The Cast of Tv’s Most Charming New Show: Life Unexpected
For people now in their 20’s, we fondly (and fiercely) remember the shows on the WB that helped raised us as we navigated those inescapable teenage years of torture, terror and TPing. Felicity, Gilmore Girls, Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Roswell and Dawson’s Creek are just some of the shows that gave us life philosophies and role models to consider. (Plus hot teenage icons to ogle.) And as we ever-so-predictably say to our younger siblings, ‘I wish YOU had shows like that to watch today’ it seems the TV ‘Powers That Be’ were actually listening. Or at least Liz Tigeelar was.
Tigeelar has created a new series you’ll appreciate as much as the lack of calories in your massive daily Diet Coke intake. And as much as caffeine is an integral part of your life, I suspect this show – Life Unexpected – will become an integral part of your TV watching schedule. Life Unexpected is loaded with potential, and rises up like a shiny beacon of hope amongst the muck of TV with stale plot lines, bad writing, and disposable characters.
From the depths of our nostalgia come Shiri Appleby (Roswell) and Kerr Smith (Dawson’s Creek) as two of the stars on the show. The hope with Life Unexpected is for The CW to return a bit to the roots of The WB with shows that provide more substance and heart moreso than glitz and superficial glam. (So, moving forward with two respected WB alum works out nicely.) Having previewed the first three episodes, I already feel like a dedicated fan who is ready to convert new viewers. Because seriously, you gotta watch! (And I’m very serious about TV!)
As someone who loved Kerr Smith from Dawson’s Creek (I watched the finale four times and always cried at the end) as well now on Life Unexpected, I was beyond humbled to talk to him about this new series. On Life Unexpected Smith plays the responsible and respectable Ryan who dates Cate Cassidy (Shiri Appleby). Their life gets disrupted when Cate’s daughter, Lux (Brittany Robertson), shows up. They’re okay with that, but less okay with Lux’s Dad – Baze (Kristoffer Polaha) who never even knew about Lux. So now he’s also in their lives.
Kerr embodies the ‘tall, dark and handsome’ archetype, and in his roles he is always so poised. I had no idea that he was actually going to be so rich with humorous charm without ever losing his ability to be articulate. Was I charmed? Yea. And I bet you will be correspondingly charmed when you see Kerr in Life Unexpected. I talked to Kerr about the old WB family, the best oysters in Vancouver, and his odd Roswell phenomenon.
With Ryan you get to play a Radio morning DJ, did you ever fantasize about being one of those?
You know, yea actually. I always thought it would be a cool career. My friends and I always goofed around with the movie phone voices and movie trailer voices, and I kinda get to do that on this show. So it’s been a lot of fun. I really enjoy it.
How do you feel about playing a big part in such a complicated love triangle?
It’s hard to miss a role where there’s not some sort of complicated love triangle. But it’s great. It’s an interesting love triangle because it’s not your traditional ‘girl in the middle and she doesn’t know which guy to go with’. In our situation, it’s just more of a really screwed up triangle. It’s not really a love triangle. She (Cate) loves Ryan. And Ryan is definitely the guy that she should be with. But she’s got this weird thing with this guy and this thing that happened to her in high school that she can’t let go of. And he is a nuisance, not just in her life but in my (Ryan’s) life too. Ryan’s gotta deal with this too. Baze is like this fly, flying around. And I’m just trying to swat this damn thing and get him out of our lives. It’s a weird triangle, but it’s been a lot of fun to play.
Do you find yourself feeling more similar to Ryan or Baze?
You know what, I’m half and half. There’s a part of me that is Ryan – a professional, a good guy, likes to do things right the first time and likes to always do the right thing. And then there’s the other side of me that likes to screw off and do whatever – be a kid. I’m a hybrid, I guess you’d say.
Do you and Shiri remember crossing paths at WB functions back in the day?
We never did. And I can’t believe it myself. I’ve officially now worked with every single cast member of Roswell – to my knowledge. Even at the promo video shoots, we never crossed paths until the pilot for Life Unexpected.
That’s so weird, I remember watching some things – but of course they edit that all together. Do you and Shiri ever talk about the WB family back then and how it might feel different on The CW now?
On this show, nothing feels different. Because this show, to us, is very old school WB. To me, it’s very much like Dawson’s Creek or Gilmore Girls. It’s just got that feeling. It’s character driven with great stories and good writing. So it kind of feels like the same thing.
That’s the appeal, for sure.
