Immediately following Tuesday’s season premiere of Pretty Little Liars, ABC Family will debut another drama about a young woman fighting for her life. But rather than fending off the dreaded “A,” Chasing Life‘s central character is battling an all-too-real enemy: “the Big C.”
Airing Tuesdays at 9/8c, Chasing Life is “a story about love, hope, determination and support,” series lead Italia Ricci tells TVLine. “It’s about my character, April, and how everyone around her deals with her diagnosis of cancer at 24 years old. Just when it looks like her life is falling into place, it starts to fall apart — but she decides not to let it.”
Bellow, Ricci previews April’s biggest obstacles — including which potential suitor to trust with her fragile heart — and explains why Chasing Life is “so much more than just a show about cancer.”
TVLINE | First of all, I feel like this is such a different kind of show for ABC Family to be airing, in so many ways.
I feel like they started putting more “real” things on the network — first with Switched at Birth, and then The Fosters — that people could relate to, even really concentrated audiences like the deaf community or foster children. By the way, I’m not caught up on either of those shows, so no spoilers.
TVLINE | My lips are sealed.
[Laughs] Thank you. And while our show also appeals to a concentrated audience, people who are sick, it’s so much more than just a show about cancer. It’s about life; it just happens to revolve around April’s cancer, and all of her decisions are made because of that, but things still happen to her as they would even if she wasn’t diagnosed.
TVLINE | And you filmed in Boston?
We shot the pilot in Boston, then the rest of the interiors are shot in L.A. We do go back to Boston every 10 days to shoot exteriors, and I’ve had such a blast there. The food! Whenever I come back, April looks a little healthier … to say the least. [Laughs]
TVLINE | That’s what I like to hear. Now what can you say about the show’s tone? I feel like a drama about cancer could get pretty heavy.
When it has to, but it’s absolutely not a show about being a victim, because she’s not a victim. April chooses not to let this be a death sentence, and she fights. She looks at it through the hope lens, so to speak, and if she’s ever not hopeful at any given moment, there are people there to hope for her.
TVLINE | Let’s talk about those people. I know April is close to her family. How do they take the news?
Well, she doesn’t tell everybody right away. And they react, I feel, the way anybody would. Everybody deals with it differently. I feel like the most common reaction for anyone getting the diagnosis, or hearing about a loved one’s diagnosis, is just disbelief. Like, “Why? How? That doesn’t make any sense.” And then, “Are you OK?” And they don’t know at that moment, because it’s a lot to process. But her family is there for her. They become her legs, and April doesn’t let it become the only thing going on at home. It’s not all about her cancer; she’s determined not to let it define her.
TVLINE | This being ABC Family, I’m sure April’s cancer won’t prevent her from having a love life.
[Laughs] What ever do you mean? Yeah, I feel like there are going to be T-shirts made that say “Team Dominic,” or “Team Leo.”
TVLINE | Have you chosen a team yet?
On paper, I was Team Leo, but then I started watching the episodes, and I was like, “Oh, Dominic. Totes.”
TVLINE | Uh-oh. You know it’s dangerous to admit your ship of choice on the internet, right?
Ah, but I really choose both. On paper, Leo, and when I’m watching it, Dominic. … But that said, I miss both of the actors [Richard Brancatisano plays Dominic and Scott Michael Foster plays Leo] when I’m not with them. Just as people, when I’m not with them on set, I feel like I don’t see them for years.
TVLINE | Anything special you had to do to prepare for the role?
I did some research, but I didn’t want to learn too much about the symptoms and the emotions that people had felt. First of all, the emotions because everybody I’ve spoken to feels completely different. I also didn’t want to anticipate what was going to happen to April before it happened. I wanted to learn everything as she learned it, so it would be more believable.
Will you be checking out Chasing Life tonight? Drop a comment with your early thoughts on ABC Family’s new drama below.