From I. Marlene King (Pretty Little Liars) and based on the novel by Rebecca Serle, the Freeform series Famous in Love follows ordinary college student Paige Townsen (Bella Thorne), as she gets her big break after auditioning for the starring role in a Hollywood blockbuster. With a public profile on the rise and undeniable chemistry with her new co-star, Hollywood heartthrob Rainer Devon (Carter Jenkins), Paige has to find a way to balance things with her long-time best friends, her college workload, and her new star-studded life and the demands that come with that.
Collider recently sat down with co-stars Bella Thorne and Carter Jenkins to chat about their new TV series, Famous in Love. During both a 2-on-1 and a panel conversation, the two talked about how this series evolved and how they both got involved, what they did and didn’t want to see, how they relate to their characters, why Rainer is drawn to Paige, and navigating social media while in the public eye.
Question: Bella, when you signed on for this, was there even a script yet?
BELLA THORNE: I read the book when I was coming out of Shake It Up, so that’s how long ago this started for me. I put a quote on the book, and then me and my manager were discussing making the book into a show. He knows [I. Marlene King] really well and was like, “She’d be amazing for this! She knows just how to do this, in all the right ways.” And she did. We read the script and we loved it, and then we were attached to it. We met with nine different networks, and we really loved Freeform the most. We liked what they had to say about the show and where they wanted to go with the characters, which was really cool. And then, we got started.
Carter, how did you come on board?
JENKINS: I came on much later and I liked the script. I thought it had all of the elements that this type of show needs to really hook an audience, but I didn’t know exactly what the tone was going to be. I knew that Marlene is a powerhouse showrunner, and that the director of the pilot, Miguel Arteta, is really a excellent director. When I went in, I had my take on it and I just wanted to make it real. I think a lot of people were coming in for this movie star role, trying to play at being a movie star and putting a little bit too much on it.
THORNE: He wasn’t playing at it. He just looked like a movie star.
JENKINS: Thank you! I just thought about a lot of the movie stars I’ve come across in my life, and they aren’t doing anything.
THORNE: Somebody is not a different person because they’re famous. We’re all just regular people that do everything else regular, like other people do. It’s ridiculous!
JENKINS: So, I just kept it very real and tried to be a normal guy. It’s kind of like playing a prince. Half of the work is done because you’re sitting on a throne. You talk and people just bow down to the prince. For my character, Rainer, he can just walk through a pool party and everyone turns their heads. That does most of the work for me. So, I was pretty happy with the tone that they chose to tell the story in.
You guys know this world and have a pretty good idea of what things would be like for these characters. Because of that, were there things you wanted to make sure were in this show, and were there things that you wanted to make sure to avoid? Did you get to have a voice in that?
THORNE: Yeah. A lot of people will say, “Go big!,” but I’m not going to let somebody fuck me in the edit room. They always say, “Just give it to us once,” and I’m like, “I’m not giving it to you once because I know that’s the take you’re gonna use.” You have to protect yourself. For instance, I struggled personally with my character not being a feminist. She wasn’t a feminist, at first, so I had to make it a thing that the character has to be a feminist. Girls will look up to Paige Townsen, and I’m not playing a lead character who’s not a feminist. I can’t do that, especially nowadays. That’s never going to work. It’s just not right. So, I had to go back and forth on certain things. I look at feminism in a little bit of a different way than other people do, so it was really important for Paige to look at it in the same way that I do and be more accepting.
JENKINS: Right before we started the series, I ran into Zac Efron. I have known him a little bit, throughout the years, and I told him that I was going to be playing a character that’s kind of like him. I thought about him a lot for this show because he’s a movie star and he’s good at being a movie star, and Zac was pretty excited about that idea. He impressed upon me that there’s a responsibility to make it real and not just glorify it. There’s more to the story. So, I was really interested in getting beyond the image and into the real life of the guy, and not just the star.