Ethan Peck - Patrick Verona
So were you like a fan-going back to the movie, do you remember when the movie came out?
Ethan Peck: Yeah, that was '99, right? And I definitely saw it when I was, I guess, 13, 14-years old. When I got the audition, I hadn't even recalled the film at the time. They were [like remake], and I couldn't quite remember what it was, but it's a great movie. And it's really exciting to be working under that franchise.
I remember in '99 there was, like, a lot of teen movies. That was, like, the year of Varsity Bluesand She's All That, and all that.
Ethan Peck: Yeah.
I remember 10 Things I Hate About YouI liked because they did little things like when we he was showing everyone around on the cafeteria tables and there was the cowboys. Like, it was like, you know, there's the jocks, there's the-down here, there's the cowboys, you know? [Laughs] There was, like, a little bit of tongue-in-cheek stuff. Like, is the show doing anything like that as far as a little bit of a winking about being a teen show?
Ethan Peck: Maybe a little bit. To be honest, in reading the scripts, it's sometimes difficult to tell the tone, like the physical audible tone of how it will be interpreted. But I think there's a little bit, probably mostly by Larry Miller who is reprising his role. He's amazing. So you'll probably see that a lot with him, like, he's a gynecologist, and it's funny. [He'll be like], girls! He'll be delivering a baby and they're, like, on their way to school, and they're like, "Dad..." So it's kind of great. [Laughs}
So you're playing the role that Heath Ledger played in the movie, right?
Ethan Peck: Yeah.
So how did Heath Ledger's version of your character influence your portrayal of Patrick Verona?
Ethan Peck: Well as I said before, I didn't see the film before I auditioned for it and couldn't really recall the film and was just having, like, a really bad day, so I didn't care to go back and look at the film, which sort of worked to my benefit because I think that I brought somewhat of an original interpretation of the material to the audition. So actually after I'd tested for the-actually, yeah, after I tested for the show, I watched the film. And I mean, he's so different, anyways. With all due respect, I didn't take any inspiration from him only because this Patrick Verona is a new Patrick Verona really. I mean, the show is completely different from the film for the most part.
Yeah, but it has to be more broad because you cover him over, you know, a whole season and everything instead of just, you know, I mean, in the-
Ethan Peck: You've got to open a world up.
And I see you're not doing an Australian accent.
Ethan Peck: Right, right. [Laughs] I'm sort of a loner.
Oh, I know, because he was like a badass and everybody's afraid of him. But I'm sure-are those traits still part of this character?
Ethan Peck: Oh, yeah, absolutely. He's still a badass, rides a motorcycle. We don't know too much about his personal life yet. But he's slowly coming out of the woodwork I guess.
What episodes are you shooting now?
Ethan Peck: They've picked the show up for ten including the pilot. We're at-we start six today. Yeah, I just [don't work] today. [Laughs]
Can you tell me about how closely they stick to the storyline?
So it's a teenage show based on a movie based on Shakespeare. How familiar are you with the whole Shakespeare aspect? At all or-?
Ethan Peck: I am ashamed to say I'm not familiar at all. I mean, I have an idea, but I haven't-
In the film, the relationship between your character and the Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character was sort of a big thing, the unlikely friendship there. Is that a similar thing in the TV series?
Ethan Peck: Yeah, actually, in this new episode, in six, is the first scene I'll have with Nick Braun who plays Cameron. And he's-I don't know how much I'm supposed to say about what's happening, but he's got himself in an awkward-a difficult situation, which Bianca, who he's very interested in, as you know, and he comes to me for help again. But instead of-so in the film, Joey pays Patrick to take out Kat because Bianca can't go out [that doesn't happen] -Cameron goes to Joey for that or to-oh yeah, to Patrick for that. Anyways, I think we'll see them develop much further, as they do in the film a little bit. It'll be definitely because Patrick is genuinely interested in Kat, was before he was paid, and then become interested. So yeah, I'm not really sure. We've only had these two scenes so far. So I'm not really sure as of yet. It's going to be fun.
What's your favorite trait of your character, Patrick Verona, and what part of your personality do you use most in portraying Patrick Verona?
