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Interview with Italia Ricci of "Chasing
ABC Family 6/3/14
ABC Familyís Q&A with Italia Ricci
Moderator: Will we see more of your characterís chemo
process? What sort of research did you conduct to prepare?
Italia: You will see more of that, absolutely, because itís
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 doesnít know
everything about cancer and so I thought it would be better
for my performance if I didnít know more about it than April
knew. So I wasnít anticipating anything that was going to
happen to her.
Moderator: What attracted you to Chasing Life and your role
Italia: The show itself is just so incredible and itís real.
It could be happening to anybody. It is happening to
anybody. It has happened and it will be happening and itís
such a real story and itís written so well and itís so
inspiring. It has so much of everything in it that Iíve
wanted to be a part of telling it. I feel so lucky óI was
just an actor sent in on a mission to go in. I wasnít
sifting through scripts being like ďI only want this one.Ē
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 youíre just like ďOh my
gosh, this is going to be one that everybody is trying to
get.Ē I got so lucky.
Moderator: Did you know Scott Michael Foster from Greek?
Whatís it like working with him again?
Italia: We didnít really stay in touch after the episode of
Greek, which was five and a half years ago or something. He
didnít even remember me at the table read for Chasing Life
for the second episode [laughs]. I introduced myself and I
was like ďwe worked togetherĒ and heís like ďreally, when?Ē
I was like, ďoh wowĒ because we had to kiss in Greek. But we
are so close now. Heís hilarious. You can see weíve had to
post a couple of videos talking about the show and I canít
keep a straight face when Iím with him. Heís hilarious and
heís so talented itís insane. Itís sort of intimidating
sometimes and Iím like ďcan you try to suck a little more
because youíre making me look really bad.Ē [laughs]
Moderator: How would you describe your character April?
Italia: Sheís so many things. Sheís just a regular girl.
Sheís a stubborn, smart, ambitious girl who just wants
happiness and success in her career and love, everything
that most people want. Sheís written so well that I feel
like sheís every manís woman because sheís not always in the
same head space. She gets giddy and girly and goofy and then
sheíll just be an angry drunk, weíre all a little bit
bipolar [laughs]. Itís just the way the world works, but
sheís so inspiring and she makes mistakes and then she
relies on people to help. Sheís not a hero. Sheís definitely
a role model, but she knows sheís not perfect. I think
thatís really important for a character we want audiences to
Moderator: How did you get your start in acting and what do
you enjoy most about it?
Italia: I started when I was really young. I did a lot of
local theatre. I always enjoyed it. I was always putting on
shows for my family or even just myself in the mirror being
a total psychopath just screaming monologues till I was
crying or laughing or a complete nut case. And then I went
to college and got my degree in drama, but Iím very much a
Type A. Iím not really much of a risk taker. Iím very
calculated, so I didnít really want to just move out to LA
and try my best at something that I didnít know for sure I
could succeed at.
So I decided to go to law school to do entertainment law.
This way I could be in the industry, but in a controlled
career within it. But before I got to start law school, a
friend of mine is with an agency and was an extra on a movie
near my hometown one summer and asked if I wanted to go for
the day and get paid to pretend I was at a party. And the
writer saw me and asked me to audition for a role and I got
it and they wrote me into the next one and it all just sort
of snowballed. Iím the luckiest girl in the world.
Moderator: Do you think Chasing Life can properly portray
what cancer patients go through?
Italia: The show isnít all about cancer. From the people that
Iíve spoken to everybody goes through it differently, so
thereís 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. Iím sure there will be some people who
completely disagree with how sheís reacting to certain
things physically and emotionally and then thereís some
people who might say thatís exactly what they experienced,
or what they saw somebody experience.
I hope people can at least understand. Theyíre going to know
itís still television. Itís 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 youíre not
Moderator: How do writers keep a show like this from getting
too dark or depressing with such a heavy subject matter?
Italia: People just have to take my word for it, itís not
depressing. Itís not dark. Itís not going to leave you
feeling heavy after you watch it. The writers are so
brilliant. Itís funny. They deliver the bad stuff or the
dramatic stuff and then itís right back at it just like real
life is. Thereís comedy in it and thereís so much more to it
than the cancer. Itís about friendship and her family and
her romance and there are episodes that you totally forget
that sheís even sick.
Moderator: What was your experience like filming in Boston?
Italia: I had never been to Boston before shooting the
Chasing Life pilot in 2012. I love it there! Itís so amazing
and the sense of community there and it makes you feel like
youíre in the movies. I found myself speaking like the
locals saying ďwicked goodĒ and stuff, which Iím 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 ďIím here for a new
showĒ and he goes ďis it the one about the journalist?Ē And
I was like ďoh my gosh; you know the show! That is so cool.Ē
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!
Moderator: Are there any other favorite landmarks that stuck
out to you in Boston?
Italia: I donít have a lot of time off when Iím 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 thatís 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. Thereís one street you feel like youíre
in Europe and then the next street it looks like New York --
thereís just so much to it.
