As mentioned in my previous post, I had the opportunity to visit the set of the new ABC Family series 10 Things I Hate About You and meet the cast and the series’ creator. The show’s creator and cast members were generous enough to sit down for interviews.
Carter Covington (Series Creator/Executive Producer)
SWL: Where are you from?
Carter Covington: Winston-Salem, North Carolina. And I’d just written it as a sample for around town, and they bought it. It was this Wonder Years show about a little boy growing up in the south. And we made it and shot it. We had a great time shooting it, and it didn’t go to series. But it started a relationship with ABC Family. I sold them another pilot that we shot that didn’t go to series, and then I ended up working on Greek for two seasons.
And so last summer, I worked with Gil Junger who directed the movie and directed the pilot. He directed another pilot that I had with ABC Family, and he also directed the Greek pilot, and I worked with him on Greek. We really got along. And it was sort of this, like—I would always ask him about 10 Things. I was such a huge 10 Things fan, and I’d be like, “Oh, my God,” and, “What was Heath Ledger like,” and, you know, “How did you cast Julia Stiles?”
SWL: What is your initial vision for the series?
Carter Covington: I want it to feel like a half-hour teen movie every week, you know? I want it have that same sort of—I consider myself a writer who really likes—I like funny, but I like emotional moment in the story, like the warm chewy center that’s not too sweet that you get a cavity but, like, you know, just a nice moment where you kind of get what these people are going through. And so that’s what we put together, and it’s been a challenge.
I mean, it’s hard to—I know that a lot of TV shows based on movies don’t do well. And I think we’re coming at it really as a remaining of the movie as a TV show and with a lot of respect and love for the original movie, but an attempt—I don’t want to recreate the movie. I don’t want to try to have the actors mimic these performances that everyone loves.
I really want the characters to sort of look differently in the show, have a whole—you know, the DNA of them is the same but they’re played by new actors, they have new spins on them that are slightly different.
And I really want—I hope that people will watch it and be like, you know what, it feels like the movie because it’s directed by the same director, it has the same music, it has Larry Miller, but it also has this new spirit, this new life that is totally different. And literally after the first episode, nothing follows the movie.
SWL: Can you talk about how you found some of the actors, how you cast them and what were you looking for, for each character?
Carter Covington: Sure, I can. Well Kat I wanted to sort of not only make a feminist but to have—I’m probably the most excited about Kat as a character in the life of the series because I think teen female characters tend to be more like Bianca. They tend to be popular. They tend to be—you know, you have the Gossip Girls, you have the 90210s. And I really am excited about having one of our lead characters be an anti-hero in a way.
And so I want—but it’s tough. It’s tough to find someone who, week after week, is kind of going, “High school is stupid,” and you’re not like, “Shut up already,” you know, “Like, I’m sick of you talking about that.” So we also wanted to find someone that just had this, like, really warm likeable, and you’re kind of drawn to them. And Lindsey has that in spades. Like, she is just really able to say sort of—she’s sarcastic and rye and snarky, but you like her.
And then Bianca, you know, in the movie, she was—the sisters were established at the school because it was based on Taming of the Shrew. And in Taming of the Shrew, the Patrick character comes into town. I wanted to start with the sisters moving into town so that we could see all the relationships start and sort of make a fresh start. That’s part of the whole reimagining things.
So they’re new to school. And Bianca was popular at her old school, and she’s starting fresh. So, her whole drive is, “I want to be popular.” But it’s not just, “I want to be popular.” It’s like she could be, and she probably will be, the CEO of a company some day. You know, she is driven. She could have a 4.0 and get into Harvard, but she is putting all that energy into being popular. And I really wanted to make her smart and driven versus just like vapid and, “I really want things,” and to be silly. So what I love about Meaghan Jette Martin is she is that person. I mean, even—she’s a 17-year old, like, driven actress who wants to be a star, you know? And she’s going to be a star.
SWL: Can you talk about the writers’ room and, you know, the atmosphere in there and how you guys come up with story ideas and character arcs and keep things going?
Carter Covington: I think we have eight writers. And we have eight weeks of sort of prepping and writing before we start shooting. So for the first—essentially, it breaks down to we break about an episode a week. In the first week, we just talk about what’s going to happen in these next ten episodes, just really big picture.
And we have a board where we have each character and we have each episode and we just start writing things like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if Kat turned her car into a biodiesel? [Laughs] Where should Kat and Patrick have their first kiss,” you know?
