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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.

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