I really enjoyed chatting with Italia Ricci again from ABC Family’s “Chasing Life!” She is such a sweet person and a very talented actress.
She talked about the Christmas episode titled “Locks of Love” that will premiere on ABC Family this coming Tuesday (December 9, 2014), her favorite episode to film so far, how she reacted to the series getting picked up for season 2 and much more.
Take a peek at this exclusive interview:
Q: What can you tell fans about the Chasing Life Christmas episode?
Italia: The previews haven’t given too much away! It’s Christmas on Chasing Life, but it’s not Christmas during the time that’s in the story. Christmas is one of April’s favorite holidays – The Carver’s decide to try and help her create Christmas in her hospital room to possibly lift her spirits since she’s starting to lose her hair. That become the Christmas episode and we meet April’s dad’s parents who come in to town. They’re played by Marion Ross and Ed Asner who are just comedic geniuses. It’s brilliant.
You get to see the dynamic with that side of the family and especially how they feel about Grandma who lives with us. It’s one of my favorite, favorite bits we’ve done all season. Fans can look forward to that! You will see what happens to Leo and whether or not he has the surgery and how that goes, if it does go. You get to see April go through a few different hairstyle looks before she finally loses it all.
Q: Do you have your own holiday traditions? What are you looking forward to?
Italia: I love just being home with my family. I’m from Canada; so, I’m listening to non-stop Christmas music, and it’s raining today, but normally it’s hot and sunny and it just doesn’t feel like Christmas.
Q: What was it like filming for the Christmas episode during the summer?
Italia: It was very strange because that was the last episode that we filmed all season, even though it’s in the middle of the season. I believe we filmed it in August. It was all inside for me since April is in the hospital room. It wasn’t supposed to be Christmas outside, so it didn’t feel too weird but it got prematurely in the spirit. I was humming Christmas carols when I was coming home and everybody thought I was a bit nuts. It definitely just got me in the spirit a little too early [laughs]
Q: How do you get into character for April?
Italia: When I was shooting 20 episodes back-to-back, it was harder to get out of the character than it was to get into the character. She is so similar to me in our personalities, she’s just in a different universe, in a different situation than I am. I’m reacting in the way I think I would react based on the research I’ve done as far as medical and emotional and psychological things that go along with what she’s dealing with. I don’t have to “put on April” in the morning and I don’t have to take her off completely at night. I keep feeling things the way I feel April is feeling them, even though it’s not part of my personal life.
It’s a blessing and a curse at both of it. Then when I wrapped, I realized I’ve got to step away. Being able to do some things in my hiatus and during the offseason has really helped me be able to step away from that. But I’m so excited to jump back in for season two.
Q: Does April have any progress in her treatment and recovery during the Christmas episode?
Italia: We see this is the end of her chemo, the tail end of her chemo. We see how it finishes and you get an idea of how she’s going to recover, if she’s going to recover and who’s going to be there with her during it.
Q: What was it like behind the scenes filming this episode?
Italia: The wigs were so much fun! I kep the blonde one but I haven’t worn it since. I want it just in case I ever feel like getting on a plane in a blond wig [laughs].
We called my IV pole “Skinny,” that was his nickname. Whenever we weren’t filming, we had that long hallway that we built and I would run and jump on it and slide across and then have to jump back in bed.
It was just so much fun working with Ed Asner and Marion Ross. Those two are so talented and so present and so sweet, just listening to them when we were in between scenes sitting in our chairs was amazing. Listening to their stories and how they’ve managed to be so pleasant and grateful and professional. They’re wonderful people. That’s probably my favorite moment behind the scenes.
Since it was the last episode, we had the best food snacks on set. I am kind of obsessed with foods [laughs], so one day it would be a giant hot dog cart and the next was a massive mac and cheese bar. So that was a lot of fun!
Q: What should fans expect in the January premiere?
Italia: We’ll see the second half of the season as April gets back to where she left everything off. We see how she deals with everything now after having been through what she’s been through, with the chemo. You see how she deals with the physical aspect of chemo — the things that happen to you physically after you finish chemo. Mentally, she becomes forgetful and dealswith trying to get back to where she was even before she was diagnosed. She just wants to be normal again. You see her battle with not being able to do certain things and try to figure out ways to make them happen. She makes mistakes and just wants to be a girl in her twenties again, and have fun and live her life. You’ll see her trying to do that but having some of those obstacles stopping her and how her friends react.
