think the thing I was thinking most in my head was I just want this to feel grounded and real. I don’t want this high school or these characters to feel like they’re based in some alternate universe. And that was really the only thing I had in my head going through it. And I’m so grateful to the Universe for kind of putting these thoughts in my head because they really don’t feel like they’re anything I struggled to come up with.
Was any of your thinking about like really wanting to do a coming out story that was different than we’d seen before?
CC: Well I think when MTV brought the premise idea to me of two girls pretending to be lesbians in order to be popular and the title ‘Faking It,’ what immediately resonated in my head is this would be a great chance to tell a new coming out story. A whole new take on it that feels very current and doesn’t feel like we’ve seen it before.
It was just like so clear in my head. Oh, this is perfect. I can have a story about two best friends and one of them falls for the other…these are stories that still need to be told, coming out stories, because it’s still difficult to come out. I don’t care where you live. But I think the more we can show that the process is so personal and individual and it’s based on emotions and not based on politics the better.
You’ve said that Shane was a tough role to cast. Talk about finding Michael for the role.
CC: I’ll start with Michael because it’s like he walked out of my brain. We struggled a lot to find Shane. And we did probably the longest casting search for Shane than for the other characters. And I told our casting director I really want to find an openly gay actor to play this role. We saw a lot of straight actors kind of acting gay, which is a little like nails on a chalkboard for me. And I was like ‘we’ve got to find this guy. He’s going to walk in the room and he’s just going to be Shane.’ Because Shane is the keeper of the show but I really wanted someone to be a bitchy queen when he wanted to be and be a heartthrob when he wanted to be. And Michael walked in and he did all of those things in his first audition. And it was just a no brainer.
I love the message of the gay and straight guy who are best friends and it’s not a story point. In fact, in the second episode, they dance together just so they can talk over some stuff and nobody gasps, nobody freaks out.
CC: I’m really enjoying writing Liam. I have a lot of good straight friends and it’s not an issue between us. And I didn’t miss high school but I do now and we talk about our kids and we talk about our marriages. And we just lean on each other and it doesn’t matter that I’m gay and they’re straight. And so I’m having a really fun time writing those two and they’re enjoying it.
I think Gregg is really loving that he gets to play a straight guy with no hang-ups because he’s like ‘this is how I feel and this is how a lot of my friends feel. It’s fun to get to portray that.’ It’s one of the aspects of the show where I’m on the one hand pinching myself because I’m like ‘I can’t believe I’m the one who’s getting to pioneer this.’ And on the other hand I’m like ‘why has no one done this before?’
There are some people out there who are already talking about this show before they’ve even seen it. What would you say to people who are maybe being skeptical about just what they think the concept of the show is?
CC: I would say, and I have said, just wait and watch the show. I, too, found the initial premise potentially very offensive. But once you’ve scratched the surface, our show is so much deeper. And I think that the very people who are saying they will never watch it will be the ones who’d be its biggest. I would hate for them to not tune in because they think they’re going to be offended, when actually I think they’d find a show that really speaks to them.
I know we’re just launching the show’s first season but do you already have second season stories in your head?
CC: We have a long list in the writers’ room but I have many, many other little scribbles everywhere because these ideas will just hit me about you know ‘oh my gosh, it would be great to see this. It would be great to see this. I’d love to see this.’ I hope the show has a long life because I think there are a lot of stories here and I’d love to see how these characters evolve, if they go to college. I would love to follow them as long as I’m allowed to because they’ve really come to life in my head and I’m so attached to them. I just don’t want to say goodbye.
Knowing you’re a parent, how do you think your child is going to grow up with these thoughts about tolerance? I don’t even know if you’ll have to put them in their head or maybe they will be in the world that they grow into so it’s not even an issue anymore.
CC: Yeah, I think about that. I think when Max is able to watch the show, which, I don’t know, it’s kind of racy. I don’t know when that will be. But will it seem incredibly basic to him? Like, the premise of a show that a girl has a crush on her best friend was ever shocking. Or even will it seem so outdated in that regard? And I hope so, but I also hope it still resonates. I hope it’s still that the core things that the characters are struggling with still resonate.
“Faking It” premieres Tuesday at 10:30pm on MTV.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.