Moderator: What was your favorite part about filming Chasing
Italia: My favorite part about filming the show, weíve got
pretty good food on set [laughs]. Yesterday we had a mac and
cheese bar, like four different types of mac and cheese, it
was bizarre; it was amazing. But really, the cast and crew
are my favorite things. I am so excited to go to work every
day. They are some of my favorite people in the entire
world. One camera man moved to another show in the middle of
shooting and I broke down and cried on set. But definitely
the cast and crew.
Moderator: How are you and your character April are alike?
Italia: Weíre both pretty stubborn and hyper organized. I
canít function if thereís a dirty dish in the sink or if
things arenít where they belong. My friends when they come
over, theyíll just try and mess with me by like turning a
vase, rotating it, so that the handle is not out or
something and Iíll stop in the middle of the room and notice
something is different; this is not okay [laughs]. Iím a
little OCD, so I think April and I share that. Thereís a
bunch of jokes in the show about how organized she is and I
think thatís really the writers just taking shots at me. I
wish I was as ballsy as her. I hope to be. Sheís actually
inspired me a lot more than I expected her to, which is
Moderator: What was the audition process like for you? What
was your reaction when you found out you got the role?
Italia: The audition process, I was so nervous about this
audition because it was for such a great role. Besides one
other series that I did called Unnatural History, I had only
ever played quintessential stereotypical hot girl one or
something, so when this one came up, I was like ďoh my gosh,
itís real.Ē Itís something that I can actually lose myself
in and become and something thatís going to scare the hell
out of me because I donít know if Iím good enough for it.
So I went to the first audition right after getting a couple
of shots because I was getting my green card and Iím not
good with needles, much like April, so I felt a little
green. I didnít even remember the audition. I remember
getting into the car and just crying and thinking I ruined
it; I screwed it up. I called my agent to see if I could get
another appointment and theyíre like ďactually youíre screen
testingĒ and I just about peed my pants [laughs]. Then I
screen tested against two other girls who were amazing and
then I booked it and I got the call October 9, 2012. I was
at McDonalds and I grabbed my Big Mac, forgot my fries and
went and had Big Macs and champagne at my managerís.
My friend has a video of me getting the call and screaming
and running around McDonalds like a complete psycho.
Moderator: Do you feel like this role will give you more
opportunities as an amazing actress?
Italia: Thereís so much to do with April and itís so exciting
that some days I get to come in and bawl my eyes out; and
some days I get to come in and scream my head off. And some
days I get to come in and laugh like a hyena. April gets to
do so much and I donít have to wake up and play the same
tone every day, which keeps it so interesting and I think
keeps the performance fresh. I feel like Iím just sitting
here crossing my fingers and hoping people enjoy watching
me, but I just hope that people relate and are interested in
what Iíve done with her. Iím just so terrified still.
Moderator: What is the hardest part about playing April?
Italia: At the beginning the hardest parts were days when I
would have scenes where Iíd have to get to a pretty
emotional place and then we would finish the scene and move
on to a happy scene or a regular scene. I would feel like I
hadnít finished letting all those emotions out, so I would
end up just crying in my car on the way home or in the
shower or something just to let it out [laughs], so I didnít
project it onto to some other part of my life that didnít
But now that Iím getting a lot of fan mail and people are
sharing their stories with me and itís so beautiful and Iím
so grateful that I can be somebody that makes them feel like
theyíre being heard. The hardest part, I donít feel so great
when I get to come home and not be sick when there are so
many people who canít turn it off.
Moderator: Whatís the atmosphere like on set?
Italia: Itís amazing! Weíre constantly laughing in between
takes, youíre making all these jokes, but I feel like thatís
just sort of what you have to do sometimes. Everybody just
gets along so well and we know so much about each other,
crew included. Everybody does such a fantastic job. Weíre
all just so grateful to be there. There are no egos
anywhere. Itís like I have this gigantic new family that I
get to hang out with every day and I would do it for free.
Moderator: What is Aprilís role and relationship like within
Italia: Aprilís dad passed away two years before the pilot in
a car accident, so sheís become almost the rock, the man in
the house so to speak. Her mom is still dealing with it in
her own way and her sister is just trying to become who she
is and her grandma is just hilarious, so April is sort of
keeping it all together. And you learn that she was planning
to move away after college, but had to stay home to be there
for the family, so sheís definitely the foundation that
keeps all the wheels turning.
When she gets sick, I think a lot of her hesitation before
coming clean about being sick is because she doesnít want
the people who she feels she has to take care of are needing
to take care of her. She feels so much responsibility to
make sure that everybody is happy and when she tells them
that sheís going to need the help now and she canít play
that role as well as she would before then, then she thinks
it will sort of all fall apart. Obviously sheís scared.
Moderator: What will viewers be most surprised by when they
watch Chasing Life?
Italia: How funny it is. The pilot is always tough and
general audiences donít always realize that you have to jam
so many stories and so many characters and so much
information into a pilot episode that a lot of the times
itís not like the rest of episodes. But even in our pilot,
you feel that itís not heavy. Itís a feel good show. Itís a
feel good family show and I think that people are going to
be surprised at how much more theyíre going to laugh than
Moderator: What has been your favorite episode to film?