And we just start to put it in, and then we also talk macro—one thing I learned from Greek, which they do really well is they kind of put a big party or something behind the episode to give it some sort of cohesion or theme so that, when you think back, you’re like, “Remember that episode where it was the keg party that they did the liqueur luge?” “Yes.” [Laughs]
SWL: I have heard that Larry Miller enjoys improv. How do you work that into the scripts? When he has scripted dialog, do you let him do that first, and then just go off so you can—?
Carter Covington: Well it’s funny where it is a—what we do is we sort of—we let him do a take where he can sort of play. And then he’s pretty good about saying, you know, “Hey, here’s the scene that’s written. What do you think if I said this here?” What do you think if he said this here?
And when you have someone like Larry Miller, like, you’ve got to acknowledge that because he is just an improv genius. So we’re trying to incorporate that because it’s such a huge asset he brings to the show.
And actually, Lindsey and Meaghan really love it because they get to sort of—you know, it’s fun for actors to improv. For writers, we’re like, “Wait a second. Where are we in this process, you know? [Laughs] What? What?”
Larry Miller (Dr. Walter Stratford)
SWL: It’s not every day you get a call asking you to reprise a role you played ten years before. How was your reaction when you were first called about this?
Larry Miller: First of all, John Wayne didn’t play just one sheriff. [Laughs] It’s not exactly the same.
I love show business. I love it every day, and even the things that stink. And the reason I’m starting there is because I really do love being an actor and a writer and a comic. That’s one of the reasons I blog everyday – I love it.
And just a quick word about that – I don’t think anyone’s, at least that I’ve seen, has hit on the fact that it’s like something that used to be time-honored in western history, which was a diary. And everyone used to say, “Well do you keep a diary.” “You can’t read my diary.” And you’re going to open someone’s diary or journal, whether it’s a journal at sea or anything. And I think that’s why I love doing it. I write article pieces every day, or five or six days a week.
But anyway, I mean, so as far as this show goes, it was great. I’ve been lucky along the way, I’m maybe the luckiest guy in show business. I’m not kissing a lot of women in movies, but I work pretty steadily.
And so I—Gil Junger directed the movie. It’s a good movie. It’s a very good movie, in fact. And I was thrilled. I mean, we had Disney, and then Gil and Disney came together and said, “How about this,” and I was thrilled. And it turned out to be a great movie.
So I loved working with Gil again and others from Disney. Plus, let me just say, these guys at ABC and ABC Family, know their stuff. ABC Family has doubled their ratings in a year. I mean, they do very well. Plus, they’re making shows. Not everyone that’s doing that – shows that involve people like me, that can be funny, sweet, or try to be.
And so when this came up, good Lord, who wouldn’t say, “What a great idea!” I mean, a part that you enjoyed anyway, a chance that gives you the opportunity to be funny, to be sweet, to care about this structure, you know, your daughters. And I don’t—as you know, this show—well this show is based on the movie. The movie was based on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.
So in a way, Shakespeare’s play was like the pilot. [Laughs] So it’s sort of like—I’ve been calling it the longest development deal in history. [Laughs] It’s 400 years. “Have you heard anything?” “Well they just want to get through the Reformation, [laughs] then they’ll pick up the back nine.” “They just want to make sure they finished the Council of Trent.” [Laughs]
So anyway, that’s a long answer to say it’s a terrific part. I love being in show business. It’s nice. How many actors—if I had turned down the part, and I wasn’t going to, but if I had, there would’ve been 800 other really good actors who would’ve jumped at it. And so I’m—they thought, “Hey, let’s go back to Larry and see, you know, if he’ll do this. See if he’ll do it.” You know, I never understood that kind of show business anyway.
I guess it’s more of a star thing to do, like, “Well I wasn’t sure about that part. And then I—well they came back to me again and I—first, I said, no, no, and then I said to Marty, that’s Martin Scorsese—I said, ‘Well if you think it’s a right thing for us, you know.’” But that actually happens. They go—like six months, I think it’s sort of like some odd pavan, you know, where someone curtsies and someone bows, and then they walk around, you know, touching fingers and staring at each other hatefully the whole time.
So that’s a different kind of show business, though. This came up. It’s great. And we all think it’s really good. I would say that even if it wasn’t, because that’s part of my job. But you know what, I’m sure you’ve talked to everyone else here, and they’ve said the same thing.
