With only a few days left before April has to check herself into the hospital for aggressive chemotherapy, April is determined to live as normal a life as ever. But as she has to deal with Leo drama, Beth falling apart, and trying to live under the hovering eye of Sarah, April quickly learns that nothing will ever be “normal” for her. Meanwhile, Brenna tries to juggle time with Kieran and Greer.
After watching an episode of “Chasing Life,” I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with Italia Ricci, Mary Page Keller, and Haley Ramm in a pleasant meet & greet at the restaurant in our hotel.
Italia Ricci plays “April Carver,” a smart, charismatic and quick-witted aspiring journalist. “April” is only in her twenties when she is diagnosed with cancer. “April” refuses to give up her career, her boyfriend, her life!
Italia was sweet and friendly as we walked quietly over to our table of 5 mommy bloggers. Dressed casually in a white and tan striped shirt, white pants and a petite horseshoe necklace. She greeting us kindly and she was ready to discuss “Chasing Life” with us.
Knowing that this show revolves around “April” dealing with cancer, we asked Italia what she had to do with her hair during filming. Italia told that they already shot that scene, but she offered to shave her head on camera “because it’s so real for a lot of people.” Though the directors/producers were grateful for her offer, they were trying to work it out “so they could actually see it coming off in the scene, but because [they shot the] exteriors in Boston every 10 episodes, [they’d] go for a week to shoot all scenes from all 10 episodes in one week so the length would never have matched.” Instead of shaving or cutting her hair, Italia has various wigs so you see what happens to her during the chemo.
Preparing for a role where your character has any form of illness can’t be easy. We wondered how Italia got into the mindset for this role. She was telling us how grateful she was in getting the role, touched that it’s such a real story, and wanted to be able to portray the character “accurately and authentically and honestly” as she could. At first Italia wanted to do as much research on cancer, but then she “realized that April doesn’t know everything. She’s not an expert. She knows just as much as your average person who just knows about hearing it from people. So I didn’t want my performance to anticipate what was going to happen to her. So I tried to learn with her, so as soon as she found something out even though it was written in the script or a scene, I went, “Okay, how much would she actually know, I want to know that, too.” And our writers are incredible and we have teams of doctors and researchers and survivors and people who are still battling it who are all part of helping this be a real story.”
Since “Chasing Life” aired, Italia has received many beautiful and honest stories regarding cancer. She said that she receives “some of them public, some of them private. On Facebook, my messages are open so people can share with me privately and they are welcome to. I get tons, and so far I have responded to every single one. It’s hard now, but I do respond to each one. Well, I’m not going to respond to, “Hey, what up girl,” fake messages but the ones that are “Thank you.” But you guys are way stronger than I am. All I do is pretend on TV. You deserve more attention.” This led us into a discussion about how cancer has affected many of us, directly and indirectly. All five of the bloggers sitting at the table with Italia could relate to the story.
Not everyone is going to deal with cancer in the same way as “April,” but some are going through the same ordeal. “There’s no one way to tell a story about somebody dealing with cancer, or any illness really, so we just do our best to just do what I feel like I would do, because even it though it’s not all gonna be what everybody does, some points are gonna hit people perfectly. And even if it’s just one episode that you relate or one decision that she makes, that means they we were doing it right,” said Italia.
Italia has been very lucky to not have had to deal with cancer in her life or family. She said, “I’m one of the only people in the cast, one of the few people in the world who haven’t had to deal with that, so I almost felt like I wasn’t worthy of telling this story. So instead of feeling guilty about it, I decided to pretend it’s me. I was really scared when it came out because I wasn’t painting a character on, it was me as April reacting to all of these things, so it wasn’t like if it were poorly reviewed or people didn’t like my character, I’d be like, “Oh, well I played it wrong.” I’d be like, “Okay, well, I suck.” So I feel like I relate to her by that it’s me in an alternate universe.”
Mary Page Keller
“Sara Carver” is played by the talented Mary Page Keller. “Sara” is a therapist and the widowed mother of April and Brenna Carver. She is beautiful, smart, and fights to protect her family.
I felt honored that Mary Page Keller was sitting across from me at the table. She told us upon arrival that she only found out about this meet & greet an hour before… so she quickly got dressed and rushed to meet us! WOW! What a lovely lady! She didn’t have to rush to talk to us, but she wanted to. Thank you Mary! You made our morning something special.
Just the night before we watched the episode of “Chasing Life” where “Sara Carver” attends a support group meeting only to be terribly disappointed with it’s outcome. Mary said, “I thought it was such a funny way to address it. They’re inundated. It’s like the guy said, ‘I’ve been 10 years dealing with my kids’ cancer and I just want to come here, and we don’t have to talk about it.’ I kind of get sensitive to that. It’s a flip on what I expected. Even after reading the script, I was like, ‘What? Okay.'” If you think about it, what would you want to do at a support group? Drink and forget about all the crap you have to deal with on a daily basis? OR continue talking more about how sad and hard life it for you? My husband’s a therapist, so I can see how “Sara” felt in the scene. A therapist is all about allowing the group to talk and work through their problems.
After the BIG FAIL of a support group, “Sara” yells at “George.” Mary told us, “It was funny because we did that, and obviously we do take after take after take. And each time was a little different, some had more spit, and some were a little too angry, it was really fun. It was a fun day.”
