Carter Covington Interview Part 1

Interview with Carter Covington Part 1

SO-M recently had the honor to visit the set of ABC Family’s new comedy, “10 Things I Hate About You with some fellow online media (pictured above with producer/writer Carter Covington). We had the chance to sit down and talk with various cast members and also producer/writer Carter Covington. We’ll be posting things all week from our set visit.

Below, get to know a little more about the show with exclusive insight from Carter. Find out how he got involved and how they cast the roles for the show. Check back later this week for more with Carter.

On how he got involved in the project & development: I worked with ABC Family about five years ago when I was just starting out as a writer. I had written a pilot called “Just a Phase.” And it was kind of like a Wonder Years, set in the ‘80s, in the south. It was very autobiographical, you know, because that’s where I grew up. 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?” I mean, I was just always wanting to sort of know—And the pilot kind of grew out of that. I mean, it was kind of, it’s been ten years, and I’d always wanted to do a show about high school. I mean, I grew up loving John Hughes movies, like loving. And no one’s ever really kind of captured that spirit to me in a series.

And so when we kind of came up with the idea, I got the blessing from the writers of the original movie, who are friends of friends. They were like, “That’s a great idea. We’re super excited.” And it was important. It was their first big feature film, and they’ve gone on to write Legally Blonde and…Yeah, House Bunny. I mean, they are incredibly excited, and they’re like, “Just have fun with it and really make it your own.” And so we sort of put it together, and that’s kind of the vision I’ve been putting out there is, like, I want it to feel like a half-hour teen movie every week, you know?

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 reimagining 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.

On the location and sets of the show: I really wanted the girls to go to public school. I went to public school. I wanted this show to be very relatable, not be Gossip Girl. It’s like your own typical high school. So I said I want it to feel like a high school, but I don’t want to be depressed every time we’re shooting it because high school can be really depressing.

[For the pilot] we found this school in Tujunga that had this beautiful tower, and it had really pretty Spanish architecture elements. So we shot there for the pilot. And then our set decorator built all these sets to make it look even more sort of warm and inviting. So when we shoot here, you know, even thought it’s in a hallway scene, it doesn’t look like—you don’t want to, like, [kill yourself] [laughs]
And so that’s really the direction that I gave the set guy. And then out here, this is kind of my favorite part of the set, which is our courtyard. We shoot the show on a pretty tight budget, so we can’t go outside to that school in Tujunga very much because we just can’t quite afford it. So we built a courtyard. And the way they light it, it looks like we’re outside. So we get to do a lot of stuff outside. I didn’t want a cafeteria because, to me, that was the most depressing part of high school. [Laughs] And I was like, “I want like a fun courtyard where the kids can be outside and eating lunch or having cheerleading practice or all the different things that, you know, kids do in high school.”

On casting “Patrick Verona”: We had the hardest time casting that role. And on the page, when I had sat down to write it, I had said, “Okay, this character cannot be anything like Heath Ledger. Like, it needs to be a different sort of version of the teen heartthrob.” I like the Outsiders sort of dangerous guy angle because I think that’s really important, but I kept thinking of Jordan Catalano from My So-Called Life.

This guy who just plays with peoples’ buttons because they don’t know what he’s thinking, and he’s really more of an introvert. And I’d never really kind of seen that sort of vibe in a comedy.
So that’s really what was in my head when I was writing. I was like, “Let’s keep this guy mysterious. Let’s give him a—let’s make him—let’s make the role—let’s find an actor who doesn’t have Heath Ledger or is like singing in the bleachers sort of extroverted energy who has more of this like ‘I’m this mysterious guy.’”

And we couldn’t find him. We kept casting, we kept casting, and we kept casting. And I called the network. I said, “I think we need to, like, expand out of LA. Like, I’d really like to see if there’s anyone in New York and anyone in Canada.” And so we had some casting directors.

And Ethan [Peck] went on tape and I was, like, going, “Nah, nah,” through all these auditions. And he just walked on screen, and the first word out of his mouth I was like, “What?” [Laughs] “Whose voice is that?” And I didn’t know anything about his grandfather or anything like that. I didn’t know that he came from this past.

