On Friday, November 7th, 2008, I had the opportunity participate in a conference call interview with JoAnna Garcia, who plays Megan Smith, and Brian Hallisay, who plays Will Philips, of The CW’s Privileged. It turned out to be only two of us on the line, so Sandie of Daemon’s TV and myself spent about a half-hour going back and forth asking questions of the two. It was a lot of fun to do and I think it turned out pretty good.
JoAnna Garcia & Brian Hallisay Talk Privileged
Jason the TVaholic: Question for both of you. How did each of your roles come about for you? How did you end up hearing about it or coming about taking on this role?
JoAnna Garcia: We’ll I, this is Jo, I read the script, having had a lot of long relationships with the people over at The CW, kind of fell in love, it took a while to get all the ducks in a row, but I ultimately had a meeting with Rina. And fell in love and that was sort of the story for me. It was, I knew, I sort of knew all the players that were involved, I was really excited to do some business with Warner Brothers, excited to go back to The CW.
Brian Hallisay: For me, this is my first series. I had been down the road and tested on a few pilots of the fine people of Warner Brothers before. And actually this came about, I was out of town, actually for a week when this audition first came up. And they were not sure if they were gonna be able to reschedule it. I came back in town late one Sunday night and then rescheduled it at 9:00 a.m. on Monday morning at Paramount and I was actually even contemplating not going to the audition cause I was really tired and was not really in the mood. It was at a time when not a lot had been going on. It was in June so I was preparing for a really slow summer. I went in Monday morning and I know that Patrick Rush, the casting director who always been very kind of generous to me, Rina who I had met on a pilot the previous year they were gonna test me for. And this was on a Monday and I met with him one time and week later I was in front of the studio testing. It all came out of thin air seemingly. It happened pretty quickly. And I was thrilled to get the job.
Sandie of Daemon’s TV: What’s your favorite part about playing your characters? Each of you.
JoAnna: I can say that I connect with Megan on so many levels. I’m really proud of her. I think she is strong, young, independent woman that, I think she’s a really strong female right now on television and in so many ways, I feel connected to her. Along with the partnership that I had with Rina creating the character, and kind of elaborating on the original book that was by Zoey Dean, I feel on so many levels I’m really I’m proud of her. I’m impressed by her. She represents the woman that I thought I am proud to play and the woman you hope to be. She’s just a really neat girl.
Brian: As for me, I’ve enjoyed the mellow cool, calm and collected aspect of Will Davis. Most of the TV work that I’ve had in the past there was a lot more intensity and drama going on, lot of theater work that I’ve done, was much heavier. And I felt that I’ve become a much more relaxed person in the last few months. Because, basically when I show up for work, my job is to just show up and be cool and just really good with everything. Nothing bothers me. And I think its actually somehow found its way into my personal life.
Jason: If someone who hasn’t watched Privileged before, asks you why they should watch, what would each of you tell them?
JoAnna: I think that we’re a young sort of show. We deal with a lot of current issues. We definitely offer a little bit of escapism into a world that is a little bit intriguing, with the massive wealth of the girls and Will, Brian’s character. We tell these real stories with a lot of heart and humor. What I hoped for the show is, people with tune in because it will make them feel good, but they’ll still feel like they are getting, all the juicy drama that you want when you are taking an hour out of your day to watch some television.
Brian: I would tell people to watch because I think they’ll be surprised at the will find. I think a lot of people out there know of the 90210s or the Gossip Girls and the soap operatic melodrama. And I think there’s a really sharp biting comedic tone to this show that I don’t think is necessarily present in the other ones. The writing is so smart, the characters are so well crafted and everybody really hits their mark. I think as the series goes on and we start to hit our stride. So I think if people were to tune in now, they’ll really get a sense of what the show is about and hopefully like it.
Sandie: I guess this is more of a question for JoAnna. Who do you think Megan should end up with?
Sandie: I’m a Charlie fan. So I’ll just put it out there.
JoAnna: You’re what?
Sandie: Charlie fan.
