Talking to MTV’s “Faking It” Showrunner Carter Covington

 
 

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Show runner Carter Covington (far right) and the young cast of MTV’s Faking It:
(l to r) Gregg Sulkin, Katie Stevens, Rita Volk, Michael J. Willett and Bailey Buntain

Before MTV’s Faking It has even premiered, there have been rumblings that the series – which follows two high school BFFs who discover being mistaken for lesbian makes them popular – is going to be more about faking being gay than the teen experience of being gay itself.

Wrong.

The series, created by Carter Covington (Greek, 10 Things I Hate About You), will indeed start off with Amy (played by Rita Volk) and Karma’s (Katie Stevens) decision to “fake it,” but what happens when the two girls have to kiss in front of the school to prove their relationship? Well, turns out one of them likes that kiss more than she realized.

Having gotten an early peek at the first three episodes, we can tell you that Faking It is going to be more a one-note coming out series. It will also comment on high school bullying, relationships, and, with the show set in Texas, how there are still small-minded people in the world. (You can also now watch the first episode by downloading the MTV app)

We grabbed some time recently with Covington, who is married to Greek creator Patrick Sean Smith, and discussed the genesis of the series, how out actor Michael J. Willett (GBF) was the perfect man for the role of openly gay teen Shane and what viewers can expect to see when Faking It premieres on April 22nd on MTV.

TheBacklot: What are the origins for Faking It?

Carter Covington: MTV brought me the title of Faking It and the idea of ‘faking it.’ Obviously, when I was in high school, I was faking my sexuality and I think everyone in high school is faking something. So it really got me excited to explore that and explore identity in high school. After 10 Things, I wasn’t very excited to do another high school show unless I could find something new to mine, I didn’t really want to pursue it. And my work with The Trevor Project really did affect me because on the one side you get calls from kids suicidal because of really challenging situations where they’re being bullied and mistreated and not accepted. And then you get calls of kids who are upset for totally normal things, like ‘my boyfriend and I are having a fight and it’s bugging me.’

It’s still a small percentage, but you see this shift happening. It’s always inspiring when you get those calls because you’ve realized the world’s changing. So I started to think, ‘Why not portray that? Why not show a place where attitudes have shifted and where the old paradigms don’t work anymore?’ So I started to think, ‘Where would that be?’ And my husband and I had gone to Austin and I thought, ‘If anywhere, it would be here in this little, blue dot in the middle of Texas.’

I was going to ask, why Austin of all places?

CC: I just find it such a fascinating contradiction that that city exists in such a red state. And I pitched that to MTV, and they loved it. They loved the idea of two girls pretending to be lesbians as a hook. Then I said, ‘But for this to have legs to me, for this not to be an offensive premise, I think one of them needs to realize she has feelings for her best friend’ because that’s what I felt in high school. I had all these relationships where I wanted it to be more, but I couldn’t say so. And [MTV] loved that. So we started developing the script. It came really quickly. I developed it very fast. At the same time then, my husband and I were adopting a baby. So, literally, we brought him home from the hospital, my deal was approved and I started writing the script the next week. I say that just because I was writing it a lot going, ‘I hope this is the high school my son goes to.’ And we make light of it. We have fun with the fact that this is a school where everyone’s accepted because there’s humor to that, too. There’s humor to the fact that it’s a school that loves protesting things and hates injustice and wants everyone to feel included. It is exaggerated, but I hope the show has a real core message of tolerance.

That message is very subtle, which I liked. You’re not hitting the audience over the head.

CC: Yeah. I give a lot of credit to Jamie Travis, who directed the pilot. Fantastic young director. Also openly gay. And we had a lot of discussions about it. If this high school is cartoony, if it’s exaggerated, if it’s at all hyper-real it won’t land because it will feel like we made it up. And I wanted it to feel like this could actually be a place where someone could go to high school. I didn’t want it to feel like…if we were doing Glee, which often has that heightened feel like it doesn’t actually exist.

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A scene from MTV’s Faking It

Talk about casting a little bit and how you approach casting for gay and straight characters.

CC: It mostly revolved around Shane because it was very important to me to have an openly gay actor playing this part. We did a lot of casting. And I read a lot of straight actors who are very talented. But I felt like a show called Faking It, to have an actor faking being gay, felt contradictory to the very message of the show.

I didn’t make it a requirement because I didn’t want to restrict our casting. I wanted to get the best person, but it was my hope that I would find someone who just embodies this character. We were having a really hard time. Really hard time. We’d have like four sessions. And I was like, ‘I don’t know if we’re going to find this person. I’m worried. He has to be a bit of a force of nature. Totally awesome. But I want a character who has a romantic life. I want to see every aspect of that.’ And Michael walked in, and I was like, ‘He is it. He is Shane.’ He’s just such a confident, open, this-is-who-I-am person. And for a young actor in Hollywood to have that is really rare. And I feel really lucky to have found him.

Do you see Shane’s confidence getting knocked down a little bit in the course of the season?

CC: Yes. Definitely. One thing I want to explore with Shane and with Lauren (Bailey Buntain) is this idea that bullying often has many forms. And we’re going to show that Shane, in his power in his role at the school, feels threatened by Lauren, who might make it revert to a normal high school. He goes to lengths that make him a bully, even though he is this gay guy who shouldn’t be bullying people. So I really want to explore why people bully, and that it usually comes from a sense of insecurity about themselves. And that’s what really drives that.

The Shane-Liam friendship is another subtle message about gay-straight friends. Talk about making that a part of the show.

CC: I think the Shane-Liam friendship is one of the things I’m most excited to explore because it just hasn’t been done well, I think, on TV yet. The second episode will start to show their friendship and I’m really excited about it. They’re going to go, later in the season, I think it’s episode five. There’s an episode where they go to gay bars to pick up boys and girls because Liam gets to be the only straight guy there who’s picking up the girls that come with their gay best friends. So we’re really having fun showing what that friendship looks like.

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Actor Gregg Sulkin (l) plays Liam

Will we see the serious things that come with being out, whether you’re pretending or real? The show is set in Texas, after all.

CC: We’re going to get into it a little bit with Amy’s family. Amy’s family is just going to be more Texan and not as accepting. So that lie will reverberate in her family very differently than it does in Karma’s family. She comes from parents who are so excited she’s a lesbian. So we’re going to have kind of a fun dichotomy there. And then, I do expect that in later seasons we’ll start to explore what happens when they break out of this bubble of Austin and interact with the real world. For the first eight episodes we’re kind of keeping it more contained.

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(l to r) Katie Stevens, Bailey Buntain and Rita Volk

And is the ruse of them being lesbian something that’s going to go on for a while?

CC: It’ll go on through these eight episodes. It will not be the life of the series. It’s not sustainable. I think it’s a good model that you can start with a premise. And if you build the show and the characters and everything, the premise can kind of fall away, and you still want to follow these people’s lives.

Faking It premieres April 22nd at 10:30pm on MTV.

 

 
 

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