We flew him out for the final audition with the network, so I’d never met him in person until the day he was auditioning. And it was just like a no-brainer. I mean, it was—literally, he came in and just—he read the scene and everyone was just kind of like, “Whoa.” And I’ve had a lot of talks with him because, Patrick I think we’re really trying to evolve in a fun and different way. And he’s a really funny guy, but it’s a real sort of understated humor. So we’re really trying to play with that and sort of evolve the character as this sort of anti-romance between the two of them where they constantly like pushing each other’s buttons and sort of getting under each other’s skin, but they’re really attracted to each other.

[Kat is the feminist & Patrick has girls falling all over him] that’s the dynamic we’re playing is he’s attracted to her because she’s this girl that, like, doesn’t buy into his shit, you know, that doesn’t think he’s amazing, but she does, you know? So it’s fun. It’s fun. It’s really cool to—it’s fun to write scenes where the scene is saying something, but the emotional meaning is something else. And that’s what I really love. So their scenes are all about this, like, fight. But the emotional meaning is, “Oh, my God, I want to tear your clothes off.” [Laughs] And that’s kind of what we’re doing.

On casting the role of “Kat Stratford: 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.

We found Lindsey Shaw who is like kickass beyond belief. I don’t think that girl has any limits as an actress. I think she can do anything.

On casting the role of “Bianca Stratford”: 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.
But she has her own ambition in life, and it comes through on the screen really well. And she’s also just a really likeable sweet nice person, and that helps too because she’s often times making really shallow choices to be popular, and you’ve got to also kind of be onboard with her.

On casting the role of “Cameron James”: We really wanted to find someone who—like, I what I loved about that character in the movie was he was a romantic, you know, and most teenage guys are total pervs. And so I loved that idea that this guy who wants to be in love—he’s, like, excited to have a girlfriend. And he wants all the romance parts of it.

So we found Nicholas Braun who is—like, you just see him and you’re just like, “Ah, what a sweetheart,” and he’s incredibly just heartwarming as an actor. He’s six-foot-six. You’ll see. He’s crazy tall. It’s a challenge doing coverages. But you know, we just decided you can’t hide from a six-six guy. So I actually think it’s kind of part of why he’s a little bit of a misfit, you know? He’s like the tall guy who’s not an athlete. He’s not a jock. And when you’re just six-foot-six tall and you have none of the perks that go with it, you’re just the tall guy, you know? [Laughs] So I think it actually kind of works with what we’re doing for him.

On casting the roles of “Michael” & “Chastity”: Michael, who was the David Krumholtz character is played by Kyle Kaplan who, I liked that he had that same sort of used car salesman vibe that Krumholtz had. And he’s great.

And then, oh, Gabrielle Union, yeah, played Chastity, who was one of Bianca’s best friends. And in doing the show I was like, you know, we really need a little more of a villain, so we made Chastity the queen bee of the school, and we brought in Dana Davis, who has never done a comedy. She’s been in Heroes and The Nine.

She is so good. And she was actually a guest star in the pilot. And she wasn’t going to do the series, but she had a great time. And as soon as I saw dailies, I was like, “Wow. She should be a series regular. Like, she is so good.” And so you know, she was not planning on being on this journey as long as she’s going to be on it. You know, we made her a series regular after because she was just that good.

And what I want to do with her is like Cordelia, you know, start her at this really kind of arch-bitchy place, and then you evolve her and you show some layers to her and some levels, and you get to know her and you kind of see why she is who she is. And Dana can do all of that, you know, so it’s really cool. It’s really cool.

On casting the role of “Mandella”: We took Mandella who was the sort of renaissance faire character in the movie that David Krumholtz gives the dress to. And I made her more of a Goth outsider played by Jolene Purdy who Kat befriends at school. I just wanted to showcase the fact that, you know, that is who a person like Kat would go to, the people who are not necessarily sitting at the popular table.

Check back soon for the rest of this interview

Photos Courtesy of Adam Rose/ABC Family