Ethan Peck: My favorite trait about Patrick is that he'll give attitude and be, like, flat-I guess the humor that we're arming Patrick with is, like, flat sarcasm because that's who he is as a person and that's, like, what makes him a badass because he's like-there's a scene where Cameron-it's the scene where he's, like, waiting at a vending machine and the soda won't fall down, of course. And he's like, "What the heck?" And Patrick comes up and he's like-Cameron's like, "It won't drop." And I'm like, "Your testicles or the soda?" [Laughs] And the great thing about Patrick is, like, he won't be like, "Oh, I'm just joking," which is what I would do. And I love that kind of humor that Patrick just is that. And it's only funny from an outside observer as opposed to the people involved. But I'd like to think that I have a hold on that sort of flat humor with my friends, what we use.
In the film, there were all these crazy rumors about Patrick, so do we get some different rumors here?
Ethan Peck: [Laughs] Yeah. His taste of human flesh. Yeah. God, what would-his mom's a Mexican drug lord, I think. There's another one but, yeah, there were some real rumors.
How does it feel being in high school?
Ethan Peck: It feels good. The first time was awful because I cared, and this time I don't have to give a damn. [Laughs] So that's nice, and I get to go on a motorcycle, too. [Laughs] Yeah.
Has Larry Miller thrown out improvs for you guys?
Ethan Peck: Yeah, he does. Actually, I haven't worked with him yet. But Lindsey who plays Kat was all saying how it's so amazing they're always improvising. So yeah, he definitely is using his skills.
Have you ridden a motorcycle before this show or been trained?
Ethan Peck: No, actually I have my own bike lessons tomorrow. I've never ridden a bike before. So right now they've got like grips. I sit on the bike and, like, the two grips are like pushing me [laughs]. And in this shot, I have to be like, "Later." [Laughs] And like, these guys are pushing me on a bike. It's totally embarrassing. [Laughs] So it's been rough. Then they cut to a shot of my stunt double, like-zooming.
So how do you prepare for a role, any acting role that you get?
Ethan Peck: It's sort of different for all of them at the moment. I'm not really sure how. But typically, it comes down to some basic ideas on how to bring out the reality of the character, some context, obviously. The main thing is, I mean, like-maybe I look at it from a psychological point of view, like are his parents dead, where's he from, what's he want to do, where's he going, where's he been, very basic and general. And then it really comes down to scenes and who I'm working with and how the director wants it to look and just sort of maintaining a sense of open-mindedness to go work and be whatever I can be while still maintaining those primary ideas that I have about who I want this guy to be, or girl or whatever I'm playing, you know? [Laughs]
Do you get time with Lindsey and Meaghan before filming?
Ethan Peck: I actually-I flew out of New York for this. I was casted out of New York. So I was the last to come to the set and sort of meet everybody. And so I didn't get the chance to bond with everybody else like most of the other guys did. But it's perfect because he's the outsider, and I totally felt that way coming into it. So I think that probably only added to my security in the role. Yeah.
Lindsey seems like a pretty good choice for Kat.
Ethan Peck: Yeah, she's really funny. She's really sassy. [Laughs] I mean, mostly as Kat-I think Kat allows her to be sassy, but then it sort of bleeds into Lindsey a little bit. But she's a really awesome person, so I'm really lucky to be working with her.
So what's the challenges on filming for TV versus making a movie that you've found as an actor?
He'll give me like, sometimes, the information about the lines sometimes because, as I said before, we're still figuring them out, and we don't-none of us know how he's going to be edited. So we'll get a bunch of different takes of him different people almost, which can be really scary because there's no completed story or person. And in a script, you read the script and you know what you're getting into. And with this, it's just like they're working with me and we're all collaborating to create this guy. Yeah, so the challenge is, like, feeling safe on set and in the work because I really do care a lot about it being good work, and I hope that it will be. So that's a huge challenge for me not to know-sort of like, running [lineman or forward] and have all these guys being like, "Yeah, go at it."
Do you have any say in, "I think we should go this direction with the character versus...?"
Ethan Peck: Yeah, sometimes.
Do you just, "Can I do this," kind of-
Ethan Peck: Yeah, or I'll add something in.
Ethan Peck: Yeah, I'd be all for the singing. I mean, I think that's an amazing scene, but I just don't know if he would do that. And that's just kind of a special scene in the movie that I wouldn't really want to challenge, yeah.