JoAnna: Are you. Uh oh.
Brian: Its okay. Will’s cool. He’s not threatened.
JoAnna: Yah, I definitely think there’s a lovely sort of chemistry with you
know Megan and Charlie having known each other for so long. And he clearly is um, he clearly cares a lot about her and sort of knows about her, where she comes from and all that stuff. I think that with what’s been aired and what people know of the characters, there’s gonna be a lot that will surprise people. I think that Megan at the end of the day is sort of coming into her own and in a way she’s trying to shake her skeletons in her closet and fall in love and open herself up to the world and I think that with that sort of hope and longing for that in her life, I think you’ll be surprised to get to know the Will’s and the Charlie’s and all of that. As for now, Will is someone that has a potential to be a huge love story. There’s a potential love story for Megan. And, I think they kind of really think about each other but they don’t really know about themselves. And, Charlie’s got a girlfriend now and who knows where he’ll end up and what he will end up doing and what his ultimate feelings will be for Megan.
JoAnna: Sure. Are you wanting to know who I would choose in real life?
Sandie: Ya, actually.
JoAnna: I kind of like a little bit of both of them. [laughs] Just kidding. I shouldn’t have offered that up.
Jason: This is more for JoAnna. How different is it working on a half hour show as opposed to an hour show?
JoAnna: It’s the difference between night and day. [laughs] The difference between a four-hour day and a sixteen-hour day in the simplest form. But, I really, the training and the foundation that Reba gave me is something that I’ll always treasure. It really at a time in any young actresses life when you’re playing the kind of roles that I’ve been offered, you work given really can’t say, get down and dirty, roll up your sleeves, and be ugly and all those kind of things and be really very funny and go for it and I had the ability to work on a show at a very early age which that just said throwaway everything that you think you are and go for the laugh. And, it definitely breaks down a lot of walls that you build up as a young actress in our town and the opportunities that are given to us. And. I’m forever grateful for that. And, because of that, the one thing that I always loved about the sitcom world, was the live audience and the energy that it gave you. But, always as an actor I responded more to be the opportunities that I had to find the subtleties and in the comedy and in the drama. And, when you have a single camera show and the moods right, the sets are lit and you have a camera right in there on your face, you’re able to really act in a different way. I appreciate all of that Reba gave and the sense and the way to go there and really know what I’m capable of and not being afraid to have a little mud on my face or be ugly or whatever it might be, or fall on my face, or whatever is sort of asked of me. But, as an actor, I sort of relate and appreciate the subtleties of the single camera work. So right now I’m just kind of loving the movie net. You know Reba called me recently, I’m reading the script for an hour-long show, what do you think? And, I was like, don’t do it, you’ve worked too hard in your life, you have a family, you’re successful, I don’t think this is the time of your life to be working 70 hours a week. But, this is certainly the time of my life where I’m enjoying every minute of it. So, there’s a major difference. But at the end of it, there’s a lot of heart to both.
Sandie: I guess this is a question more for Brian, kind of following up on who do you think Megan should end up with. I was wondering how do you think Will really feels about Megan. Cause he’s little bit all over the place right now. So.
Brian: Sure. I think Megan is unlike any girl Will has ever met in his life. I think that he has been raised in such a way, with that wealth and social life that he had. He’s never really had to think too much about what it is that he really wants out of a girl. I would imagine that everything has come fairly easy to him, socially and with the co-eds. And, I think that this girl came in a bit of a whirlwind and made a real impression on him. And, I think that they bring out, and JoAnna referred to earlier, they bring out things in each other that perhaps they didn’t know about. I think there’s a really synergy there. And, I think that he’s finding himself feeling in ways and thinking about things that he’s never really thought about before. And, I think that’s given him reason to take pause and really take a look at what’s going on, perhaps change his ways and start to look at relationships and possibility of settling down with somebody, whereas he hadn’t before.
Jason: I was wondering, for both of you, what is your favorite aspect of the show, like the comedy, drama, romance?
