When MTV first announced its new scripted series Faking It, the backlash was understandable. Just check out it's IMBD plot synopsis: "After numerous attempts of trying to be popular two best friends decide to come out as lesbians, which launches them to instant celebrity status. Seduced by their newfound fame, Karma and Amy decide to keep up their romantic ruse." WTF, right?! However, we, like a lot of naysayers will soon realize too, were too quick to judge.
Set at Austin, Texas' liberal (yet fictional) haven Hester High, where literally every clique lives harmoniously with each other, Faking It (which premieres tonight) centers on the coming-of-age of a pair of best friends. There's Karma (Katie Stevens), the one so insecure that she comes up with fake-lesbian idea, and then there's Amy (Rita Volk), the one who goes along with it because she may or may not be in love with her BFF. Yes, if you get passed the show's logline, you'll find a heart, one that's not only sensitive to youth struggling to come out, but to all kids with insecurities about fitting in and figuring themselves out.
Complex got the chance to speak to breakout star Rita Volk about how she reacted to the show, how she's dealt with the backlash, and what she wants viewers to ultimately take away from Faking It.
Interview by Tara Aquino (@t_akino)
What was your reaction to the plot of the show?
I was excited! I thought it was a concept that I don’t think had ever been done before. It was a little riskier because it had a lot of heart. It was fun. It was dramatic. It had all of these layers that you don’t see very often on television or really anything that has been on.
You don't just wake up one day and decide who you are.
When people first hear about the show, what’s sold is that these girls pretend to be lesbian to become popular, and of course there was a lot of backlash because of that. Do you find yourself defending the show a lot?
I did. We as the cast and crew were all aware from the very beginning that this could be a topic that people would react to, some positively, some negatively. I'm waiting for people to really see what it’s about because a lot of them are gonna be pleasantly surprised. The writers have done a really great job handling an issue that is sensitive and very important in a way that's very heartfelt and true and relatable. I think all of that opposition is gonna go to rest once it comes out.
I haven’t seen a show on a major network that’s been led by lesbian characters, or at least one lesbian character, since South of Nowhere. Are you ready to be a role model?
Yeah, and I take that very seriously. The closer that the cast and I get to the show's premiere, the more we're realizing that people are gonna look up to us and they’re gonna look up to these characters. They're gonna look at this show in hopes that it will be an indication of what’s to come—that high schools will be as progressive as Hester High and eventually there will be more accepting environments.
What was high school like for you? How do you relate to the show?
High school for me was very different. Hester High was nothing like my high school. We didn’t really have any cliques. It was very academically oriented. I just wanted to get out and see what was out there for me. I think everybody can relate to that. High school is such an awkward, difficult time and I think a lot of people can’t wait to explore the world because it’s such a bubble.
So, are a lot of people going to be able to relate to Hester High at first? Probably not, but I think it’s an image of what it high school can be: more open, more tolerant, and just more accepting in general. Hester is more of a role model than any of us, really.
Did you grow up in an environment accepting of the LGBTQ community?
I was raised in San Francisco, so yeah. [Laughs.]I’m really glad that I was because, as everyone knows, it’s very open. Growing up, that's just the way I thought the world was—that you could be yourself or you could be whoever you want to be and people have to be tolerant and accepting of that.
The show deals with a lot of insecurity. Did you experience that growing up?
I did. I was a good student. I was lame. I was into school and didn’t really go out much, so I guess I wasn’t the coolest person on the planet. But because my school wasn’t that clique-y, there wasn't much pressure to fit into any kind of mold. I just had the same insecurities most teenagers would've had—I wanted to fit in and be well liked. I wanted to know who I was and what interests I had and what I wanted to do.
Out of all the characters on the show, yours is the most relatable for people who are starting to come out or don’t even know how to vocalize what they're feeling. How do you play Amy? Do you feel any pressure at all?
I think one of the biggest pressures for me was kind of figuring out who Amy is. Initially, it was about figuring out: Do we want to keep her fluid? Do we want to keep her open? And open to say, "OK, am I a lesbian? Am I not a lesbian? I don’t know." She's relatable because she's going through it. You don't just wake up one day and decide who you are. I hope that people see that it’s okay not to have labels nor label anyone else. Step back. We’re all just trying to figure it out. My priority is making Amy open because that’s how people are. People aren’t easily defined and I hope that’s one thing people take away from her.
The show also deals with the line between best friendship and romantic relationship and the universal issue of falling in love with your best friend who doesn’t reciprocate.
Right, and girls tell each other everything. Amy's told Karma everything. They’ve done everything together. Like you said, it's a universal thing. It's having somebody there that you could always confide in and that you told everything to, but then everything gets twisted when you start feeling like it's more than platonic. You lose the ability to talk to that one person you always told everything to because now they’re the person you’re hiding your feelings from.
I haven't experienced what Amy's going through, but I imagine that all the little stuff that you never thought about as platonic friends all of a sudden becomes a big deal. You’re like, "Should I not have said that? How should I act? How should I move? Should I hug this person?" Everything becomes amplified. That was the conversation the producers and I had in the beginning—just trying to imagine what this friendship must feel like for Amy.