The series follows two female teenage best friends who — much like their I Love Lucy counterparts — cook up an offbeat scheme. But instead of trying to get a gig at the Tropicana, they pretend to be lesbians to gain popularity. That offbeat premise allows for “high school stories that feel really fresh and different,” the EP tells TVLine. “The show feels very unique and very current. I am very happy about that.”
Below, Covington talks about his initial reservations regarding the premise, the show’s blue-in-a-sea-of-red setting and one really complicated love triangle.
TVLINE | How would you sum up the show?
To me, Faking It is a coming-of-age show about longing and trying to find out who you are and all the hilarity and painful drama that is involved in that.
TVLINE | Your main characters are doing it in a very unusual way, though. Where did the idea come from?
MTV actually approached me [with] the title Faking It and the basic concept of two girls in high school pretending to be lesbians. At first, that concept, as a gay man, it kind of [offended] me a little bit. But I started to think about it. My high school experience was very much that I was in the closet in North Carolina in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and the idea of coming out was so foreign to me. I volunteer with The Trevor Project, so I’ve had a lot of exposure talking to LGBT youths, and I know that things are shifting in the country. It’s not the same environment as it was when I was in high school.
So I thought, “Why don’t we create a high school where the most popular kid in school is gay, and where coming out as a lesbian would grant you that popularity because it shows you’re willing to be your true, authentic self?” Then, if I created that high school and these girls perpetuate this lie to be popular, I wanted one of the girls to actually realize she had feelings for her best friend. I pitched that to the network and they got really excited, and it moved very quickly from there.
TVLINE | Let’s talk about Amy (played by newcomer Rita Wolk) and Karma (American Idol alum Katie Stevens). How would you describe their friendship?
Amy and Karma have a friendship that I think everyone would want to have. They 100 percent support each other. They know each other better than anyone else. They have been friends since kindergarten. They are each other’s worlds. There is a little bit of wish fulfillment in that, because I think we can all relate to those moments where you’re so in love with your best friend and where you just want to spend all of your time with them and talk about the world and make fun of the world you live in with them.
I really worked hard to cast actresses that had chemistry together, and I encouraged them to get to know each other. Katie Stevens and Rita Folk, the night they were cast, they went out to dinner together and became fast friends, and it really shows on screen… I want people to be rooting for Karma and Liam (Pretty Little Liars‘ Gregg Sulkin) to get together. I want people to be rooting for Karma and Amy to get together. I want it to be as complicated as possible.
TVLINE | The girls are pretending to be in a relationship when they’re not. Meanwhile, Karma has a crush on Liam. What sort of complications are in store going forward?
When I pitched the network, I said, “Imagine it’s Lucy and Ethel if Ethel had a crush on Lucy.” And that’s really how I’ve envisioned it, because Karma is a schemer. She’s always got a plan to get what she wants, and she doesn’t often think through the consequences.
Amy is trying to figure out these new feelings that she is having while Karma is dragging her, hurtling to a conclusion that in the finale will be very rewarding for the people who watched these eight episodes. The nice part of having eight episodes is I was able to plot the story and pack each episode with really a lot of juicy and fun material. It moves really quickly and has a very satisfying ending that really sets us up for a great Season 2, so I’m really excited.
TVLINE | What can we expect from the other characters, like Shane (United States of Tara’s Michael Willett) and Liam?
What I’m excited about is Liam and Shane’s friendship. It’s fun to show a straight guy and a gay guy as best friends. They’ll go, as they call it, hunting together, and they will be going to a gay bar because Liam likes to hit on the girls who are fresh off break-ups and who go to gay bars with their best friend. They’re a really fun duo to watch together.
And then Lauren (Bunheads‘ Bailey Buntain) is Amy’s future stepsister. We will see a lot of that dynamic play out in the home, especially with Amy’s mother, who is a Republican former beauty queen meteorologist.
TVLINE | I have to ask you, what kind of name is Karma? Does she have really weird parents?
[Laughs] Karma has the world’s most accepting parents. You get a hint of it in the pilot, but in Episode 2 and then in episode 4, we’ll spend a lot of time with them. They’re so over the moon that she is a lesbian. She has an older brother named Zen who is working in the Peace Corps in rural Zimbabwe. [Laughs] I just thought it would be fun to see a pair of parents who are so excited that their daughter has come out as a lesbian. So in a way, it pins Karma in this lie because she now feels like she can’t disappoint them by telling them the truth that she’s not a lesbian.
TVLINE | The setting of the show is unique in that you’re in Austin, Texas, and you make a lot of references in the pilot to how this particular high school is the only one in all of Texas that this would happen in. So how did you land on it?
I came up with Austin because my husband is from small town called Decatur, Texas. … When he took me to Austin for the first time, I couldn’t believe how liberal and tolerant and accepting it was. It felt like being in West Hollywood, but we were in the middle of Texas. I just thought it was so strange to go from a very red state and then all of a sudden, you’re in this tiny, very blue bubble. I really wanted to place it there because I wanted to show that divide that’s in the country. [MTV] loved that. They weren’t scared by that, and they encouraged me to do it.