JoAnna: I think that, I sort of love the whole kit and kaboodle, if you will. I love that we have a writing staff that’s talented and eager to allow each actor to explore very early on in our show. They’re not afraid to allow each actor to kind of bring to the table all of the tools that we have in our tool belt and explore all of types of it, because its all very real. We will always have a lot of heart on our show, we’ll always have the levity, that I so you know, I’m endeared to. I think that we have, we are sort of a total package in that regard. And, I’m definitely proud of that. I enjoy on any given day to be able to, you know, fall flat on my face or whatever duty calls. And, then you know, have a really touching moment with, you know, one of the characters. Like it’s to me, to be able utilize all of those tools as an actor is a real blessing.
Brian: I think a lot does comes down to the writing staff, and they way that they write these situations, these characters. I think the comedic aspect as well as the dramatic aspect, I mean, you can sit there and revel in all the quirkiness with these characters are based on. And, in my experience, because most of Will’s storyline revolves around that relationship with Megan, I think there’s real comedy, there’s real fun there, there’s a real back and forth. But, then I’ve also found that being in scenes that are much more subtle and nuanced in ways that there’s a real quietness to it. And, I think having seen the episodes that I’ve seen, the way that it plays, I think there is such a sense of realism. And, there’s the Rose and the Sage of it all, but also the Megan storyline and where Will comes in, the twenty something plot lines, I think they really capture a realness that shines through. To be in those scenes, it is, it is lit for that and it’s just a very intimate scene, just two people talking it out and living an aspect of their life. That’s what I enjoy.
Sandie: Can you each talk about what’s coming up for your characters?
JoAnna: I think that for Megan, you’re gonna get to see, you’re gonna get to know her family a lot more, for all that it is and for all that it isn’t. And, that’s gonna bring out a lot of emotion within her and how she’s relating to it as an adult, instead of a child, and how she sort of relied on the drama in her life to kind of avoid doing these other things. I think that you’re gonna see a beautiful love affair occur. And, you’ll get to know Lily a little bit more, my sister, and really see the girls sort of take off, and being really proud seeing the improvements in their grades and how they’re being a little bit more responsible, and they’re still naughty and mischievous, but seeing, I think Megan’s gonna be really proud of what’s to come for those characters as well.
Brian: I think with Will coming up on the lines of the relationship with Megan, I think there’s gonna be a steps to be taken and there’s gonna be a new vulnerability to the character, walking in unfamiliar territory and perhaps feeling certain ways for the first time. And, I think, continuing to learn more about himself through this relationship with Megan, and as that relationship becomes more prominent in the storyline, I think, inevitably you’ll find out more about where Will is coming from, his family, a little bit of his past and perhaps things that you may not necessarily expect to come.
Jason: Was there, what was something specific about each of your characters that made you, when you saw it, really wanna play these roles?
JoAnna: Everything about the script and the way Rina brought the tale of the book to a screenplay, or a teleplay, if you will, made me from the moment I read it, I knew that I had to play Megan Smith. I thought, there were so many gems to everything that she’s given to kind of explore and act through and all those kind of things. So, for me it was really the whole package and understanding Megan in a very real way, from the moment I met her.
Brian: And, for me, I actually, the sides that I got for the audition, I think they were in the process of rewriting a script and I had a very limited knowledgebase, of the full character, and I didn’t have as much time to think about it or spend with it. And, to be honest with you, it really came down to the fact that I had a few auditions and they offered me the job and I was happy to take it. And, most of the discovery has come in the last few months, since we’ve been working and the storylines have developed. In terms of the immediate decision to take the job, it was just as simple as that.
Sandie: I was wondering if there was gonna be any guest stars in the show that you can talk about?
JoAnna: They just hired Sharon Lawrence to be my mother. I just got Micheal Norrie playing a love interest for Ann Archer. And, I just got a text from Rina that said that they just hired David Monahan to play Marco’s love interest or boyfriend. So, yah, I think there’s a gonna be, we have Perez Hilton on our show this coming week,
Sandie: Sarah Drew?