I wasn’t a part of Dawson’s on the first 13 episodes, but I did watch the pilot and I knew right away that the show was going to be great. Having been a part of Life Unexpected from the beginning, I have the exact same feeling that I did back then. You feel good when you’re watching it.
What is your favorite character dynamic on the show that doesn’t involve Ryan?
I like how Math (Austin Basis) and Jamie (Reggie Austin) interact with Baze. That, to me, is who I am. I’m one of those guys. When you’re in college and you live with a bunch of your friends. It brings back memories of being a bunch of goofballs. They have the added advantage of actually having a working bar downstairs where they live, which would have been fantastic back then. It feels very familiar and I enjoy watching those guys. There’s a lot of comic relief with Austin and Jamie and Kris.
You guys are up in Vancouver, so where do you go to blow off steam?
Yea, we have a local hangout for sure. Kris and Austin and I live pretty much on the same block in Yaletown. Which is no mistake, because my number one criteria for finding an apartment up here was to be less than three blocks from an oyster house called Rodney’s (Editor’s Note: They should give the cast some free oysters!). So we go down there quite a bit – at least a couple times a week. In fact, we’re going down tonight because it’s Reggie’s birthday.
You like oysters?
All seafood. I love seafood.
Oyster’s look a little scary.
You gotta commit, you gotta commit. (Laughs)
Do you still talk to any of the Dawson’s Creek cast or crew besides Liz?
Yea, I talk to Meredith (Monroe) all the time.
Her husband’s actually my manager, so we’ve remained good friends throughout the years. James (van der Beek) I hung out with quite a bit over the last six or seven years. His ex-wife and my ex-wife are actually best friends, so we always hung out a lot. I haven’t spoken to Josh (Jackson) or Michelle (Williams) or Katie (Holmes) – obviously she’s off the grid – much at all. So really just James and Meredith.
Those are two great people to be with.
Yea, they’re cool. They’re cool. It was fun to grow up with them, too. It was interesting.
We all got to see you grow up, as we were growing up too. So we felt like we were growing up right next to you.
Yea – little did you know I was like, 26 when I was playing 17.
I didn’t know at the time, but I found out later.
Yea, we kept that under wraps for a while until I didn’t care anymore. (Laughs)
How would you describe the state of your mind from when you joined Dawson’s Creek compared to when you signed onto Life Unexpected? Are you finding that you’re more relaxed as an actor?
My state of mind is completely different from when I joined Dawson’s Creek. Now I’ve been doing this for fourteen years. Back then I’d been doing it for like, two. You learn a lot. In my opinion, it takes twenty years to really, truly become an actor. And in the last twelve years I’ve learned a lot. And I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned – and it has everything to do with acting but also doesn’t – it was just learning to let go of life and not try to control everything. Including scenes that you’re doing. You just let go, just let things be. Just be true to what’s going on and really listen to your partner. It changes everything, it makes it easier and it makes it more interesting to watch. So that was a big lesson for me.
Do you ever go back and watch things that you’ve done in the past – Dawson’s, Charmed… ?
Oh, yea. I go back. Like, I’ll see a scene from Final Destination or something like that and I will just cringe at how bad it is.
Man, we loved that movie was teens. I personally haven’t been as keen on the sequels, but it was a good movie to enjoy.
It was a really fun movie to watch. I just can’t watch it anymore because I feel that my performance was just…dog-crap. But if I didn’t feel that way then I’d probably still not be turning out the kind of work that I’d like to.
Do you feel that you’re more critical now, of yourself? Or less?
Less. I’m much less. There’s a time – every actor goes through this in the beginning – where you just can’t stand to watch yourself. You wish you woulda made better choices, you didn’t like the way your hair looked – or whatever it might be. And some actors lose that after a while, and some don’t. I lost that years ago. Eventually you get to the point where you see it as not you. It makes things much more enjoyable, you get to enjoy your stuff.
When the script for Life Unexpected came your way, were you looking to join a series?
I look for whatever’s good. This script came to me at this time last year. Which is very, very early in pilot season. So for me to take a job in pilot season, and take myself out the reason of the season, this thing has to be really good. And it was. Liz just nailed it. It flowed naturally, everything made sense – the way people talk, it’s character-driven, it’s a good plot line. And I wanted to be a part of it.
Liz has a twitter. Are you going to get a twitter?
Me? No. I can’t do that. I think it’s too much work and I’ve never been on twitter. There are some things I’ll be doing on the premiere date just for publicity’s sake. I did just start a Facebook page – but it’s a public page. I just post things, like pictures of us at Rodney’s. It’s basically for Life Unexpected and people who want to know what’s going on.