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'Faking It' stars speak out on Hollywood's influence on America's high schools

Faking It, MTV’s delightfully irreverent comedy about two girls who pretend to be lesbians to become popular (because at their ultra-progressive Austin, Texas, high school, that’s a thing), has only gotten better each week since its brilliant pilot. I admit I was a little skeptical at first, but the series, which deals head-on with everything from clique dynamics to coming out and genuinely questioning your sexuality, has been nothing if not a fun ride.

I talked to three of the series’ stars — Rita Volk (who plays Amy), Katie Stevens (who plays Karma) and Michael Willett (who plays Shane) — about fan reactions to the show, life on set and more. This week, in the first of three posts, Volk, Stevens and Willett dish about the show’s unique premise and how Hester High compares to their own school experiences.

EW Community: The premise of the show — teenagers “faking” a lesbian relationship to become popular — had some viewers skeptical at first. What was your initial reaction when you read the Faking It pilot script? 

Willett: I feel like when I read it, you just see how much heart there is in it and how genuine it is, that I think it was beyond context. You know, the whole lesbian device, like being lesbians for popularity, it has a larger, grander meaning.

Volk: When we read the script, we knew even from the original draft … that Amy would have that moment at the end where she realizes she might have more than just platonic feelings, so that automatically just put it in a totally different direction. When I read it, it seemed pretty innocent and funny, but I could definitely see why people would think there was going to be a conflict. Now, of course, you know, people’s reactions to it have been amazing, and I think people just had to give it a chance and watch it and see what it really was.

Stevens: I think that 10 years ago, this could have been something considered taboo, and I think now people are so much more accepting and kids are coming out at a really young age. I feel like when I read this, I just thought to myself, “This is going to be something that helps kids and that they see this and feel comfortable to be exactly who they are and their authentic self.”

Willett: Also, these characters aren’t meant to be examples of what to do or how to go through high school. If anything, it’s sort of a cautionary tale. These people are well-meaning and they’re good people, but they happen to do bad things and they make mistakes.

Stevens: It’s like Carter [Covington, Faking It’s executive producer] says all the time: These characters don’t do what you want them to, and you can be mad at them. And they do bad things and they’re going through high school and making mistakes. But if you watch a show and people do exactly what you want them to, it makes for a pretty boring show.

Michael, in the past few episodes, we’ve seen a budding friendship between your character, Shane, and Lauren. Recently, she called him out on being just like her in a lot of not-so-positive ways. Are we going to see this impact him going forward? 

Willet: Absolutely. I think that that was what I realized, too, when I read the script. I was like, “Gosh, these two people are the same person, ultimately, in a lot of ways.” Which is why they butt heads. I think you’ll see that he listens to what she has to say, and he takes it to heart. He doesn’t want to be a bad guy, but he can be a little selfish.

Hester High is so progressive; it almost seems unreal sometimes. How does Hester compare to your real high school experiences? 

Stevens: I compare my high school to, like, the cafeteria of Mean Girls. All the different sports teams sat at tables together, and then there was, like, the band kids sat together, and then kids that were a little more punk and goth sat together. And I, you know, I did theater, I was in chorus, I was in band, and I played sports, so I was kind of in all of the groups, and I would bounce around. But Hester is kind of a utopia, and we realize that not every high school is that way. I think that we kind of hope, in a way, that people can watch the show and be like, “That’s kind of cool how the unique kids are popular.”

Willett: And maybe it is cool to be accepting.

Stevens: Yeah, and I think that we want to be [role] models in that way. Not to say that we want to be an example to tell kids, “You want to be a lesbian and it’ll make you popular,” because we realize that is not the case. But I think that we want to have kids make little steps in their schools to be more tolerant and be more accepting because ultimately, that’s gonna make the world a little bit better.

Volk: My high school was really academic. We didn’t have as defined cliques or anything like that. And like Katie says, it is nice to be something to look up to. I think that a lot of times, life imitates art. It really does. Look at all of the high school movies that are out, where all of these cliques are so defined. You have the cheerleaders and the nerds, and I kind of wonder if high school was always like that or if it became more like that because of these movies.

Willett: Rita, where did you grow up? Where did you go to high school?

Volk: I grew up in San Francisco.

Willett: I was going to say, I feel like the whole clique thing is a very American thing. Because going over to London, they don’t have a concept of that. They all wear uniforms. It’s very academic. So if anything, it’s like a satire of American culture in some ways.

Stevens: Yeah, I have family who live in Portugal, and it’s so funny because they watch these American movies, like Mean Girls, and they’ll come up to me and they’ll be like, “Oh my God! Is it really like that?” They have zero concept of any of this and what it means. I think that media and television and film have put such a standard on how kids act toward one another.

Exactly. I love that Faking It isn’t just flipping who’s popular and what’s cool. It’s really focused on being very inclusive — like with the Shane and Lauren storyline.

Willett: I was thinking about that too, like this “who’s cool” power between everyone, and I feel like Shane and Liam, as much as they’re the popular kids, they’re able to sit back and be a part of everyone as well. It’s interesting.

Check back next week for Katie’s take on Karma’s sexuality and the truth about Amy’s orientation.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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