Famous in Love is Freeform's latest young adult offering, premiering in the coveted post- Pretty Little Liars time slot Tuesday (April 18) — a #PrettyFamous double feature. And while Famous may lack the body count of Liars, it definitely isn't dialing down the drama.
Marlene King, who has helmed Pretty Little Liars for seven seasons, is the driving force behind this new drama as well, and she tells Refinery29 that it was harder than she expected to shift from a mystery-centric show to a straight drama.
"[The difficulty] surprised me, because I thought, 'Oh, this is going to be easy. Just drama, no complex mystery.' But the complex mystery is a driving force in Pretty Little Liars, so you have to come up with emotional driving forces for the drama," says King, adding that Famous in Love does offer a lot of the same themes as Pretty Little Liars, however.
"It's similar in the sense that the characters have secrets and lies ... it's a show about friendship as well."
It's also similar in the way that the main character in Famous, Paige Townsen (Bella Thorne), skyrockets to fame after booking a role in the fictional Locked movie franchise, something King says is like the real-life story of the Liars actresses.
"The show is a snapshot of Hollywood. One of the things that attracted me to Famous In Love is the fact that I've gotten close to the actresses on Pretty Little Liars and watched them become famous, watched them become these glamorous starlets, and that was so much fuel for this show, so I'm kind of stealing from them," says King with a laugh. "It's a show about what it's like to become famous almost overnight."
But instant fame comes with a price, as shown in the opening scene when an already-famous Paige is shown sitting sadly alone in a limo. This theme of loneliness is something that will play heavily in Famous in Love's first 10 episodes.
"I think that's an unfortunate cycle of fame. You do spend a lot of time alone when you go on location and do movies and she will have cycles of loneliness in her life," says King. "That's a theme we'll explore throughout the whole show."
However, the drama isn't solely Paige-centric. This wide-eyed ingenue is surrounded by plenty of chaos and drama, from her roommates to her new castmates to Hollywood frenemies jealous of Paige's new-found fame.
And perhaps nothing is more shocking than the premiere episode reveal that Nina (Perrey Reeves), mother to Locked co-star Rainer (Carter Jenkins) and producer on the film, is involved with Jordan (Keith Powers), another Locked co-star and her son's ex-BFF.
King tells us that it actually surprised her how strongly the audience reacted to that relationship but teases that viewers may be in store for more than just a steamy romp between sex buddies.
"I'll be honest with you, when we tested the pilot, people were way more disturbed by [Nina and Jordan] than I thought they would be," says King, adding, "But you'll find out over the course of the 10 episodes that they have an interesting backstory together. She allows herself to be vulnerable with him. It's an arc that'll play out over these 10 episodes and will be resolved by the first finale. It'll be fun to watch this play out and have people feel like there's resolution there."
She also adds that the writers enjoyed turning the older man sleeping with the young actress cliché on its head.
"It also just felt like Nina is a very powerful woman and she gets what she wants. Instead of it being the head of a studio man in that relationship, we had a good time twisting it and saying hey, this powerful woman gets what she wants."
For now, the Nina-Jordan relationship remains a secret, but we think it's only a matter of time before Rainer finds out, which should make for some explosive TV. King is remaining mum on that topic, so you'll just have to keep tuning in to find out what's going to happen.
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