I mean, after every—this happened this morning again. After every scene, when you really nail it, it’s very rich—I’ve blogged about this several times in the last couple of weeks, that I don’t know a lot in show business. I don’t know how to make deals. I don’t know how things stay on. I don’t know who buy things or how things are sold. I still don’t even know whether Universal bought NBC or NBC bought Universal. I know somebody bought someone, but that’s not my job.
I know one thing. After takes or after scenes, I know when you can look even across a room like this and find the other actor and just nod and smile because you know that was it and that was good. It doesn’t happen a lot, and we’ve been having it happen a lot on this show for the actors, for the writers, for the directors, for the producers. You know, people nod a lot.
SWL: We talked a little bit with Carter about you using improv on the show. How has—like, you get the script, and then what is your process from going from what the script says to improving lines with your fellow actors?
Larry Miller: But you know what, it’s because time is pressed some. I remember, this is at the—we have that mandate, not only with Gil, with Carter. I mean, really it’s, in a sense, kind of a dream. And people know that we can bring that to the party.
And I guess, I’d like to think I’m pretty good at saying [about this]. Which is, just have one take where you look at each other—and we found stuff like that for the pilot. We found it together. Lindsey and I found it, you know? We just—you know, this look, “You know what? Give me one beat here, and let’s do this. I’ll look up. You say that.”
And yet it’s a good feeling that we’re more pressed for time now. This is just the first ten episodes. So it’s also important—compromise is not a bad word, you know?
Meaghan Jette Martin (Bianca Stratford)
SWL: Because I know you’ve been on—with The Suite Life with Zack and Cody and Camp Rock, how was the tone of this set different from the tone on those sets?
Meaghan Jette Martin: [Laughs] It’s very different because I’m working with adults now, like almost all adults, even most of the people on the show with me. I’m the only one in the lead cast under 20. So it’s very different, but at the same time it’s exactly the same. We still have so much fun. I love coming to work every day, and I cannot emphasize how much I love it. I mean, it’s only when we’re working till three in the morning that I’m like, “Oh, my God, I can’t do this.” No, but it’s so—it makes it worth it.
And I’m working with such a talented group of people that, like, I said before, I’m learning so much from. And it’s very different to be on your our own series, too, whereas, when you’re guest starring, you kind of feel like, “Oh, I don’t want to say anything. I mean, they’re already like a family.” And it’s cool to be a part of that family now. I mean, with Camp Rock, we only had the five weeks what we were shooting.
SWL: How similar are you to the characters of Bianca?
Meaghan Jette Martin: I am very similar to Bianca. It’s kind of scary how much Bianca and I have in common. We both—well first of all, we dress very similar. [Laughs] But besides that, we both have this “want to be accepted”. That’s something that I’ve always struggled with growing up. I was the girl in school saying, “Everybody hates me,” and, “Why do they all hate me?” And Mom’s like, “They don’t hate you. Like, what are you talking about?” And I’m like, “No, they do.” [Laughs] And I feel like Bianca doesn’t realize that she really is popular, and she’s working so hard to get there when she’s already there.
But at the same time, I don’t think that my priorities were quite as mixed up as Bianca’s are. She definitely doesn’t have her priorities straight, but I think that’s what makes her fun and likeable and relatable, is she’s not quite sure where she’s going in life.
SWL: Can you talk about the casting and auditioning process and how you got, you know, wind of this role and—?
Meaghan Jette Martin: Yeah, yeah. Well I read the script for this, and I was like, “Oh, that’s really hilarious. I love it.” And they were like, “We want you to go in for Bianca.” And I was like, “Okay, cool, sounds good to me.” But I figured I was too young because usually when it comes to a TV series and playing a teenager, I’m usually too young because they like to cast 25-year olds to play teenagers. [Laughs] And so I walked in the room and I did the scene, and I was like, “Okay, I mean, that felt good.”
But you know, with auditions, there’s not really much you can do about it. So you just hope for the best. Expect the worst and hope for the best, that’s what I live by. So I left the audition. I got a phone call. They’re like, “Oh, you’re too young. You did a great job, though.” And I was like, “Okay, I hear that all the time,” so whatever.
And a few weeks later I get a phone call again. They’re like, “Oh, we want you to come in again for a different part.” And I was like, “A different part? What other part is there? Like, I mean, I’m not going to play Kat, that would just weird.” And so I was like, “Okay.” But then they sent me the sides again, and it was for Bianca. And I was like, “That’s not even a different part, but sure.” [Laughs]
And so I went in and they turned out that they had just like mixed up my papers with somebody else’s, and they—which I’m sure happens when you see thousands of girls for the same role. And I did the scene for Gil and Carter who were there that time. And Gil stopped me and he said to me, “Where did you come from?” [Laughs] And I was like, “Las Vegas.” [Laughs] And he’s like, “Oh, well you’re really good.” And I was like, “Thank you very much.”