You’ll experience everything with her – it’s so much fun, and very entertaining. I can definitely tell you that there is going to be a humiliating karaoke scene.
Q: What was your reaction when the show was picked up for a second season?
Italia: I was alone in Vancouver shooting a movie, and I had nobody to talk to, so I was literally running around my hotel room like a crazy person just screaming and crying and jumping on the bed [laughs]. Then, I came home and I was doing the same thing at my house and everybody was so excited for me. My friends were all so proud! I am so happy and so glad that I could be a part of telling this story and I’m so grateful that the audience feels like it’s not only a story worth watching but it’s a story that they can relate to and they feel represented by it. That just means so much to me.
My only goal when I find a job that I want to be a part of – is to do something that I’m proud of. I want to be proud of a story that I’m forever going to be grateful for — or that I helped create. I couldn’t imagine a better one, for where I am right now.
Q: What has been your favorite episode to film so far?
Italia: The Christmas episode was definitely fun because I got to see what myself in all of those different hairstyles! Also, the big finale is really fun. It is more of like different scenes from different episodes that I really had fun doing.
But, I would have to say that the Christmas episode was not only the most fun because we had the amazing guest stars that we did, but it’s also the looks and the fact that it was the last episode that we filmed. It was like school’s almost out for summer and the energy was really high; we were all so proud of all 21 episodes that we had shot. We were just so pumped that we got to do an extra one. It was just so much fun.
Q: Are you helping out with Stand Up to Cancer this holiday season? What’s it like to partner with them?
Italia: Of course I will be helping out with them! I’m a huge fan of all of their attire and jewelry that I wear non-stop. I’m happy to do all of their events and all of their shout-outs and I want everybody to get involved because they are such an amazing organization and they represent things that are so meaningful to the evolution of the fight against cancer and all the research that they’re doing is amazing. I’ll be doing everything I can to help out with them this holiday season.
Working with them has been incredible. At first, it was sort of intimidating because you don’t even know where to start, you wonder “how could I actually make a difference?” You just do it; you just sort of close your eyes, jump in, and do everything you can. When you’re finally into it, it’s so much better than you expect to feel.
I feel a little selfish because I’m doing it for the cause but it also makes me so happy to know that I am making a difference and that everybody can. You don’t have to be famous; you don’t have to have a ton of money. Just spreading the word and learning about it and being aware and trying to prevent these things by getting your checkups and knowing as much as you can and really supporting it — that is all you need to do. If you want to do more, that’s fantastic, but if that’s all you can do—any little bit helps.
Q: If you could give April advice, what would you tell her?
Italia: You look great bald [laughs]! I would tell her—because it definitely gets hard and her family is there for her and sometimes that still doesn’t feel like enough. I would tell her to not give up and stay strong. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I would tell her to keep holding on, never give up, stay strong, and keep believing that you’ll be okay, because if you don’t have that, then what are you holding on to?
Q: Do you have a favorite gift that you have ever given to someone?
Italia: I gave my fiancé an awesome gift! I tricked him into thinking that we were going to Vegas to see a Cirque Du Soleil show and he was going to be missing a Kings playoff game, so he was pretty angry about that [laughs]. I was so detailed about it too — we got to the hotel room, and I had the concierge call up and leave a voice message that I knew he would hear saying that the limo is all set for the Cirque Du Soleil. I pretended that I was so upset that they had ruined the surprise. I took him to a race track in Vegas and he got to drive nine supercars as fast as he could, because he is a car freak. He was so ecstatic. I’ve never seen such joy on a person’s face; it was fantastic!
Q: Do you have any resolutions for 2015?
Italia: I’m not sure yet. I kept my one this year; I’m pretty impressed with myself. This year was to get pretty good at a speed bag, which is so random, but I did it. Also, I said I would not eat McDonalds all year, because I am obsessed with McDonalds, I love McDonalds and I would eat it like four times a week. I haven’t had it all year; 29 days and I can have it. I am so excited. I’m definitely not giving up any sort of food that I love again [laughs]. I’ll have to think about those; I haven’t decided on any just yet.
Q: Are you team Leo or team Dominic?
Italia: I’ve never actually admitted this publicly before. I don’t know if I’m ready to [laughs]. But, I’m team Leo.
Q: What can fans look forward to in the upcoming season?
