Ever since E! announced their new drama The Arrangement in April 2015, the assumption has been that the series was inspired by Tom Cruise's seven-year relationship with Katie Holmes. And it's not hard to understand why: The premise centers on Kyle West (Josh Henderson), a massive movie star with ties to a controlling organization designed for self-improvement and the contract he offers burgeoning actress Megan Morrison (Christine Evangelista) to play the role of his girlfriend. "I totally understand why people think that considering the rumors we've heard," creator Jonathan Abrahams told BuzzFeed News in a recent phone interview.
Tweets ranged from "The Arrangement should just be called The Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise Story" to "So, E! is making a Katie Holmes / Tom Cruise biopic miniseries called The Arrangement. I smell a lawsuit! Someone alert the Scientologists!!"
But Abrahams said the assumption isn't based in truth. "I know people are going to draw these comparisons but I'm not going to create story based on my fear of that or try to encourage that. I'm not working toward hitting the thing that happened three years down the road with Tom and Katie or asking, How do I get to a couch-jumping moment? None of that ever entered my mind," Abrahams said. "I am not in the business of doing an exposé. I'll leave that to others who are doing it probably much better than I can."
Abrahams said the challenge with his series, which premieres in March, was to find a way to ground the larger-than-life world of Hollywood and a heightened indecent proposal in reality. "When you hear these rumors it seems ... so ludicrous. How could one possibly exist in these sort of circumstances and be okay with it?" he said of the titular arrangement. "One of the challenges I was really excited about was taking a situation like an arrangement and trying to find a way to normalize it. Like, trying to find out how real, actual thinking people get involved in a situation like this and have them not be simply desperate for fame."
As for the Institute of the Higher Mind, the self-help organization Kyle belongs to, Abrahams intentionally didn't make it a religious entity because the idea of personal betterment is one that plays directly into the show's overarching theme of intimacy. "It's the biggest contributor to divorce and failed relationships and nobody really talks about it," he said. "What I found was, when you look at self-help organizations or recovery organizations or new age religions ... it's [about] acknowledging that you're held hostage by things that have happened in your past, by negative influences as a child, by mistakes that you've made that you're either consciously or subconsciously holding on to. And they all offer tools in a way to liberate yourself from that and move forward. It's a very seductive idea ... but a lot of it is, 'Hey, come spend thousands of dollars on our three-week intensive and a lifetime of damage will just melt away.' It's like diet pills, and that was very interesting to me."
The contract and the Institute work in tandem on the series, speaking to an idea that runs through The Arrangement: Nothing in this world is ever wholly good or entirely bad — everything should be looked at in shades of gray.
And that, according to Abrahams, is where his show will live. "You want to see the self-help organization as a scam or you want to see the relationship as a fraud. But the reality is any of these self-help organizations that are criticized for being a moneymaking scheme or whatever, they do work on a certain level," he said. "There's real value for people in these things on a certain level, but then at a certain point, it crosses the line. People have really transformed their lives, but people also get sucked in and it becomes damaging. In a way that's a metaphor for Hollywood, too: A little bit too much of a good thing is the running theme in this town."