And then I got a phone call, and they said that they wanted me to come back the next day to do a work session, which is what you usually do before you test for a show. And testing is like when you go in front of all of the bigwigs at the network. And they were like, “We don’t want you to wear the dress that you wore. We want you to where another dress that’s preppier and girlier.” And I was like, “Okay.” But I didn’t know what to wear. So I brought five dresses with me the next day, and I was like, “You guys pick what I wear because I don’t want to screw this up.” [Laughs] And they thought that was hilarious.
And so they ended up picking one of my dresses, and I did the work session with them. And the next day, I went in to test. I read with all the different Kats. And that’s where I met Lindsey Shaw. And it was a crazy nerve-wracking experience. I hate testing for shows. There’s nothing worse than that. But by the end of testing, you usually, usually being the key word, know who got it because they kind of weed people out throughout the day, which is even worse, because you’re like sitting there like, “Oh, my God, please don’t let me go. Please don’t let me go.”
And I ended up being the last Bianca there. And I was like, “Okay, this could be terrible or it could be good. [Laughs] And then I got the phone call that I booked the pilot.
Lindsey Shaw (Kat Stratford)
SWL: Well I guess the first question could be what’s the difference between being on Aliens in America or this show?
Lindsey Shaw: No difference at all really. No [laughs], a huge difference. Claire was self-centered and bitchy and completely concerned with popularity, much like Bianca is. She’s like an older version of Bianca. And Kat, she is self-centered for very different reasons. She doesn’t realize it. In fact, in this episode, her father finally tells her how self-centered she is. And she’s like, “What? No, I didn’t get it.”
So she’s self-centered for very different reasons. But she is concerned with all of the bigger things in life and kind of always forgets about the smaller things, like her relationship with her sister. And she’s so concerned on doing all these big grand things that she loses touch with what’s actually around her sometimes, which I think everybody does. I certainly do that in my life.
And Claire was just— is you know, she was concerned with clothes and status and all that kind of thing. And Kat could be, you know, no further from that. She values justice and fairness and getting into a good college. And all of this high school crap she could just kind of take it or leave it.
SWL: Can you talk about the audition and casting process that you went through?
Lindsey Shaw: Well it was great. I was actually doing a small independent film at the time, and I was working that day that I was supposed to have this audition. And my manager called the director, because it’s small, you don’t talk to any PAs on a small independent. You talk to the director. And he was just—he was a little upset about having to rework everything because it was a big rework.
But he finally did it. He gave me the morning off. And so I went and I did this audition, and it was wonderful. I met Carter, and it was super fun. And the next thing I get this call, and they’re like, you know, “You’re going to network in a month.” And I was like, “Oh, all right. Awesome. Cool, cool, cool.” Went there and, you know, did the network thing. And I got a call that night from both my manager and my agent like, “Ah, you got it.”
So it was kind of a tricky story on how I finally got to the audition, but it was so worth it. And I told that director, he’s like, “I knew it. I knew you’d get it.” So I’m very thankful to him for reworking all of that, or else it all might not have been.
Ethan Peck (Patrick Verona)
SWL: So how did Heath Ledger’s version of your character influence your portrayal of Patrick Verona?
Ethan Peck: I didn’t see the film before I auditioned for it and couldn’t really recall the film and was just having, like, a really bad day, so I didn’t care to go back and look at the film, which sort of worked to my benefit because I think that I brought somewhat of an original interpretation of the material to the audition.
So actually after I’d tested for the—actually, yeah, after I tested for the show, I watched the film. And I mean, he’s so different, anyways. With all due respect, I didn’t take any inspiration from him only because this Patrick Verona is a new Patrick Verona really. I mean, the show is completely different from the film for the most part.
SWL: What’s your favorite trait of your character, Patrick Verona, and what part of your personality do you use most in portraying Patrick Verona?
