Stop us if this sounds familiar: An A-list Hollywood superstar — who has ties to a controversial organization – offers a young actress a marital contract.
The similarities between the premise of E!’s upcoming drama The Arrangement and a certain former Hollywood couple are uncanny, but the series is not inspired by the rumored circumstances surrounding Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ ill-fated union, nor is it a takedown of Scientology, series creator Jonathan Abrahams insisted at the Television Critics Association winter press tour on Tuesday.
In the show, Hollywood hunk Kyle (Dallas‘ Josh Henderson) belongs to the Institute of The Higher Mind, which is run by Michael Vartan’s character.
“As far as the whole self-help organization aspect, there were a lot of inspirations for me,” Abrahams said. “I’ve had experiences second and third-hand in self-help organizations… I have a lot of friends in 12-step programs. That was inspirational to me. All these things have something in common: this idea that the shackles of your past can be broken if you follow the steps.”
As such, the Institute of The Higher Mind is “not a religion,” Abrahams emphasized. “I don’t mean that coyly. This is not a show about faith. … Hollywood is such an aspirational town. These self-help organizations are about aspiring to a higher way of living, having more success professionally and in your relationships and having a more fulfilling life. ‘Come do our program and spend X amount of dollars for the weekend intensive, and you can change your life.’ To me, that’s not really about faith, it’s about hope.”
Meanwhile, the unusual relationship between Kyle and unknown actress Megan (Chicago Fire‘s Christine Evangelista) is about more than just a legal contract.
“I’m being told this [arrangement] is acceptable on some level,” Evangelista said. “But I think there’s this thing between the two of them, this connection where she wants to believe this could be something more.”
But do these arranged marriages actually exist in Hollywood? “It’s certainly a controversial subject, and one we’ve all heard rumors on,” Evangelista hedged. “It certainly makes for a good television show.”
The Arrangement is set to premiere on March 5 on E!