You might recognize Italia Ricci, who stars in the new ABC Family drama series Chasing Life, from her previous roles in Don Jon, Secret Girlfriend and Unnatural History. Chasing Life, which premiers Tuesday, June 10, follows the character of April Carver as she attempts to juggle her fledgling journalism career with a hectic family life, a budding office romance… and an out-of-the-blue cancer diagnosis.
We chatted with Italia about her experience filming Chasing Life in Boston and got the scoop on what to expect from the new ABC Family drama.
Read on for our interview with Italia Ricci:
Pop City Life: What was your experience like filming in Boston?
Italia Ricci: I had never been to Boston before shooting the Chasing Life pilot in 2012. I love it there! It’s so amazing and the sense of community there and it makes you feel like you’re in the movies. I found myself speaking like the locals saying “wicked good” and stuff, which I’m sure everybody in Boston hates, but I had a lot of fun there. Everybody was go grateful for us to bring the show there and they were all really informed about it, too. I went beside the hotel to get a bottle of wine somewhere and the guy asked me what I was doing. I was like “I’m here for a new show” and he goes “is it the one about the journalist?” And I was like “oh my gosh; you know the show! That is so cool.” Anyhow, I was more excited than he was. I almost wanted to take him out for dinner I was so excited.
And the food, oh my gosh, the food. Every time we go to do exterior shots, I leave ten pounds heavier. Good God, I love the North End. I love it!
PCL: Are there any other favorite landmarks that stuck out to you in Boston?
Italia: I don’t have a lot of time off when I’m there to get to play, but the cast and I did get to go to Harvard, which is cool, very touristy. We all bought sweatpants. We went to the Beacon Hill, because that’s where the Carver family lives, which was also really, really cool. We got to shoot in Fenway, which actually got cut out of the pilot, but we spent the whole day shooting in Fenway. It was really, really cool. I think Fenway was probably the coolest, but I really do wish that I had more time. I went to the aquarium one day by myself. That was really nice, too. I want to explore it so much. There’s one street you feel like you’re in Europe and then the next street it looks like New York — there’s just so much to it.
On the conference call, Italia went on to discuss the show’s themes in more detail, as well as how playing April has had a personal effect on her.
How would you describe your character April?
She’s so many things. She’s just a regular girl. She’s a stubborn, smart, ambitious girl who just wants happiness and success in her career and love, everything that most people want. She’s written so well that I feel like she’s every man’s woman because she’s not always in the same head space. She gets giddy and girly and goofy and then she’ll just be an angry drunk, we’re all a little bit bipolar [laughs]. It’s just the way the world works, but she’s so inspiring and she makes mistakes and then she relies on people to help. She’s not a hero. She’s definitely a role model, but she knows she’s not perfect. I think that’s really important for a character we want audiences to relate to.
The show itself is just so incredible and it’s real. It could be happening to anybody. It is happening to anybody. It has happened and it will be happening and it’s such a real story and it’s written so well and it’s so inspiring. It has so much of everything in it that I’ve wanted to be a part of telling it. I feel so lucky —I was just an actor sent in on a mission to go in. I wasn’t sifting through scripts being like “I only want this one.” This is when I got the audition I was auditioning for everything during the pilot season and this one was like a golden ticket. This is the role that you’re just like “Oh my gosh, this is going to be one that everybody is trying to get.” I got so lucky.
Do you think Chasing Life can properly portray what cancer patients go through?
The show isn’t all about cancer. From the people that I’ve spoken to everybody goes through it differently, so there’s no one way to try and show the world what somebody would be experiencing. So I did my best to play April as authentically as we can within the confines of entertainment television. I’m sure there will be some people who completely disagree with how she’s reacting to certain things physically and emotionally and then there’s some people who might say that’s exactly what they experienced, or what they saw somebody experience.
I hope people can at least understand. They’re going to know it’s still television. It’s not a documentary, but at the same time being on set doing some of those scenes, it does get scary when you have to remind yourself that you’re not sick.
Will we see more of your character’s chemo process? What sort of research did you conduct to prepare?
You will see more of that, absolutely, because it’s all part of the horrible process that cancer throws at people, but you will see the stages. And the research — immediately after I booked the role, I thought I was going to learn everything I could about cancer, become and expert and be able to handle anything that the writers threw at me. But then I realized that my character doesn’t know everything about cancer and so I thought it would be better for my performance if I didn’t know more about it than April knew. So I wasn’t anticipating anything that was going to happen to her.
How do writers keep a show like this from getting too dark or depressing with such a heavy subject matter?
People just have to take my word for it, it’s not depressing. It’s not dark. It’s not going to leave you feeling heavy after you watch it. The writers are so brilliant. It’s funny. They deliver the bad stuff or the dramatic stuff and then it’s right back at it just like real life is. There’s comedy in it and there’s so much more to it than the cancer. It’s about friendship and her family and her romance and there are episodes that you totally forget that she’s even sick.
Can you share anything about the new upcoming season?
The season is going to explore how the diagnosis elevates all of the stakes in April’s life. All of her decisions matter to her a little bit more than she thought they did at this point and how she handles that and the mistakes that she makes and the victories that she also accomplishes. It’s interesting to see her whole world getting massaged because of this big awful thing, but people can expect to see so many things. I read the scripts and I get so into it like “seriously, what, where, why?” It’s so cool.
What is something you hope fans get from the show?
Hope and inspiration to never give up.
We’d like to thank Italia Ricci for taking the time to answer some questions for us. We really appreciate it!
Be sure to tune in to Chasing Life when it premieres tomorrow, June 7th at 9/8c on ABC Family following Pretty Little Liars.
You can keep up with all things Italia Ricci by following her on Twitter: @italiaricci!