Ethan Peck: My favorite trait about Patrick is that he’ll give attitude and be, like, flat—I guess the humor that we’re arming Patrick with is, like, flat sarcasm because that’s who he is as a person and that’s, like, what makes him a badass because he’s like—there’s a scene where Cameron—it’s the scene where he’s, like, waiting at a vending machine and the soda won’t fall down, of course. And he’s like, “What the heck?” And Patrick comes up and he’s like—Cameron’s like, “It won’t drop.” And I’m like, “Your testicles or the soda?” [Laughs]
And the great thing about Patrick is, like, he won’t be like, “Oh, I’m just joking,” which is what I would do. And I love that kind of humor that Patrick just is that. And it’s only funny from an outside observer as opposed to the people involved. But I’d like to think that I have a hold on that sort of flat humor with my friends, what we use.
SWL: What other traits does your version of Patrick Verona posses?
Ethan Peck: He’s still a badass, rides a motorcycle. We don’t know too much about his personal life yet. But he’s slowly coming out of the woodwork I guess.
SWL: How close does the TV series stick to the storyline of the movie?
Ethan Peck: We’re actually not really sticking close to the storyline of the film at all. There are two sisters, the Stratford sisters, and the father. And they’ve moved out from Ohio I think, and Padua is supposedly in San Diego.
I’m the school badass, as you know. And that’s pretty much it from what I remember. Like, there are big scenes, like, with Patrick in the film sitting on the bleachers and wooing Kat. And I don’t think that that would be included in the series because, first of all, that’s so iconic and particular to the film. And my Patrick wouldn’t do that, I don’t think.
SWL: How do you prepare for a role, any acting role that you get?
Ethan Peck: It’s sort of different for all of them at the moment. I’m not really sure how. But typically, it comes down to some basic ideas on how to bring out the reality of the character, some context, obviously. The main thing is, I mean, like—maybe I look at it from a psychological point of view, like are his parents dead, where’s he from, what’s he want to do, where’s he going, where’s he been, very basic and general. And then it really comes down to scenes and who I’m working with and how the director wants it to look and just sort of maintaining a sense of open-mindedness to go work and be whatever I can be while still maintaining those primary ideas that I have about who I want this guy to be, or girl or whatever I’m playing, you know? [Laughs]
SWL: How did you get cast in the role?
Ethan Peck: I actually—I flew out of New York for this. I was casted out of New York. So I was the last to come to the set and sort of meet everybody. And so I didn’t get the chance to bond with everybody else like most of the other guys did. But it’s perfect because he’s the outsider, and I totally felt that way coming into it. So I think that probably only added to my security in the role. Yeah.
I had one audition in New York. And from my tape, they decided that they wanted to test me, which I think is not usual. I mean, I really don’t know to be honest.
But they flew me out to test, and that was it. It was just those two meetings, which is crazy. I mean, I don’t know. I mean, even just one audition straight to the test was really crazy and overwhelming because that’s sort of scary.
SWL: So what’s the challenges on filming for TV versus making a movie that you’ve found as an actor?
Ethan Peck: For TV, you can’t think about it. Like, for film, I found myself being like, “Oh, well, hmm, yeah, there’s really only one way I can do this.” And for TV, it’s like—working with Gil, for instance, who directed the film, he’s amazing, would you like, “Okay, like this.”
He’ll give me like, sometimes, the information about the lines sometimes because, as I said before, we’re still figuring them out, and we don’t—none of us know how he’s going to be edited.
So we’ll get a bunch of different takes of him different people almost, which can be really scary because there’s no completed story or person. And in a script, you read the script and you know what you’re getting into. And with this, it’s just like they’re working with me and we’re all collaborating to create this guy.
Yeah, so the challenge is, like, feeling safe on set and in the work because I really do care a lot about it being good work, and I hope that it will be. So that’s a huge challenge for me not to know—sort of like, running [lineman or forward] and have all these guys being like, “Yeah, go at it.”
SWL: That’s got to be tough because then you see the show and it’s like, “I didn’t want to go that way with it.”
Ethan Peck: Exactly. Yeah, so I’ve—but they’ve shown me some dailies and, I don’t know, it’s looking really cool.
SWL: Any other challenges doing TV compared to film?
Ethan Peck: Yeah, it’s definitely hard to adjust to. It’s so much quicker paced and, like I said, finding out where we’re going. You’ve got two takes to be really high energy and get it right, whereas in film it’s like you can be a little more thoughtful while doing the work and it’s like having a conversation. And sometimes, in TV, you’ve just got to get it out. You make it work.
My time on the set of 10 Things I Hate About You was much too short. It was exciting to meet this group of talented people who have joined together to create this new series for ABC Family.
Check out Part One of this three part series by clicking here (Set Tour).
Check out Part Three by clicking here (Review).