Hollywood is full of super couples but there may be a new one emerging with a bit of a gay twist.
Patrick Sean Smith is the executive producer of the new ABC Family series, “Chasing Life,” while his partner, Carter Covington, is the creator of the MTV hit series, “Faking It.” Crazy, right? Add to that hectic work schedule a new baby and you’ve got one busy household.
Both series, aimed at a young demographic, also have gay characters as a big part of their respective shows, too. “Faking It,” which I’ve covered on this site, deals with two high school BFFs who pretend to be gay to be more popular (with one of the girls actually realizing she’s gay).
In “Chasing Life,” the core storyline is 24 year-old April (Italia Ricci) dealing with an unexpected cancer diagnosis but a story that will be growing in the coming weeks is the love triangle that’s forming around her teenage sister Brenna (Haley Ramm), who has been dating Kieran (Augusto Aguilera) but finds herself also drawn to teen lesbian Greer (Gracie Dzienny).
I sat down with Smith yesterday at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour to talk about the storyline, how he and Covington are keeping things together at home as well as the “Chasing Life” kick-ass opening titles.
You and Carter are becoming a power couple. It's like Brad and Angelina. You guys are the gay Brad and Angelina!
Patrick Sean Smith: Totally! He’s Angelina.
It does have to kind of be a weird thing that you guys are in the same business doing the same thing, and you both have shows right now.
PSS: Well, I did “Greek” for four years. He did “10 Things I Hate About You” for a year. He’s now finished his first season of “Faking It” and I think we feel a little more confident in our management skills that we don’t have to sacrifice. We have a 14 month-old son so we both make it a point to be home by 6:30 to put him down [and] we’re with him in the mornings. But I will say also, timing wise, it worked out really well that we finished episode 21 as he was starting up season two for “Faking It.” So it’s been kind of like a perfect storm of greatness in that way.
In having the cancer element be the through-line for the whole show, does that actually make it easier or does it complicate things? Everybody's story has to somehow touch that element of it, right?
PSS: It makes it more complicated but it makes it worth it because we’ve tried stories that have felt not tied to it and they’re just not as interesting. You’re like, “I could watch this relationship on any other show. What is the “Chasing Life” with this?” I think I learned that with “Greek” that if it wasn’t touching on their world in some way, it didn’t resonate the same so it definitely makes it more of a challenge but we don’t want it to feel inorganic.
With the Brenna story and her relationship with Greer, is that kind of going to be the point of the story, which is defining whether Brenna is gay or bi?
PSS: Speaking as somebody who is married to Carter Covington, who is dealing with these same issues on “Faking It,” the avoidance of labels felt true to Brenna. It wasn’t that we were trying to shy away from her identifying herself one way or the other. When we went into it, we were interested in the experience of somebody who’s bisexual so I think that her feelings for Kieran and her feelings for Greer are true and sincere, but I think for the most part, being who she is, she doesn’t want to be defined one way or the other.
Do you think “Pretty Little Liars” has made it easier for you to get into that subject because that’s such a big part of that show with the Emily character?
PSS: I don’t know. I think it’s kind cumulative of everything from “Faking It” from “Greek” from “Dawson’s Creek,” all of those shows that are finding a different experience for a teen character is required in a way that’s to make it feel fresh and I know that ABC Family was very open with the idea of this exploration. It didn’t feel like a backslide or anything, but just making it a little more sophisticated as opposed to labels.
Here’s a clip from last night’s episode of “Chasing Life:”
In terms of April, I definitely sense a love triangle building there with Dom and Leo. Is that where this is heading?
PSS: I think [Leo] represents this huge shift in her life and the love triangle finds her between worlds. It’s kind of Dominic representing who she was before she was sick and Leo helping her grapple with it. I think in these coming episodes, we really confront death. She loses somebody in the support group and it again continues to be a new experience for her. That’s where, for me, the kind of coming of age element, it’s coming of cancer. I don’t know if you can call it that, but it’s basically every experience is new and a first for her as she’s going through this [and] that’s what the show is. It’s all these steps in this journey. It’s not just life or death, it’s everything.
I'm such a fan of opening titles of shows and I love when there's a good one like "Chasing Life." Did a lot of thought go into creating it? Some shows really disregard them.
PSS: No, a lot did, and we were really inspired by the Mexican format, “Terminales,” and the thing that was so inspiring about that was we took some of the plots twists and turns and kind of the set up involving the secret sister. But the main titles, do you know the song “Alright” by Supergrass? It was on the “Clueless” soundtrack. “We are young, we run green…”
PSS: That was their main title song, and in watching them we were taken by just how that made such a strong first impression to say the show’s not going to be complicated. It’s not going to impress you. It’s about life. And so we found this song. It’s all the moments that we wanted. We met with a company and a gentleman who had been dealing with cancer himself and he pitched this idea kind of taking a GoPro camera and just capturing all of these moments and these people in your life.
“Chasing Life” airs Tuesdays at 9pm on ABC Family.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.
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