Italia: Some really cute headbands! It’s going to center less specifically on April and you’re going to learn more about Brenna and what she’s going through. You’ll learn more about Sarah, more about Grandma, I love where Grandma’s storyline goes; it’s pretty great. It becomes more of an ensemble. Everyone’s storyline widens the story a little more by going into more detail about Beth, and Dominic, and everybody else on the show. I think that’s going to be exciting for fans, for more of a blanketed area of relation for them.
Q: What is your favorite holiday song and your favorite holiday movie?
Italia: My favorite holiday movie, I’ve never seen Love Actually, but I think that would be one [laughs] Right now, my favorite Christmas song of all time is “Carol of the Bells” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It gets me every single time. I have the remix as my phone ringtone.
Favorite Christmas movie, I would have to go with those classic claymation, like Rudolph, the little-elf guy, and the Frosty’s. Those are always ones that bring me back to being nine years old again.
Q: If you could pick someone to guest star on the show, who would it be?
Italia: I want Minnie Driver to be Sarah’s best friend. Wouldn’t that be great? She had reached out and said she was a fan of the show; so hopefully, this will light a little fire. Minnie, come join us; you’d have so much fun! [laughs]
Q: What can you tell us about Leo’s decision to have his surgery? How important is that to April and their effect on each other?
Italia: From the episode photos that are online, it’s obvious that he does get the surgery. What happens is not something that anybody expects and I think that April is proud and impressed and very grateful that Leo decided to fight because that’s been the driving force of the whole first half of the first season. To get him to do that, feels selfless and that opens up a whole new bridge connectivity between the two. That decision solidifies a stronger bond between the two of them, at least from April’s perspective. So that’ll be evidenced in the Christmas episode and obviously, it scares the hell out of her because he could die on that table.
Q: What have the fan responses to the show been like for you?
Italia: It has been so incredible! At first, when it was about to premiere, and I’d seen the pilot a hundred times. My family and friends had been like, “Oh it’s great.” I’m like, “You have to say that though because you love me.” [laughs] I can’t judge things that I’m in, whether or not I think they’re amazing or not. So, I can’t get an accurate feeling on how it is until somebody completely unrelated to me sees it and lets me know how they feel, though everybody’s different.
The response was so wildly positive, that I was pinching myself. I was waiting for somebody to be like, “Psych, we’re just kidding!” Everybody is so sweet. I have had virtually no negative feedback from the show. At first I was scared of, but now I’m really grateful for, were a lot of people being hesitant about an actor who has never dealt with cancer, portraying someone going through it. Then they’re like, “Somebody made me sit down and watch it and I did and I’m so grateful and you get it. I feel represented and I feel like someone gets me, and I can talk to people about it now.” Beyond feeling like I’ve done a good job as an actor, I’m so proud that this has become something that has made the young adult cancer community feel represented and feel validated. At one point, they felt like they were sort of a little pocket of people with cancer, and now they feel like they have a little bit more power and I feel like that is so important.
It’s also taking the stigma away from it and the scariness away from it. The fans have made it very clear, like, “I had no idea what it’s like for people and I knew my cousin’s friend’s dad had it, but I never knew what to say or how to talk to them, and now I’m not so scared of it.” It has done so many things and entertained people. I can’t ask for a better response from the audience; I’m so grateful for them.
Q: If you could play any character on the show, aside from April, who would you want to play?
Italia: I think that it would be fun to play Grandma!
Q: Do you have a favorite part about filming the show?
Italia: The food’s pretty good! [laughs] But honestly, it’s not just the cast and how well we get along, but the crew. Seeing the same faces every day, and them being such awesome people that I look forward to seeing every day and that I’ve missed so much since we’ve wrapped. Even coming back to second season, I’ve texted everybody, “You better be coming back.” You create such a family because you’re spending 15 hours a day for 8 straight months with these people. They were all such great people. That’s definitely my favorite thing.
Q: What is it like to be on set?
Italia: It’s fun, the energy is amazing — everybody is so happy to be making this show. Everybody knows it’s an important and relevant story to be telling, and everybody there wants to be doing the best job that they can and every job is just as important as an actor’s on set. Being so committed, the energy is just like we got a good shot and we’re high-fiving each other [laughs]. Or we’d nail a scene and everybody’s like hugging; it’s just so wonderful. I’ve been on sets that are the complete opposite of that and it reflects in the work. I think that that’s a big reason why people are enjoying the show so much is because we’re enjoying it behind the camera as much as you are watching it.
Tune in to watch “Chasing Life” on Tuesday! We can’t wait! 🙂
Photo source: ABC Family