Yeah, or you mentioned that the director of the film, directed your pilot. Has he done other episodes beyond that?
Ethan Peck: Yeah, he's done the first four, actually. And he's supposed to come back in six, seven and nine-yeah, I think.
It's pretty cool. You know, it's pretty rare to see that, you know, when someone sort of revisits something they did ten years ago. Was it kind of cool to have him there, you know, obviously? And you could-I guess you'd feel comfortable not mimicking the movie because he's there to say that's fine.
Ethan Peck: Exactly, exactly. And that's-I mean, who am, like, I don't have a name or any really strong credentials. So he definitely has made us all really comfortable in the roles, you know?
So TV, like you said, I know TVs [indiscernible] dailies for that. Is it hard for you to-was it hard to adjust to from making film?
Ethan Peck: Yeah, it's definitely hard to adjust to. It's so much quicker paced and, like I said, finding out where we're going. You've got two takes to be really high energy and get it right, whereas in film it's like you can be a little more thoughtful while doing the work and it's like having a conversation. And sometimes, in TV, you've just got to get it out. You make it work.
What about guest stars that [you've filmed with] so far-guest stars?
Ethan Peck: Yeah, a guy named Justin Lee who plays this creepy-they called him a perv because he's always hitting on Kat. But I haven't really been in contact with anybody else except for Kat yet, which has been interesting for me. [Laughs]
So you'd mentioned how when you came in from New York you didn't really know the rest of the cast. You know, with TV, since chemistry is so important, you know, did it take a couple days to sort of work out how you fit in with the other cast?
Ethan Peck: Yeah, absolutely, especially with-like, for instance, Lindsey's like really funny and very-has a very powerful presence. So we sort of talked about that and [inaudible] her humor, and she's very sarcastic and also like really hilarious and supportive. So it's difficult to sort of, like, get a sense of people, who they were outside of their characters because, I mean, it's difficult to distinguish a person from who they're playing because you see so much of who they actually are and who they're pretending to be, usually.
So what were you like in high school?
Ethan Peck: You know, I was such a dork in high school. I like-I played sports. I played in the symphony. I auditioned all the time. I was thrown off the sports teams for auditioning all the time. I didn't do as well as I wanted to because I didn't care really.
You didn't do as well in school or as well in auditions?
Ethan Peck:I mean, all across the board because I was doing so many things, but I guess specifically school. I just, like, really didn't have any interest in, I don't know, grades and the system. And I didn't realize it at the time, I just felt really guilty about it. But I found myself feeling like an outsider all the time because I didn't really understand why people had to have certain groups of friends and why everybody couldn't just get along.
After breakfast and our chat with Ethan Peck, we all headed out to Santa Clarita Studios to the set and we were met by series creator Carter Covington who gave us a little tour of the set before sitting down to talk to us. We got lots of interesting tidbits of trivia, like the soundstage they were filming on was one of the sets of the original Melrose Place. He showed us the nice little outdoor courtyard they built and the eerily realistic hallways, complete with trophy cases and old ratty lockers, which actually had books and random high school paraphernalia inside. They definitely had the details down, from the gross bathrooms and water fountains to the antiquated desks that look like they've been used for decades, even to the random writings on the walls and desks.
Once we were through walking through this rather accurate high school set, we all sat down in the courtyard to talk with Covington about what we can expect from this new series.
Carter Covington - Series Creator
How did you come to be on this project?
Carter Covington: You know, it's funny. I worked with ABC Family about five years ago when I was just starting out as a writer. I had written a pilot called "Just a Phase." And it was kind of like
The Wonder Years, set in the '80s, in the south. It was very autobiographical, you know, because that's where I grew up.
Where are you from?