She continued by telling us about her family. She has two boys, 20 and 17. Mary said, “Boys are an extreme volatile and full of energy. I’ve got two really good boys, so I’m very fortunate, but I’ve definitely had those waking up at 3 o’clock in the morning going, “Oh, please, God, let them be safe.” And, “Is he home?” And as they become a little older…It’s really fun, I love the way she’s written Rebecca, where she says. “Nice bong, by the way,” I love that they’ve kept it real and they aren’t trying to over precious with her.”
With two boys, we wondered where Mary Page Keller channels the mother-daughter relationship that is so strong in “Chasing Life.” Mary explained, “They tend to me more volatile than most mother-son relationships. It’s very, very different thing. I only have sisters, and my sisters only have daughters, so, literally when I saw the penis on my son’s ultrasound, I was like, “What am I going to do with him? What am I supposed to do with this? I honestly don’t know where to go from here.” And then the minute he was born, it was like, “I get it.” The mother-son thing is very precious and very unique and I will always be a bit of a mystery to them, which is amazing. With daughters, there’s kind of “I know what’s going on,” so there’s always that little bit of “I’m mom.” And I’ve raised them that way. They’ll try to use bad words, and I’m like, “Not in my presence. I know you’ll use them with your friends, but not with me. It’s not that I care that you do it, it’s that I car that you know you’re audience.” You’re going to be there one day with your girlfriend’s parents and you need to know that this is not okay and not to do it. So I’ve tried to raise them with the idea that they need to respect the boundaries, and women, and how you approach. So I think I have the woman thing, the girl-mother-daughter thing, from that respect.”
So, how did Mary Page Keller get involved with this role? Surprisingly she wasn’t acting, she was actually writing when the script came out. Her husband writes for Grimm and she had the chance to write an episode of the show with him. Mary explained, “I was in writer mode, I didn’t have my hair and make-up done, and this role came along, and I was like, ‘Oh, we have network noted today, I can’t go on an audition.’ And my husband read the script, and said, ‘No, you have to go, this is you. You’ve got to do this.’ So I went and met with Joni and Susanna. I didn’t have a chance to memorize the lines for the audition and hoped it came out close. It came out great.”
When we asked if she had a Twitter account Mary said, “I am untweetable.” We immediately said that we would hashtag her name and share it everywhere. Not being on Twitter, she wondered how would she know that we did this… and we told her that Italia and Haley would let her know. She then said with a smile,” Tell my daughters to tell me! They are so great.”
Haley Ramm brings to life “Brenna’s reputation as a rebellious teen.” “Brenna” is a teen who tests her mother’s boundaries and envies the “perfect” life of her sister.
When Haley walked over to our table, I though for sure she was just a teenager… but she is actually 22 years old. It didn’t surprise me too much because I always had the same problem when I was a young adult.
Haley is from Dallas TX originally. She started acting in Dallas at 8 and moved to LA when she was 11 with her mom “to pursue it, and it just kept working out. I kept getting roles and it felt foolish to go home. I ended up staying and my whole family moved out. I feel like I’m from here because I spent my formative years here but I feel like I’m cheating if I don’t mention Texas somewhere in there.”
This is Haley’s first time as a regular on a series and “it’s the best experience [she] could ever ask for.” You can tell on screen, and now seeing them off screen, everyone get along so well. Most of Haley’s acting background is in movies, “mostly indie movies where you don’t really get paid anything, but you’re doing it for the art, which I love. It’s so beautiful how everyone can sacrifice so much to be there and put so much into it. So that’s mostly what my background it. But this is my first series and I hope that they keep it on for awhile because I love to be a part of it. Movies are always great to do when you get them. One thing I’ve never done that I want to do is theater, and I’m kind of embarrassed to admit I’ve never done theater, but I’d love to. I think a stage production would be really fun.”
Haley told us how she got involved with the show… “I had an audition one day, and I thought it went really well, I didn’t really think much of it, I was testing for a lot of other shows at the time and I was kind of jaded about things and I was like, “Eh, I’ll never get it. It’s fine.” And then I got a call back and I met with the network to test and I ended up getting it I found out an hour later that I got it. It’s all very quick. It’s weird how that happens. One week you don’t have a job and you’re freaking out and the next week it all just happened.”
In the episode we watched Haley had a kissing scene with another girl. We found out that it was not uncomfortable for Haley due to how Melanie Mayron, director, set things up. Haley told us, “I kissed a girl on screen one other time, it was a real TV movie, it wasn’t like a real relationship. It was funny, comedic. It was really comfortable. We had Melanie Mayron as our director and she made the whole set super comfortable, she closes off the set every time I have a scene like that with Greer. They’re very respectful, the whole set. It’s just like another day.”
We all caught the “Every time you have a scene like that with Greer?” Haley laughed and said, “Pretty much. You caught me. She’ll be around.”
Knowing that April and Brenna have a 3rd sister that we got a glimpse of in a photo, we wanted to know if they would ever meet her. Haley said before episode 10 her character goes on a school trip with Greer and she starts digging up her past. You could tell Haley enjoys her part on “Chasing Life” and gets excited with she gets to read the script. “I would be anywhere, in the middle of a store, in line to get coffee, and I start reading the script on my iPhone and couldn’t put it down.”
Official ABC Family “Chasing Life” website
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Disclosure: Disney invited me on this press trip and paid for all of my expenses (except travel). All opinions are always 100% my own and honest.