An MTV series about two girls in high school pretending to be lesbians is all well and good—but add a loud and proud sass master like Shane (played by out actor Michael J. Willett) to the mix and you’ve got teen drama gold!
As everyone’s new favorite comedy gears up for a 10-episode second season (I would have preferred 22 eps, but I’ll try not to be greedy)— it was a bit touch and go there waiting for news of a renewal… fans flocked to social media and demanded that their voice be heard and that their beloved show return for more fun, puns, and hookups. And don’t forget the heartbreak. Lots and lots of heartbreak— one thing’s for sure, the fans are in it for the long haul and rightfully so, as Faking It was the highest-rated new series launch on MTV so far in 2014.
Despite the show’s center around Karma (played by Katie Stevens) and Amy (played by Rita Volk) Faking It’s break out star has been Willett, with his portrayal of the fashion forward, sarcastic BFF Shane. Willett, also known for his role in G.B.F., a film that has a new age Mean Girls and Clueless vibe, was kind enough to take some time to chat with me about Shane’s love life, fan support and hot new music he has in store for his fans this year.
MCKENZIE MORRELL: Congrats on the season two pick-up of Faking It!
MICHAEL J. WILLETT: Why thank you. We’re very excited about it.
We are too! As you know the premiere is scheduled for September 23rd, which is soon. Have you and the rest of the cast been running around like mad?
(Laughs) Doing what, like preparing?
I sort of feel like this is my calm before the storm, my last, you know, preparation for going back to school, really, in a lot of ways. But it’s so cool because we get along so well it’s more like summer camp.
That’s awesome. We’re definitely looking forward to the new season. Taking a few steps back- what initially sparked your interest in the entertainment field and did you always want to pursue a career in the arts?
I did. My family is very artistic and has a love of the arts and so I always have felt like that was my place in the world. I started singing first and sort of performing doing musicals and theater and stuff. It has sort of, not necessarily been a goal to be in the entertainment industry, but just to dabble in every form of art and you know, every medium. That’s just the way I look at it.
I don’t feel that way, only because it’s allowed me to have something that is unique and I don’t look at them as all the same character, and I think that maybe if you are looking at it as pigeon-holding, then you’re looking at all gay people as the same, and that’s not really true. And as much as each of my characters are gay, they’re all very different and they all live in different realities and have different opinions about the world and who they are.
I heard that you’ve turned down gay roles. Can you talk a little bit about how some of the scripts you’ve read just didn’t hit the mark for you?
Yeah, I just think a lot of times, especially with art, there’s this question that I always ask myself- is this relevant? Is this necessary? Does this allow me to be creative? Is this important? You know, these are all questions I ask and a lot of times I don’t always feel that way. I felt like with the roles I did accept and the roles I really was drawn to are ones that were multidimensional and they weren’t limited to stereotypes and that’s probably my main criteria.
When Faking It was announced there was this stigma behind the concept of it. People were kind of up in arms about the plot. Do you think that people perceptions of the show have changed since all the episodes for the first season have aired?
I hope so! I think that people will see that a lot of the things that they were uncomfortable about were actually a device to bring about these larger conversations about self-discovery and our views of our culture and that the show really has a lot of heart. It’s really sweet and it deals with these taboo or sensitive subjects really delicately and very sensitively and with a lot of empathy, I think.
It definitely has a lot of heart. I think the audiences perceptions have really changed since first hearing about it, which is great.
Good! Thank you for saying that.
Shane is kind of a fan favorite. What do you think makes him so relatable or why is the audience drawn to him?
I think he’s sort of a modern Ferris Bueller in a lot of ways. He gets away with anything, he’s such a chameleon, he can sort of stay afloat in any situation or any scenario and he looks stylish doing it. (Laughs) I think that he is a lot of fun and he’s also, in a lot of ways, the shows moral compass. I think that you’re going to see more of what makes him human in the second season.
Do you and Shane share a love of fashion? Because I have to say, not only your clothes but your hairstyle is probably my favorite.
(Laughs) Thank you. Yes, we do. They definitely took that from me. They asked a lot of my opinion of what I wanted to wear, and what I thought was cool. I hope to have more say in that during the second season, but it’s definitely a huge part of who Shane is.
It’s great to have that creative input, as well.
Yeah, it’s so fun, it’s really a dream.
Just as Amy and Karma are an important part of Faking It, so is the dynamic duo of Shane and Liam. What do you think makes their friendship, or bromance, so refreshing?
I don’t know that there has been a gay and straight male friendship that has been so casual. It’s something that hasn’t really been addressed in the first season, because it’s looked at as just so normal and I think that in itself is what makes it kind of ground breaking. I hope in the second season you’ll see what really brings them together, what interests they have in common, and that they really are a lot like brothers.