Carter Covington: Winston-Salem, North Carolina. And I'd just written it as a sample for around town, and they bought it. It was this The Wonder Years show about a little boy growing up in the south. And we made it and shot it. We had a great time shooting it, and it didn't go to series. But it started a relationship with ABC Family. I sold them another pilot that we shot that didn't go to series, and then I ended up working on Greekfor two seasons. And so last summer, I worked with Gil Junger who directed the movie and directed the pilot. He directed another pilot that I had with ABC Family, and he also directed the Greek pilot, and I worked with him on Greek. We really got along. And it was sort of this, like-I would always ask him about 10 Things. I was such a huge 10 Thingsfan, and I'd be like, "Oh, my God," and, "What was Heath Ledger like," and, you know, "How did you cast Julia Stiles?" I mean, I was just always wanting to sort of know-
"Why is the soundtrack so awesome?"
Carter Covington: "Why is the soundtrack so awesome?" And the pilot kind of grew out of that. I mean, it was kind of, it's been ten years, and I'd always wanted to do a show about high school. I mean, I grew up loving John Hughes movies, like loving. And no one's ever really kind of captured that spirit to me in a series. And so when we kind of came up with the idea, I got the blessing from the writers of the original movie, who are friends of friends. They were like, "That's a great idea. We're super excited." And it was important. It was their first big feature film, and they've gone on to write Legally Blonde and The House Bunny. I mean, they are incredibly excited, and they're like, "Just have fun with it and really make it your own." And so we sort of put it together, and that's kind of the vision I've been putting out there is, like, I want it to feel like a half-hour teen movie every week, you know? I want it have that same sort of-I consider myself a writer who really likes-I like funny, but I like emotional moment in the story, like the warm chewy center that's not too sweet that you get a cavity but, like, you know, just a nice moment where you kind of get what these people are going through. And so that's what we put together, and it's been a challenge.
I mean, it's hard to-I know that a lot of TV shows based on movies don't do well. And I think we're coming at it really as a reimagining of the movie as a TV show and with a lot of respect and love for the original movie, but an attempt-I don't want to recreate the movie. I don't want to try to have the actors mimic these performances that everyone loves. I really want the characters to sort of look differently in the show, have a whole-you know, the DNA of them is the same but they're played by new actors, they have new spins on them that are slightly different. And I really want-I hope that people will watch it and be like, you know what, it feels like the movie because it's directed by the same director, it has the same music, it has Larry Miller, but it also has this new spirit, this new life that is totally different. And literally after the first episode, nothing follows the movie. So you know, there's no...
We were teasing Ethan Peck about-I was teasing if he just stood still and looked awesome for ten episodes, you'd be fine. What is the plan for that because you could-will he talk eventually? What will he say?
Can you talk about how you found all the other actors, how you cast them and what were you looking for, for each character?
Carter Covington: Sure, I can. Well Kat I wanted to sort of not only make a feminist but to have-I'm probably the most excited about Kat as a character in the life of the series because I think teen female characters tend to be more like Bianca. They tend to be popular. They tend to be-you know, you have the Gossip Girl's, you have the 90210's. And I really am excited about having one of our lead characters be an anti-hero in a way. And so I want-but it's tough. It's tough to find someone who, week after week, is kind of going, "High school is stupid," and you're not like, "Shut up already," you know, "Like, I'm sick of you talking about that." So we also wanted to find someone that just had this, like, really warm likeable, and you're kind of drawn to them. And Lindsey has that in spades. Like, she is just really able to say sort of-she's sarcastic and rye and snarky, but you like her. But anyway, so that's Kat. We found Lindsey Shaw who is like kickass beyond belief. I don't think that girl has any limits as an actress. I think she can do anything. And then Bianca, you know, in the movie, she was-the sisters were established at the school because it was based on Taming of the Shrew. And in Taming of the Shrew, the Patrick character comes into town.
I wanted to start with the sisters moving into town so that we could see all the relationships start and sort of make a fresh start. That's part of the whole reimagining things. So they're new to school. And Bianca was popular at her old school, and she's starting fresh. So, her whole drive is, "I want to be popular." But it's not just, "I want to be popular." It's like she could be, and she probably will be, the CEO of a company some day. You know, she is driven. She could have a 4.0 and get into Harvard, but she is putting all that energy into being popular. And I really wanted to make her smart and driven versus just like vapid and, "I really want things," and to be silly.
So what I love about Meaghan Jette Martin is she is that person. I mean, even-she's a 17-year old, like, driven actress who wants to be a star, you know? And she's going to be a star. But she has her own ambition in life, and it comes through on the screen really well. And she's also just a really likeable sweet nice person, and that helps too because she's often times making really shallow choices to be popular, and you've got to also kind of be onboard with her.
