A behind-the-scenes look at the WB's ''Young Americans''
The new summer youth drama underwent a major creative makeover
Creating a summer show isn’t as easy as sending strangers to a deserted island or a locked California house. ”Young Americans,” the WB’s new summer teen drama (premieres Wednesday, 9 p.m.), follows Will Krudski, a working class New Englander who earns a scholarship to his hometown’s posh boarding school. Though the series pleased its youth-oriented network — the WB snapped up the idea for ”Young Americans” more than a year ago — the show went through a major overhaul before it was ready to debut.
The initiative to revamp ”Young Americans” came from the show’s creator/ executive producer, Steve Antin, a former actor who wrote and produced the independent feature ”Inside Monkey Zetterling.” ”I was really unhappy with a lot of things about [the pilot],” he tells EW.com. ”I knew I had to make it better.” Fortunately, the network had tapped the show as a replacement series for summer 2000, leaving Antin plenty of time to tinker. In the year that followed, though, he didn’t merely polish a few scenes — he started over with a new shooting location, subplots, and supporting cast. Here’s a look at his makeover.
LOCATION After shooting the pilot in Atlanta, Antin and his two fellow producers decided to move the whole production to film-friendly Baltimore. Luckily for them, hometown hero directors Barry Levinson (”Diner”; ”Homicide”) and John Waters (”Hairspray”) have cultivated a network of movie and TV professionals for Antin to hire. ”Having seen ‘Homicide’ I thought, is this gonna look right?” Antin says of his new location. ”But then I saw these gorgeous rolling hills and couldn’t believe how much it looked like New England.”
CASTING As ”Young Americans” went forward, some of the important players moved on. The first to go was Jeremy Sisto, who in the pilot played Finn, Rawley’s ”Carpe Diem” crew coach/English teacher. Between the pilot and the reshoots, however, Sisto landed the title role in CBS’ ”Jesus” miniseries. ”I was sad to lose him, but I understood that he had other things he wanted to do,” says Antin, who found a new Finn in newcomer Ed Quinn. The change of location also forced the producers to replace the Atlanta actors who’d been hired for secondary roles. ”It wasn’t worth it to relocate everyone, so I started looking again,” says Antin. The only original cast members to remain are the five principals, including newcomers Rodney Scott as Will, Mark Famiglietti as Will’s patrician roommate Scout Calhoun, and Kate Bosworth as beautiful blond townie Bella Banks.
PLOTLINES In true WB style, ”Young Americans” focuses on the romances and friendships among the under-21 set. In the pilot episode, it takes only six minutes for the entire Rawley class to strip down to undergarments and jump in a lake. However, the show’s original pilot contained what Antin describes as a ”distracting” subplot about an affair between Finn and the dean’s gorgeous wife. ”That took away from the central theme of the story,” he says. But stay tuned: The parents get a little action too. Antin inserted the deleted sexy grown-up scenes into the third episode.
MUSIC To sell his initial pilot to hit-hungry executives, Antin says he hedged his bets with a soundtrack full of recognizable tracks by Fatboy Slim, the New Radicals, and the Flies. After the show was reshot, though, Antin felt free to replace the Top 40 fare with some of his own favorites, like Nick Drake’s ”Pink Moon” and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s ”Over the Rainbow.” If the tracks sound familiar, it’s because Antin’s eclectic tastes have become newly fashionable: The songs were used on the ubiquitous commercials for Volkswagen’s Cabrio convertible and eToys.com., respectively. ”We were freaked out about it, but it’s totally coincidental,” he says of the ad tunes. ”I’ve been into Nick Drake for 10 years, and my cousin introduced me to Israel’s music.” Take that, VW.