Interview with Italia Ricci from "Chasing Life" on ABC Family - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite

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By Suzanne

Italia Ricci

Interview with Italia Ricci of "Chasing Life" on ABC Family 6/3/14

ABC Familyís Q&A with Italia Ricci
Chasing Life

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 as April?

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 relate 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 sick.

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 Life?

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 great.

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 deserve it.

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 her family?

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. Sheís terrified.

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 cry.

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 season?

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 cool.

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 that.

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 matter?

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 think Beth.

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