And then for Cameron, who, you know, in the movie, he was played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt who is so great, so great. But we really wanted to find someone who-like, I what I loved about that character in the movie was he was a romantic, you know, and most teenage guys are total pervs. And so I loved that idea that this guy who wants to be in love-he's, like, excited to have a girlfriend. And he wants all the romance parts of it.
So we found Nicholas Braun who is-like, you just see him and you're just like, "Ah, what a sweetheart," and he's incredibly just heartwarming as an actor. He's six-foot-six. You'll see. He's crazy tall.
How tall is Kat?
Carter Covington: In heels, she's probably five-eight, you know? So it's funny. It's really funny. And the guy who plays Michael is probably five-four. So I mean-
How do you even shoot that?
Carter Covington: It's a challenge doing coverages. But you know, we just decided you can't hide from a six-six guy. So I actually think it's kind of part of why he's a little bit of a misfit, you know?
Can you talk about the writers' room and, you know, the atmosphere in there and how you guys come up with story ideas and character arcs and keep things going?
Carter Covington: I think we have eight writers. And we have eight weeks of sort of prepping and writing before we start shooting. So for the first-essentially, it breaks down to we break about an episode a week. In the first week, we just talk about what's going to happen in these next ten episodes, just really big picture. And we have a board where we have each character and we have each episode and we just start writing things like, "Wouldn't it be cool if Kat turned her car into a biodiesel? [Laughs] Where should Kat and Patrick have their first kiss," you know?
And we just start to put it in, and then we also talk macro-one thing I learned from Greek, which they do really well is they kind of put a big party or something behind the episode to give it some sort of cohesion or theme so that, when you think back, you're like, "Remember that episode where it was the keg party that they did the liqueur luge?" "Yes." [Laughs] So we're trying to do some of that. Like, there's going to be a big dance. There's going to be-right now, what you'll see a little bit of is Bianca wants to raise money because it's expensive to be a popular kid, and she's running out of money. And her dad's like, "Well I've given you enough. You have to get a job." She's like, "I'm 15. I can't drive. Everybody in this neighborhood has a nanny. I can't babysit, you know? Like, what do you expect me to do?" And he's like, "Be entrepreneurial," so that she and her friend get the idea to start a Web show like The Hillsbecause people love to watch teenage girls just living their lives. And they slowly realize that if they up the sex appeal they get more viewers. So they basically work up to this really absurd girl-on-girl kiss, And she gets busted by her father who then takes her door off and [laughs] and she wants to be-if she wants to be watched, she can be watched. So you know, we're trying to-what I think is good writing is when the episode has that thing when the characters are emotionally travelling a similar path. So what we tend to do a lot is have Kat and Bianca-in this episode, it's about crossing the line. And Kat has a story where it's a little more of an emotional story, but basically Mandella has-they're in English class. Kat really hates the teacher because the teacher's like, "I just got engaged. Yay." She's totally not Kat, and she has them writing about a day that changed their life and blah, blah. And Kat goes to fight her grade and inadvertently insults Mandella's paper, and Mandella gets upset, and she's basically like, you know, "Everything's not all about you, Kat," and Kat realizes that sometimes she is self-centered. She's so driven that she steps on other peoples' feelings and blah, blah, blah, blah.
So it's this episode where both girls have a little bit of a story about learning that they've crossed the line. One is in a really funny way; one is in a really sort of emotional way. And that's kind of what we're trying to do is just-you know, so we tend to look in the writers' room about like, "What could the theme for this episode be? What could both characters sort of"-I don't even want to be "After School Special" and have, like, "This is the lesson we've learned today. I hate that. But I do think that really good TV kind of moves you in some way, you know? It just kind of-yeah, yeah. It just gives you-it makes you appreciate that the characters are evolving as people. And a lot of times I think, in comedy's, characters don't evolve. It's like, "Okay, let's think of the funny place we can put the character this week." And we're really trying to have these characters kind of grow. And I think, I think-I hope we're doing a good job. You guys can write me in a bit and tell me.
Did ABC Family have any problems with a girl-on-girl kiss?
