MTV’s newest comedy “Faking It” sounds a bit … well, controversial, to say the least. Two best girl friends — Amy and Karma — decide to pretend to be lesbians to be popular and win the election for homecoming queen(s). In the wrong hands, this series could have offended quite a lot of people.
So thank goodness the ship was steered by Carter Covington (“Greek,” “10 Things I Hate About You”), a gay man himself who volunteers with The Trevor Project — a non-profit organization dedicated and focused on suicide prevention efforts among LGBT youth.
In Covington’s more-than-capable hands, a polarizing premise becomes a thing of beauty. The high school “Faking It” is set in is more modern than any school you’ve ever seen or hoped to attend before. Being true to yourself no matter who you are is cool, and judging anyone for being who they are is the fastest way to being ostracized as a loser. Just ask Bailey Buntain who plays the stereotypical beauty queen/cheerleader/mean girl Lauren. At any other school, Lauren would be at the top of the social hierarchy, but at Hester High, it’s quite the opposite.
“I’m the new kid at Hester High. I moved from Dallas to Austin, and in Dallas I was super popular and got everything I wanted,” Buntain tells Zap2it. “Hester High is highly unique in the way that the more different you are the more popular you are. I’m very used to being popular and when I moved to Hester, I’m very not. I’m also Amy’s future stepsister and we are opposites and just don’t get along. There’s a lot of plotting, fighting, war between us. I like to mess up everyone’s life to get what I want. It’s awesome.”
And Hester High’s unique social atmosphere is what hatches the scheme that “Faking It” chronicles: Karma, obsessed with becoming popular, and Amy, who couldn’t care less about popularity, are accidentally outed as lesbians. And they go along with the lie when they see how popular being lesbians makes them.
“Karma and Amy are best friends, and Karma wants nothing more than to fit in and be popular and accepted, so when the opportunity presents itself and they get outed by someone as a couple, it catapults them to popularity,” Katie Stevens, who plays Karma, says. “So Karma decides that they are going to fake it and go along with this lie because what’s the worst that can happen? That’s very much who Karma is, she always has a plan for everything and how it’s going to work out without thinking about any of the repercussions or consequences, but I think that’s what makes her so loveable.”
The one wrinkle in Karma’s plan is Amy, who didn’t want to go along with the lie in the first place. “Amy is a little bit of a tomboy and she’s not too concerned with how people perceive her or being popular or fitting in or standing out,” Rita Volk, who plays Amy, says. “She’s Karma’s best friend, and gets pulled into this lie. She becomes really, really popular all of a sudden and doesn’t quite know how to deal with it … or the feelings she ultimately winds up getting for her best friend.”
That’s right, what starts out as a lie quickly becomes the truth for one of the best friends in the pilot. As if that doesn’t complicate things enough, Karma also sets her sight on hot guy Liam, unaware about Amy’s feelings. “For Karma, she doesn’t even know that Amy has these feelings, so she doesn’t even know that there is a conflict,” Stevens says. “For her, they’re doing this lie, she’s going to get the guy and keep her best friend. That was the difficult part of playing Karma because as Katie, I know Amy has these feelings for Karma but I can’t judge my character. I just have to think of her as a teenage girl going after a guy.”
Meet the guy Karma decides to go after: Liam, all-around stud at Hester High. “Liam is a very strong-willed, accepting character,” Gregg Sulkin, who plays Liam, says. “Liam and his best friend Shane run the school. They’re the popular kids. When Karma comes into the situation, Liam is at first fascinated because she’s beautiful and she’s a lesbian. Being a teenage guy myself, it’s a very relatable thing to fascinate over that. As time progresses, Liam and Karma build this ‘friendship’ that blossoms.”
But Liam’s friendship with out-and-proud Shane is Sulkin’s favorite part of the show. “It’s really nice to have a straight/gay man relationship on TV,” Sulkin says. “I don’t think that’s been seen much before. And to be able to show that is amazing.”
Shane’s portrayer Michael Willett agrees, adding that Shane’s friendship with Amy is also a compelling relationship to watch. “Shane and Liam grew up together and run the school and all the causes it supports, but once Amy realizes she has feelings for Karma, they grow closer,” Willett says. “I become her confidante. But before that happens, I end up nominating these two girls who I think are lesbians for homecoming queen. They might or might not be faking it. And I get into many quarrels with Lauren, which is always fun to watch.”
Volk is excited for fans to see the outcome of what happens when Amy starts to develop feelings for Karma. “The conflict that arises is that Karma has always been someone for Amy to rely on and that she could trust with her feelings. They’re best friends,” Volk says. “But when she realizes she might have feelings for her best friend, the person she’s always come to is the person she can’t talk to. So she starts confiding in Shane to navigate through her feelings and through this newfound popularity and attention she’s never gotten before or cared about.”
Volk adds, “There are jealousy issues that come up as well when Karma starts to chase a guy. That puts a rift on my relationship with her as well, and Amy starts to resent Liam since he’s basically taking my best friend away.”
Talk about a modern love triangle.