Interview: Gregg Sulkin, Star of MTV's "Faking It," Talks Playing a Lovable Douchebag and Dealing With Screaming Fans

One of TV's biggest heartthrobs talks his role on "Faking It" and more.

Photography by Ryder Sloane

MTV's latest scandalous show, Faking It, about two teen high schoolers pretending to be lesbians to gain popularity, has received its fair share of bad press because of its seemingly artificial and highly offensive premise.

Since its premiere, viewers have gotten to see that the show has a lot more to offer than your run-of-the-mill high school comedy that's so clichéd you'd think you were watching Not Another Teen Movie. The same could be said about one of Faking It's main characters, Liam Booker, Hester High's resident popular guy. Played by 21-year-old Gregg Sulkin, whose male-model charm has made girls swoon in shows like Wizards of Waverly Place and Pretty Little Liars, Booker is a pretty brooding artist seemingly trying to homewreck the girls' relationship.

However, don't get the wrong idea about Liam, despite the episodes you've seen. We got a chance to talk to the English actor who explained to us why his character has more depth than meets the eye, what it was like working with Selena Gomez on his breakthrough show, and, of course, his excitement for the World Cup.

Interview by Debbie Encalada (@DebbieOE)

What made you gravitate towards Liam Booker’s character?
The show premise in general was interesting to me. I think it’s quite unique. The show sends out a good message, which is to be accepting and tolerant of people no matter where you come from or no matter their size, shape, sexual orientation, or race. As for Liam, I wanted to play a character that had depth. I didn’t want to just be a funny guy. I wanted to have some dramatic element as well and Liam Booker has that. I get to play this likeable popular guy who from the outside people think he’s perfect, but in reality he’s probably more of a lone wolf than anyone in that school. And he has a few secrets.

How has it been playing this character who seems so superficial at this point in the series, while knowing that there’s more to him that the audience hasn't seen yet?
The writers on our show were very smart because they only handed us our scripts when we got to each episode. We didn’t know what was going to happen in the season. We had a rough idea. It was tough for me because I was so excited to get to know who Liam really is, but in order to do that we’ve had to set him up in this way that we’ve been doing. Episode four and on we start to learn where he comes from and why he acts a certain way. It’s exciting to get to know Liam and to want to show the audience who he really is, but it’s also fun holding back those secrets.

It’s exciting to get to know Liam and to want to show the audience who he really is, but it’s also fun holding back those secrets.

Rita Volk told us her and Katie Stevens hung out a lot before shooting started to get that BFF dynamic down. How was it for you and Michael Willett who plays Shane?
It’s tough because I went to shoot a movie straight after. I was shooting a movie just before we shot the pilot and I shot a movie after we finished the pilot, so we tried as much as possible to hang out during that period. By the time [the show] got picked up, I had become really close friends with him. He’s an amazing guy and a good actor, too, so it’s been a pleasure to work with Michael and the rest of the cast.

What can we expect from Liam for the rest of the season?
Audiences are going to learn more about his family background. You’re going to see what makes him tick, what drives him, what kind of person he wants to be, and what kind of person he doesn’t want to be. As well as the relationship between him and Karma.

You mentioned how the show is so unique and intent on sending out positive messages to its audience. What was it like portraying the importance of consent when Liam and Karma were about to hook up in the art room? If you recall, Liam asked her if he was going too far and making sure she didn't do anything she didn't want to.
Even though that moment is more about how infatuated Karma is with Liam, I think it sends an important message because Carter and I have spoken at length about not making Liam a douchebag. In the first couple of episodes you may think he is, but as the season goes on you get to know him. As an actor, if you’re doing a film, you can’t be an actual douchebag. On TV, even the douchebags have to be likeable because you’re in somebody’s living room every single week and no one wants an absolute douchebag in their living room every single week.

Every guy needs to understand that if a girl says "no" it means no. Girls have always had the control and power in that situation, so it's important for them to realize that as well. That, and also to try and find a guy, like Liam, who is willing to listen to that. He actually cares about girls' feelings; some guys don’t and I think they would take advantage of girls in that situation.

You've been a part of so many female-driven shows including Pretty Little Liars, Wizards of Waverly Place, and now, Faking It. What's that been like?
It’s amazing. It’s very humbling. The fans on Wizards were outstanding. The fans on Pretty Little Liars were the craziest fans I’ve ever met in my life in the best possible way. The dedication that those fans have to the show and the characters is amazing.

[Faking It] is a new show, but I hope it becomes as big as one of those shows. We started well and I think that the show’s message and the show’s material will really enable us to grow and the audience to grow. I’ve been lucky to work with such amazing people, not just the cast, but also the crew. It has been a special four to five years since I’ve moved here.

Speaking of crazy fans, what’s been your craziest fan encounter?
You get a lot of screaming. [Laughs.] I went to Perú and it was insane. I had to have police with guns surrounding me and being in my car at all times. People trying to break into where I was sleeping, that was an interesting experience. There were people chasing after the car and following me in parts of Perú. That was probably the craziest experience, but it doesn’t mean that they weren’t sweet about it. It came from love, a very excited love. But that’s why I have a better security system in my house now.

When you first worked on Wizards, were you intimidated about working with Selena Gomez since she was such a huge star?
No. Ever since I was young, I played sports. I played football [Ed. note: soccer] and I used to play in a position where I was always blocking the best person on the other team or the most creative or the fastest, so I always had to deal with challenges on a weekly basis. I know when I have kids, when I’m older, I’m going to encourage them to play sports because I think it teaches you a lot. It teaches you discipline, teamwork, and that there’s really no "I" in team. Every show is a team effort. I wasn’t really intimidated. I said a few prayers and hoped it went well and thank God it did. [Laughs.] I never expected it to go as well as it did. I get excited, but I never get nervous.

Which celebrity did you look up to when you were younger?
David Beckham. I really respected what he did with charities and I like the fact that he’s a family man. Also, I respect the fact that he put so much dedication into his craft.         

So you must be excited about rooting for England in the World Cup.
I’d let my country down if I didn’t. Every English boy wants England to win the World Cup because we haven’t won it since 1966. It’s an embarrassing stat for us and we want to fix it as soon as possible so hopefully it’ll be this year.

What can we expect for the rest of the season on Faking It?
If fans are enjoying it right now, then they’re going to love the show by the end because each episode gets better and better as they’ve seen in the past few weeks. The show is very funny. The writing is fantastic. I really encourage fans to tell their friends, tell their dogs and cats, and get everyone watching the show because, especially in 2014, it's very important. If people watch our show and take something from the show into their own high school and make it a better place, then we’ve done our job.

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