Carter Covington: Hah, that's funny you mentioned that. ABC Family has a department called Standards and Practices, which most networks have, which is totally separate from programming. So we approved the story. Originally, we had Bianca selling her panties to Japan. [Laughs] They didn't like that. And they said no to panty selling. [Laughs] So then we sort of said, "Okay, well how can we get the spirit of this story but in a way that's real to these kids?" And so that's when we came up with the Web show idea. It's always a balance. It's always a, like-because I definitely want the show to feel real, I'm not into just pushing boundaries just to push boundaries. But if I think it's funny and I think it helps elevate what we're doing and if-you know, there's been a million teen movies and teen TV shows, it's like it's hard sometimes to tell a story people haven't seen before. So you know, that's the battle. That's the battle. But I have to say, you know, people are always shocked about what we get away with on ABC Family and I think it's because their attitude is as long as it's done in a responsible way, you know, as long as-we talk a lot about consequences, but as long as, you know, it's done in a way where the characters sort of aren't just given free reign, that they actually have consequences to their actions, then it's okay. And I've been on enough where it's like big keg parties and underage drinking and blah, blah, blah. So I'm like, "Hey, on Greek we did X, Y and Z. You have to let me do it." And they're like, "Gosh. He knows that." [Laughs]
So talking about the guidance counselor, will that be kind of the same from the movie?
Carter Covington: Oh, well that was actually the principal, Allison Janney. And we recast the principal because we can't afford Allison Janney. [Laughs] And we've made her-she's not the-again, the mantra is never try to copy the character, so we've made her a little more neurotic. And then the guidance counselor is kind of this spurned woman. So that's the-you'll see it in two episodes, one in which-this is a little spoiler-Bianca learns that people thinks she's a goodie-goodie. So she starts this rumor that she's dating an older man. It becomes the rumor that she's dating this really hot young teacher at school. And so there's the scene with the guidance counselor where we introduce Leslie Grossman's character, and she's basically saying, you know, "Save space. You can share with me. Show me on the doll where that man..." [Laughs]. And then she's coming back in this episode with Kat with the whole thing about the teacher because Kat learns that the teacher is giving everyone A's. So she goes to fight grade inflation. And the teacher's like, "Oh, so she's engaged. Is she still dating Mr.-I forget his name-Mr. So-and-So, the Health teacher. So he is the marrying type," you know? We go through this whole sort of like sub-textual thing that she used to like him in the past. And it's just fun. It's just a fun character that, she is a horrible role model. Actually, it's fun to make-the adults in this show are often more insane than the kids.
Like, right now, it's kind of Kat and it seems like Verona are doing a lot of scenes together. And there's the Kat and Bianca-when do you get to start having characters you wouldn't expect to be together, like, for example, maybe Bianca and Verona or Joey-?
Carter Covington: We're actually starting that now. So we're definitely going to have-by the end of this season, you will see Bianca interact-will have interacted with Patrick so that the connection gets made, Cameron and Kat, so that connection gets made, Joey and Cameron. Like, we're really trying to-it's good. You've got to, like, create a web so the stories don't always feel like, "Well here goes Kat talking to her people and here goes Bianca."
Ethan talked about Larry Miller and he likes to improv a lot. How do you work that into the scripts? When he has scripted dialog, do you let him do that first, and then just go off so you can-?
Carter Covington: Well it's funny where it is a-what we do is we sort of-we let him do a take where he can sort of play. And then he's pretty good about saying, you know, "Hey, here's the scene that's written. What do you think if I said this here?" What do you think if he said this here?
And when you have someone like Larry Miller, like, you've got to acknowledge that because he is just an improv genius. So we're trying to incorporate that because it's such a huge asset he brings to the show.
And actually, Lindsey and Meaghan really love it because they get to sort of-you know, it's fun for actors to improv. For writers, we're like, "Wait a second. Where are we in this process, you know? [Laughs] What? What?"
That's all from the first part of my visit to the set of 10 Things I Hate About You and be sure to check out my second part of the visit where we speak with Larry Miller, who is reprising his role as the Strafford father from the film, and also Meaghan Jette Martin, who plays Bianca and Lindsey Shaw, who plays Kat. Peace in. Gallagher out!