That’s amazing, I think. There’s definitely going to be the Liam and Shane shippers that are hoping for a little bit more, but I think that it’s much more groundbreaking when it’s just this great friendship between two people and it doesn’t have to do with romance or anything like that.
The fans have been extremely vocal on all forms of social media. What has the response been to you or your character, and the show returning for another season?
Mostly love, and impatience. (laughs) Everyone comes up to me, like in the grocery store, and says they love my character and they can’t wait for season two and they wanted it as soon as it ended. But, it’s pretty much mostly love.
I’m pretty sure they just want you to work all the time and have a new episode every day! (laughs)
(laughs) I’m okay with that! I’m fine with employment!
What has the weirdest thing that someone’s said to you- whether it’s on Twitter, or in public- been?
Oh, well many crazy things on Twitter. It’s amazing what people are willing to write publicly. But also, it’s fun seeing the fans in person and just instantly being recognized, and they don’t even want to carry a conversation, they just want a picture. Which is really fun! But yeah, nothing too crazy yet.
You starred in a movie called G.B.F., a great film which was written by none other than George Northy who also writes for Faking It. Did you feel like you were in extra good hands, having a familiar face behind the scenes?
Absolutely, I felt comfortable and I felt like there was somebody who could speak for Shane, or even for me. That voice was being portrayed in the right way. Carter [Covington] absolutely has such a strong hold of who Shane is, and that’s something we’re talking about all the time, but it was sort of, like you said, a familiar face and it was cool. It felt really destined that we would work on this together, it just felt right.
That is so amazing. When I noticed that, I went whoa! That seems like such a great thing, as an actor to come in and be like, “Okay. I’ve worked with you, and you get me.”
Exactly. It’s perfect.
Now can you describe each of your costars in one word?
(laughs) Gregg [Sulkin] is genuine. I always say that Rita is guile-less. She lacks any sort of bias and she’s always so well-meaning. Katie is so much fun and Bailey [Buntain] is so smart.
You and the cast seem to have great chemistry on screen. Do you all spend time together off set?
We do. We spent time hanging out and just getting to know each other. Going over to each other’s apartments and just spending time. I think what you realize with film and being on camera is that if it’s real, if you can capture something real, than that’s best. If it’s authentic, then you’re capturing something that’s going to last forever. And you can really tell. I think you can tell in scenes that are very intimate, we really do have a genuine intimacy with each other and that’s really great because you don’t always get that.
You also write and perform original music. Do you have more of a fondness for acting or singing, or do they not really compare?
I have a passion for music. I feel like that’s sort of my first love, and it’s what got me into this business in the first place. I cannot pick one or the other. I love them equally and I definitely want to pursue both because I’m a person who creates variety. My first acting job was a commercial where I sang. It’s something that’s always been linked and I hope they continue to be symbiotic.
Who are some performers that inspire you, do you have a favorite artist or song?
Yeah, I mean I have long term icons, like David Bowie and Gwen Stefanie and of course, Freddie Mercury. As far as modern idols, I’m currently drawn to Sia and Panic at the Disco! Those are some icons of mine, but as far as acting goes I really have always been drawn to people who are willing to do comedy as well as dramatic work, like Robin Williams, Jim Carrey. I know that sounds so silly but both of those actors were big influences to me as child. Mrs. Doubtfire, Liar Liar, to me like if you could do both, that was being an actor.
We heard Katie Stevens singing on the show, do you think we’ll get some Shane singing moments?
I sure hope so! It sounds like there may be plans to have some Shane melodies (laughs). I sure hope so.
If your life could be a musical, which one would it be?
Oh my god! One that already exists? I don’t know that’s such a difficult question. I really love Little Shop of Horrors, that sort of like science fiction sixties pop, that’s my world, that’s kind of where I live. I think that’d have to be it.
That’s one of my favorites, I approve. How important do you think the response from fans on social media is, when network executives are deciding whether or not to continue a series?
It’s absolutely important. They are constantly paying attention to what the fans have to say and what they think. I think more than ever it plays an important role with the longevity of a project, because without an audience, what’s the point.
I have a few rapid fire questions.
Ice cream or yogurt?
Harry Potter or The Hunger Games?
The Hunger Games.
Zombies or Aliens?
Sour candy or chocolate?
Bow Ties or Scarves?
iPhone or Blackberry?
That finale definitely got everyone talking. What do you hope to see happen for your character and overall in season two?
I hope to explore Shane’s love life more because I don’t feel like that really got explored as much as it could have in the first season. In general I hope we get to see more of interaction between the characters and to see the different dynamics of how they all play an important role in each others’ lives.
We hope for that as well. Now I’m assuming the show keeps you pretty busy, but are there any other projects that you want to tell the readers about?
Currently I’m working on some more music, which I’m hoping to release a single sometime this summer, but yeah, so just look out for more music and season two.
Faking It returns to MTV September 2014, you can send some love to Michael J. Willett by following him on his official Twitter.