Yes, this Tuesday ABC Family’s hit series ‘Pretty Little Liars’ returns, but that’s not the only show you should tune in to that evening. Following ‘PLL’ is the brand new show ‘Chasing Life’ starring the talented Italia Ricci.
The series follows Ricci’s April Carver, a 24-year-old journalist trying to make it in the world of reporting all while navigating her love life and taking care of her family during difficult times. Unexpectedly, her life drastically changes when she is diagnosed with cancer. Immediately, April must learn how to cope with the disease, all while chasing love, hope, dreams and, of course, life.
Last week, TVRage joined a conference call with Ricci, where she opened up about her character’s challenges, working with Scott Michael Foster and how thankful she is to work on such an incredible show.
Surprisingly, Ricci didn’t do a lot of research for the role, as she told reporters, “...immediately after I booked the role, I thought I was going to learn everything I could about cancer, become an 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.”
Before even landing this part and this show, which Ricci refers to as “incredible,” “real” and “inspiring,” the young actress “wasn’t sifting through scripts being like ‘I only want this one.’” Like many other actors, Ricci was auditioning left and right during pilot season and she knew ‘Chasing Life’ was the “golden ticket.” As she told TVRage, “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.”
When she scored the part, Ricci was ecstatic, “I screen tested against two other girls who were amazing, and then I booked it and I got the call Oct. 9, 2012. I was at McDonald’s and I grabbed my Big Mac, forgot my fries and went and had Big Mac’s and champagne at my manager’s.”
As excited as she was, Ricci knew the part of April Carver would come with its challenges, and she spends more time telling people it’s uplifting rather than depressing and dark. “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.”
With playing a cancer patient, come the challenges of playing this type of character truthfully and realistically. For Ricci, she isn’t worried about “properly” portraying cancer patients, as she explained, “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.”
Piggybacking off that, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who played a cancer patient in the movie ‘50/50,’ gave Ricci the following advice, “I think it’s amazing what you’re doing, but don’t forget that you’re not sick.” That piece of knowledge became extremely beneficial to Ricci, because, for her, sometimes the hardest part is forgetting you’re not the one that’s sick.
The other hardest part? Ricci opened up her heart and emotions as she told reporters through tears, “….I’m so grateful that I can be somebody that makes them feel like they’re being heard. The hardest part, I don’t feel so great when I get to come home and not be sick when there are so many people who can’t turn it off.”
With all of that said, Ricci guarantees between the cancer storyline, the show is full of joy, love, laughs and hope, which is in huge thanks to the cast and crew.
Speaking of the cast, it is full of familiar faces, including Cappie aka Scott Michael Foster from ABC Family’s former hit series ‘Greek.’ Funnily enough, Ricci and Foster worked together on the sorority/fraternity dramedy (for one episode). However, Foster didn’t remember Ricci like she remembered him.
As Ricci told TVRage, “We didn’t really stay in touch after the episode of ‘Greek,’ which was five and a half years ago or something. He didn’t even remember me at the table read for ‘Chasing Life’ for the second episode. (laughs) I introduced myself and I was like ‘We worked together,’ and he’s like ‘Really, when?’ I was like, ‘Oh wow,’ because we had to kiss in ‘Greek.’”
Despite Foster’s lapse in memory, he and Ricci work extremely well together and have become good friends. “We are so close now. He’s hilarious,” she told TVRage. “You can see we’ve had to post a couple of videos talking about the show and I can’t keep a straight face when I’m with him. He’s hilarious and he’s so talented it’s insane. It’s sort of intimidating sometimes and I’m like, ‘Can you try to suck a little more because you’re making me look really bad.’” (laughs)
In between the wonderful cast, the amazing crew and the fantastic show, Ricci is so thankful -- and terrified -- to be portraying April Carver.
“When I first started shooting and even when I booked it, it didn’t really cross my mind that people would look at me and I would be taking on these responsibilities. I don’t want to screw it up. I obviously hope that it’s going to help some people, but I’m still just a really lucky girl who booked a really great job.”
‘Chasing Life’ premieres Tuesday, June 10 at 9/8c on ABC Family.