High school can be hard, and social media makes it even harder. Anna Akana chose this as the setting for her new YouTube Red Series : Youth and Consequences. We got the chance to talk with the co stars, Kara Royster (The Fosters, Pretty Little Liars, KC Undercover) and Sean Grandillo ( Rise,The Real O’Neals, Scream: The TV Series) to get a behind the scenes look into their experience working on a YouTube Red series.
How did you first get involved in Youth & Consequences?
Kara Royster: I went through the audition process. Heading in there, I was just really excited about it. I really liked this character; I thought she was kinda something different. I’ve played the ‘mean girl’ before, but there was just something new and exciting about her. When I got through the audition process, I got to come back in and work with Jason our writer, and I got to work with Anna. And we just had a blast in the room. I definitely remember just laughing, and we like added in other jokes and stuff. When I walked out I was [thinking] ‘aww, man, I’ll be really sad if I don’t get this.’ Like I really wanted to work with them and everyone seemed really cool. And so that’s how the process went, and it all worked out.
Sean Grandillo: It was interestingly very much on par with the auditions that I’ve done for various other networks and television projects, which is something that really stood out to me. It felt very professional and, like, slick and cool from the beginning. Really, what drew me to the project initially was the script. It’s a really cool take on a high school story that’s written from a very grounded and cool place; I was excited to jump on.
The series has been described as a “woke Mean Girls.” Would you agree with that description?
KR: [laughs] I love it! I have not heard that yet, but I’m definitely going to use that. Beyond that, it definitely does expand those types of stereotypes and break those stereotypes. This show, like Sean said, is in a grounded place, and there are so many different layers to these girls. To see them beyond being the ‘mean girl,’ they’re really a group of girls willing to do anything for each other and for, ultimately, what is right.
SG: I certainly think that’s very fitting. It’s another sort of female driven story in that way, which I thing is always timely and really effective. I think we have a really cool and diverse group of ladies, and I think it is definitely that.
What can you tell us about the characters you portray?
KR : I play Jayne with a ‘y’ — for some reason the ‘y’ in her name gives some sort of overt confidence. The word being used thrown around set was always ‘extra’ — just with the way she walks, talks and the clothes she wears.
It was really fun to play her. She really is that friend who is willing to say anything and do anything for her friends.
SG: Collin is, I would describe him as a cool guy but I don’t think everybody sees him that way. He’s very smart, he’s logical, and he’s fiercely loyal. But he has some challenges socially in various ways, which is one of things that really drew me to him [as a character], those two sides to him and I was really excited about looking at that.
How much were you like your characters when you were in high school?
SG: I’m different than him and I was certainly different than him in high school. I was a basketball kid until everyone grew and I stayed relatively short. [laughs]
KR : Ummm [laughs], there were definitely some scenes where I connected with Jayne. I don’t know if I’m AS extra as she is but hope to someday reach that level.
We definitely vibed, me and Jayne. And it was funny, as we were going through the process and Jason, our writer, was learning more and more about me, at table reads we would all burst out in laughter when I would say a line because we would know Jason just kinda poked fun at something I said during breakfast and applied it to [the script]. So that was cool to be part of the process [in that way].
What was it like working with Anna Akana?
KR : I think Sean and me can both agree it was pretty terrible. [laughs]
SG : [laughs]
KR: Just kidding, completely kidding. [laughs] It was really amazing. She is just the best leader we could have possibly had. [With her] being executive producer and also our lead, she was just so hands on and dedicated to what we were doing. And just a great person to work with and get to know.
SG: I totally agree with Kara. I mean Anna was one of the few YouTubers I was sort of familiar with prior to any involvement with this project, or any auditions or anything. And so to see that they were fronting a show with her instantly made sense to me. She’s so dynamic just as a person and it turns out as an actor as well, so I was really excited about that. Then meeting her she is, she’s so impressive. She’s so prolific. She’s always working on something and she manages to also be like really down-to-earth human. I mean she was working as producer on this and starring in it, and also being really friendly and supportive to all of us. She was really the glue for all of us, both at work and socially. It was really awesome.