Italia: The sixth episode was fun because I got to drive
around in a Maserati as fast as I could, which was pretty
cool. Itís more or so just moments in different episodes,
scenes that are a lot of fun. Iím looking forward to this
one scene in the finale that Iím going to be filming next
week, but I canít tell you what it is. I would say driving
the Maserati around was pretty cool!
Moderator: Can you share anything about the new upcoming
Italia: The season is going to explore how the diagnosis
elevates all of the stakes in Aprilís 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. Itís 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 ďseriously, what, where, why?Ē Itís so
Moderator: Did you do any journalism or interview research to
prep since your character is a journalist?
Italia: When we filmed in Boston, we filmed at the Boston
Globe, so I took some time and walked around and watched
people more for physical mannerisms and posture and to see
what being zoned in as a journalist looks like. Iíve been
interviewed a few times, but I was never seeing this in the
building at the desk, so that was really good.
Being interviewed now I feel like Iíve blacked out and then
I finish the interview and Iím like ďdid I make any sense?Ē
[laughs] But itís hard now because I donít want to be
repetitive but I can only answer with the truth and what I
know. So itís frustrating and sort of embarrassing when I
break down and cry like a baby!
Moderator: Do you have some autumn memory that you can share?
Italia: Yes, my birthday is in October, so those were always
pretty great right near Halloween! But my favorite Halloween
costume would probably be my parents would always bandage me
up and say I was a mummy every time; it was so great. One
year my dad built a shower around me with a rod and curtain
and everything, so I was just walking roundabout in a
shower; that was pretty cool, too.
Moderator: What is something you hope fans get from the show?
Italia: Hope and inspiration to never give up.
Moderator: What is at the top of your bucket list right now?
Italia: I feel like I should say something super prophetic,
but I donít [laughs]. I would say to travel. Iíve never
really traveled much, so it would be nice to be able to do
Moderator: Where would you like to go?
Italia: I would like to go to Italy.
Moderator: How difficult is it to portray the shows subject
Italia: As an audience member, I enjoy watching things that
make me feel represented and I feel like people are
interested in seeing this because no matter what role you
play, there might be somebody you can relate to, whether
itís the mom of somebody whoís sick or the best friend or
the boss. Thereís something that youíre like ďokay, I can
relate to that and I feel that validation,Ē it piques a lot
of peopleís interest if they can find something that they
relate to. And then there are people who just want to feel
like theyíre not alone in this and theyíre not. There are so
many people that feel everything that every character is
feeling in the show.
Iíve seen The Fault in Our Stars, and itís pretty similar to
our show. The types of cancers are different and some of the
plot points, but itís a wonderful movie and I hope people
watch it. But 50/50, when Joseph Gordon Levitt and I had
reshoots for the movie we did, he actually is the one that
pulled me aside and was like ďI think itís amazing what
youíre doing, but donít forget that youíre not sick.Ē I
never really took it to heart before I started shooting and
now Iím so grateful that he had said that to me, because
like I said, thatís sometimes the hardest part.
Moderator: Do you feel because youíve taken on a role like
this that means that now you have a responsibility when
youíre off the set to help with cancer awareness?
Italia: Yes, absolutely. As soon as I booked it, I was like
what can I do. It always felt like this massive dark
presence that I was uncomfortable addressing or even looking
at because I didnít know very much about it. Now itís all
about awareness weíre bringing and weíre taking that stigma
away from that. Weíre taking the power away from that and I
think thatís great.
When I first started shooting and even when I booked it, it
didnít really cross my mind that people would look at me and
I would be taking on these responsibilities. I donít want to
screw it up. I obviously hope that itís going to help some
people, but Iím still just a really lucky girl who booked a
really great job.
Moderator: Can you talk about the significance behind all the
things April is chasing in Chasing Life?
Italia: Oh gosh, sheís chasing everything! Sheís chasing that
success as a journalist. Sheís chasing the happiness for her
mother to find love after her father. Sheís chasing her
sister all around as sheís figuring out who she is becoming.
Sheís chasing óbefore she gets diagnosed óshe was already
chasing life. You can see sheís already working hard. The
first scene of the episode shows you that, but now sheís
just got to run a bit faster.
Moderator: Could you talk a little bit more about what people
are writing you and what thatís meant to you?
Italia: People just share their stories or whether itís
having known someone or knowing someone or being someone who
has been diagnosed. I get these letters and theyíre just so
amazing and inspiring to me. These guys are the real heroes.
Itís incredible, the strength of the young adults and adults
and children with cancer that Iím beginning to know. Itís a
little overwhelming, but in a great way. I wish I could do
more for them than just respond to a message. I wish I could
really make a difference and I guess listening is all I
could really do at this point, but Iím always going to try
and do everything I can.
Moderator: If you could play any other character on the show,
who would you choose and why?
Italia: I think maybe Beth, sheís just so funny and snarky
and sheís got a great accent and her clothes are amazing.
Sheís got the coolest wardrobe. Aprilís is pretty cool, too,
but I think it would be fun to play Beth. I think it would
be fun to play all of them. Leo is a pretty fun character,
too, because you think heís a jerk for a lot of the time,
because heís just so sarcastic and ridiculous, but yes I
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