JoAnna: Sarah Drew, yah, Sarah Drew from Everwood plays my bestfriend. Yah, we’ve got a bunch of great talent.
Jason: Had either of you read the book beforehand or read the book it’s based on since?
Brian: I had not read it beforehand. I read portions of it since and I had someone else finish it for me. And, the reason that I stopped reading it I saw it was really very different. It was very different, so I chose, I chose not finish it. I think they have taken some creative liberties with how they’ve changed the characters and the stories, I think for the better.
JoAnna: I have not read the book either. Mostly because when I was approaching this role and realizing the undertaking that I was gonna be in, the whole expositionary process of developing characters and the relationships and stuff like that, what my role in particular, how that would play into it all. I was a little concerned that I would get confused. Because, I was having a hard time remembering my name when we first started filming. So, that’s sort of why I chose not to. Although, I’m eager to, my mom has and loved it. So, I’m ready, I think now to take a dive.
Sandie: I was wondering if you knew anything about the future of the show?
JoAnna: Do we know about the future of the show? Yah, I think that as we get ingrained, I mean it’s a pretty collaborative creative process over there. So, we’re all kind of laughing and still very new wanting to see where our characters are going and how they are going to interact and the relationships that are gonna form. So yeah, I think we have an idea, I always feel like I get myself into trouble when I release information, but like I said you know, you’re gonna really get to know the drama element of our show, and the melodrama, if you will, is going to be increased exponentially in the next for our five episodes.
Sandie: I think I meant as far as the show being picked up.
JoAnna: Oh God. I’m so sorry. We have been picked up the four more scripts. That’s the official statement.
Sandie: Not the full season yet?
JoAnna: Not the full season yet. (Note: Privileged has since been given five additional episodes, which brings the season so far up to 18 episodes.)
Jason: In the arc of the story so far, or the amount that you’ve done so far, how has, is there anything different happening from where you thought things were going to go?
JoAnna: Yah, I think things sort of happened a little bit quicker with Megan than we thought that they would. I think the chemistry was sort of undeniable between those two characters and the connection and all that kind of stuff. It’s been really fun to see the girls sort of flourish and take off on the, they’ve kind of knocked the comedy out of the park, sort of dynamic duo that they are has really inspired a lot of storyline and creating a little bit more of fuller. More full? Something like that, fuller. I think that we definitely are always a little surprised when you start the show, to see where you kind of lay out an arc and where it inevitably ends up. Cause, in reality you have real people playing these characters. And, all the nuances they bring to it.
Brian: I would agree with everything that she just said.
Sandie: Do you guys have any other projects coming up that you can talk about? Or, is Privileged what you’re doing right now?
Brian: For me right now its just Privileged. I think we’ll wait and see what happens with the season, cause that will obviously determine at what point we stop working and then see when the availability is to pursue some other things. As of right now, solely focused on this.
JoAnna: I have a movie coming up this holiday season, Lifetime, which syndicated Reba, and they’re, I love them and sort of would do anything for that company. So, I did a movie for them and I have another movie that is still sort of up in the air, called Extreme Movie.
Sandie: You know I actually just got a screener for that. Is it that Flirting Forty?
Sandie: It was exciting to see it.
JoAnna: It’s interesting, my character over a series of vignettes and cameos that we all did and I got, I was lucky enough to work with Michael Cera.
Sandie: Looking forward to watching it then.
JoAnna: Oh yes. I would really be interested to hear what you have to say about it. [laughs]. It was a wonderful working experience
Jason: Do either of you get a chance to watch much TV? If so what are the shows that you like to watch?
JoAnna: I watch a lot of Animal Planet in HDTV. But, I am also starting to get into a little bit of True Blood on my TiVo. I used to be avid Grey’s Anatomy fan. But, I love a lot of like the true crime dramas and the CSIs and all that kind of stuff.
Brian: I don’t watch a ton of TV. I have been watching True Blood this season. And, I did watch Mad Men as well. Most of the television I watch I get caught up on after the fact and I’ll sit there and do a few marathon weekends and watch some shows on DVD. One of my favorite shows in last few years has been The Wire. And, I do admit to getting down with Lost. And, I haven’t seen Reba yet, but I have all the seasons on DVD and I look forward to watching them all.