How is working on a YouTube Red series different from working in traditional film or television?
SG: One thing I was really excited about is just how new it is. I think there’s always an opportunity when you’re venturing into a new platform or really a new division at all in media when people tend to be ready for it to be explored. I also felt like it was very hands on in a really cool way. We had reps from YouTube there through some pre-production and then had multiple episode stays on set. They were so engaged and kind and friendly. It felt cool that we were going to be one of their early shows and it seems like they are really excited about their whole [slate] of programming coming up.
KR: I didn’t see any difference, in a good way. The production was so on par with everything and so professional. We’re working with Mark Gordon, who has produced so many amazing things on TV. It was really just a great professional set. I think that all the actors I got to work with were phenomenal and it was just a great production to be a part of.
Are there any particular benefits or drawbacks to producing a series for YouTube Red?
KR : Ummm, I don’t see any drawbacks. I think one of the biggest positives is that we are going to be reaching people all over. YouTube Red stretches to New Zealand, and Australia, and Korea, and Mexico. And so just to be able to reach such a wide audience I think is going to be so cool.
SG: Yeah actually it was really exciting to me. This felt no different than any other set that I’ve been on for film work or television. It was state of the art, it was a great crew, and again the cast was so epic-ly talented, and everyone’s resume can speak for themselves. It was very much like doing a television show, which is really cool. I think YouTube is really going for it and it’s exciting. I was really excited by the whole process.
What sort of person is going to love this show?
I think it really is open to so many people. It’s not just for girls, it’s not just for boys, it’s for everyone. I think that there are so many different diverse characters that people can really latch onto and be like, ‘oh my gosh, that’s me!’ or ‘that totally reminds me of my brother.’ — Kara Royster
KR : I think the character work is so great and also the story is just so human. You don’t have to be in high school to remember those times, or even just the place that you’re in right now [to relate to ] learning, and new relationships that are formed, the frienemies that are formed. I think that it can really speak to everyone at different ages and times in their lives.
SG: I think it will really reach everyone who lives in this internet and social media age, which is all of us; despite our choices to try not to. It’s interesting to see some sort of like timeless struggles of growing up and adolescence, through the lens of the social media landscape that we have right now and how that changes things but ultimately how everything is still very much the same. I think anyone who has had experiences, good or bad, with social media and the internet will certainly find something that they can relate to.
Are you planning to work on any other YouTube Red projects in the future?
KR : I love the platform. I actually just binge watched the whole Step Up series this past weekend [laughs]. I was a huge fan of the platform even before I was a part of this project, but I’m feeling really up for a season two for [Youth & Consequences] .
SG: Exactly what Kara said, it was a wonderful experience thoroughly and genuinely. And yeah, I hope we get to do more of Youth & Consequences because there’s certainly more to tell, as people will see.
What should viewers who have not tuned in yet, expect from the series.
KR: I think they can expect to see hard hitting and relevant topics in a different, innovative, smart way. I think we tackled some huge issues that I wasn’t even paying attention to at the start. I think that those issues need to be talked in this way. Jason has an amazing voice, and the cast, we’re also incredibly close, and we’re like loving each other and I think that shows up on screen, and I think we were fearless in stepping into those issues.
Also, we have a lot of really great guest stars. Sean’s mom is Marcia Cross in the show, Cary Elwes is on there, which is amazing because I was obsessed with Princess Bride so the fact that he was on set was incredible. Just a lot of great stuff going on.
SG: I think people should expect to see a show that they are going to love. It’s very cliffhanger-y; it really wants you to keep watching. I remember even when we would get the script, I would always want the next one as soon as we finished it because Jason, our writer, did just a good job of pacing and also playing with real stuff that goes on in high school now a days. I was really drawn to it, again, just by the fact that he wasn’t afraid to talks about real things. There’s a lot of substance here, it’s great performances, and it’s also funny. I think people are really going to enjoy it.
Props to YouTube for a really awesome experience. And thank you to our writer Jason and our show-runner Blair. I hope everyone really enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed making it. It was truly a ton of fun. -Sean Grandillo