JoAnna: I have collected certain episodes where he’s not allowed to watch. So, we’ll get back to you on what his favorites are.
Sandie: You guys made me really happy. I am like a big fan of True Blood, so that’s really cool that you guys like it.
Brian: Yeah, it’s been good. And, it just seems to keep getting better. They picked that up for another season, didn’t they?
Sandie: Yes, they did.
Brian: They did, right, yeah.
JoAnna: I think it’s safe to say that, that’s over. I think that you’ll see a different relationship sort of come out that.
Brian: I don’t have any information that suggests that there will be a resurgence of that relationship, but perhaps understanding what went on there a little bit more.
Jason: One last question for JoAnna. I was wondering how “We Reach” is doing?
JoAnna: It’s exciting. We are definitely in the embryonic stages and trying to figure out how to align ourselves and in what way, in this day and age launching a not-for-profit, is not the easiest thing. So, I have a person that I am working with now that has been very instrumental in gathering all of the details and then sitting down with the right people that feel as passionate about it. And, aligning ourselves with larger organizations that are already up and running that can help us sort of get the wheels turning. Because, at the end of the day, one of the reasons I was so passionate about doing the show, is that I really felt like echoed that same sort of sentiment of being a positive sort of role model, an image in a day when so many girls are inundated with images of unhealthy bodies and strange lifestyles. I really hope that, that it’s a more wholesome sort of responsible look into the world. And, supporting young girls is something I feel really passionate about. Supporting women in general. I think we’re not nice enough to each other!
Sandie: I guess this will be my last question as well. I was just curious, that’s for JoAnna, you have some really funny lines that they come out with for you and you just say them so naturally, I was wondering how, what’s your process to get it to come out like that?
JoAnna: I think, thank you by the way, I think there is a tremendous parallel to Megan. If you met me, you might find the line to be very blurry. So, there’s a great partnership, I really understand her voice, the voice that Rina puts on a paper, I really understand, and have from the very beginning. And, I think that’s what’s been, so instrumental in the beginning, in the embryonic stages of the chemistry of the show and all the characters really understanding the voice that was on the paper, from our writers, to translate that as an actor. And, I mean, as for my process as an actor, if it doesn’t sound real, there’s no way that it’s going to be able to come out of my mouth. So, I think I’m just supported by an incredible writing staff that knows sort of my rhythm and my speech. And the combination of the two allows for quite a quirky little character that I am having a fun time brining to life.
Jason: I have another JustJody sent me a question via Twitter">question that a friend just sent me on Twitter that I’ll ask. She wants to know, for JoAnna, if you feel like the big sister on set working so much with the two girls? And how much of yourself, if any, is in the character of Megan?
JoAnna: Well, like I said before, I think that there is a tremendous parallel between myself and Megan. Like you know, the lines are very blurry. Which, I love and I’m so proud of her. Yah, I definitely do. Those two peanuts, I tell ya, they’re extraordinarily gorgeous and talented and kind and sweet and innocent and lovely. I just can’t say enough about them. So, I respect them tremendously, young women, not to mention that yeah, I have been around the block a time or two. I’ve been doing the network television for a while and when there’s a lot of questions in the air, I definitely feel like it’s my responsibility to kind of be there for them and help them through the process and understand what this whole thing is, if they need it. But, they’ve got some incredible heads on their shoulders. That, you know, it doesn’t take a lot. But, there are moments where I step in and make sure they know that they need to be treated right, by the boys in their lives and all of those kinds of things. I’m not afraid to open up a can of whoop-ass on anyone that screws with them.
Brian: Me neither.
JoAnna: When you meet those two, you can’t but just really fall in love, in a big way.
Privileged plays Tuesday nights on The CW after 90210.
Did you enjoy the interview? Were there any questions that you wished we would of asked? Let us know in the comments.