Over the course of Faking It's first season on MTV, Karma (Katie Stevens) and Amy (Rita Volk) were mistakenly outed as a lesbian couple, pursued a fake relationship, fake broke up, fake got back together, and were outed as, well, fakers. It's all a little confusing — especially for Amy, who realized after a few for-show lip-locks with her best friend that her feelings for Karma were more than just pretend.
Meanwhile, Karma navigated a relationship with Liam (Gregg Sulkin), which led to a failed threesome and eventually some one-on-one action. In the season finale — MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD — Liam found out that Karma and Amy had never really been a couple, and Karma found out that Amy had feelings for her all along. Cue a lot of drinking and some bad decisions that ended the season on a shocking note: Amy and Liam had sex.
Knowing how upset fans would be over this development, Faking It showrunner Carter Covington sat down with BuzzFeed for an exclusive interview to discuss why Amy slept with Liam, what's ahead for her relationship with Karma, and why even the angriest fans should keep watching when the show returns for its second season.
Let's start by setting the record straight, as it were. Amy slept with Liam. Does that mean she's suddenly into guys?
Carter Covington: No.
So what is the situation there?
CC: I think it's important for everyone to stay calm and recognize that Amy was hurt (more hurt than she's ever been), drunk, and angry. And she made a mistake, a mistake that will haunt her in the next season. My intention was and never will be for Amy and Liam to develop a romance. I think that that would undermine the journey Amy's been on. But that being said, Amy has not self-identified as a lesbian. People have put that on her. And I know that our lesbian fans really connect to and relate to her, and I'm so glad that they do, but they're putting an ending on her journey that we haven't finished yet. And I really want her to be able to explore whether or not she's attracted to men, and where that fits in her vision of herself and her sexuality.
So the Amy-Liam sex is much more a drunken mistake than an act of passion?
CC: It is an act of anger. Both her and Liam are acting out against Karma. What we called it in the writers' room was 'Fuck you, Karma sex.'
You mentioned that Amy hasn't self-identified as a lesbian. What conversations have you had in the writers' room about where you'd like her and Karma to end up in terms of their sexualities? Or is that something you're purposely leaving open?
CC: I would like to state categorically that Amy is not straight and will never be straight. So we're not gonna be like, 'Surprise! It was a phase.' That, to me, is offensive as a gay person. I care about Amy so much as a character that I would never have her have that reaction. I think it would just undermine the whole show. A lot of gay and lesbian fans have been burned by that before, so this, I think, will have a hint of that for them. They'll be like, Oh no, you're gonna make her straight now. And I want everyone to know: She will never be straight. She is not straight. It's been very clear in this season that she's not straight because of her feelings for Karma. I think now we're trying to go beyond Karma. Where is Amy on the spectrum? And I'm not sure. I'm not sure where we're gonna end up, but I know she's not gonna end up straight.
People seem to have a difficult time with bisexuality or sexuality as a spectrum on television. How do you portray sexual fluidity without pissing people off?
CC: I've thought about it a lot, and we talk about it a lot in the writers' room. So many people have identified with Amy, and they have identified with her journey, because I think the process of declaring you're not heterosexual is a journey that everyone, wherever you fall on the spectrum, when you're saying you're not 100% straight, it's a coming out process. So I think everyone's been able to see that in Amy. As Amy figures it out, people who feel like she's diverting from their plan for her or their experience are gonna be disappointed. I think right now, she's a confused 16-year-old girl who's not sure, and she's trying to figure it out, and she's making mistakes. We learn as much from our mistakes as we learn from the people around us. So sleeping with Liam is going to inform the entire second season — it's gonna affect her relationship with Karma. She's going to have crushing guilt. She's going to question whether there's anything there. She's going to struggle to put her relationship with Karma back together. And she's going to have this secret that is gonna be hidden from the person she cares the most about.
Assuming Karma does eventually find out about Amy and Liam, can she get past such a huge betrayal?
CC: I would say that, to me, I've always told people that this show is a romantic comedy between two best friends. My long-term goal for the show is: How does a relationship survive when all these feelings come up? My intent is never to have the series end with Karma and Amy not best friends. It's a journey of how do they hold onto that, and how do they keep going, because they love each other. Their relationship is one that I think all of us would love to have. Everybody would love to have a best friend like they have in each other. And I can't imagine a situation where I would even consider breaking them up and letting that be the endgame. It's just: Are they gonna be together romantically? Is it gonna be an emotional friendship? Where does it fall? And that's what we're gonna explore. Amy has said, 'I would love our relationship to be deeper.' And Karma has said, 'I can't be there with you. That's not how I feel.' That's not to say Karma's not gonna go on her own journey and come to see that maybe she should've said yes later and give it a shot. I want to explore everything that the premise of this show will let us explore. I just need the seasons to do it.
It seemed like Karma was very honest in saying the kiss was hot, but that doesn't mean she's into Amy. She's not there yet. But is there a chance for more exploration on her side?
CC: Later down the road, when we've played out the circumstances we're in now, she may come to realize, Wow, I love Amy. She's the person I'm closest to, and when we kissed, I was turned on. Should I have given it a shot? And maybe she'll go on her own journey of discovery.
You have this Karma and Amy pairing that the audience has latched on to from the beginning, but you also have Karma and Liam. How do you decide which relationships to devote time to, especially given that you're probably going to piss fans off no matter what?
CC: I view fans being upset as a good thing because it means they're emotionally connected enough in the show that they care, and they care what these people do. And when they make mistakes or they're not living up to their full potential or disappointing them in some way, they're upset and angry. I view that as success. They are feeling what we wanted them to feel. In some ways, I would love to tell the fans, 'It's a good thing you feel this way! It means you're attached to the show, and we wanted you to feel this way. We're in control of the story. It's not unraveling. I know where I want everyone to go.'
With regards to Liam, he is also going to feel incredibly guilty about sleeping with Amy. It's a secret he has to now hold, and he hates lying. And it's going to create an interesting relationship with Amy and Liam where they'll have a shared secret that they know will destroy the person they both love, which I think's really interesting. I know Liam gets a lot of flak and a lot of vitriol online for initially wanting to be with Karma solely because she's a lesbian, and he's gonna recognize that about himself. And what I hope people see in our show are characters who learn and grow from their mistakes. Our goal was always to create a character that has all these contradictions: He's best friends with a gay guy, he's super tolerant, he's passionate about what he believes in, but he also wants to sleep with a girl because she's a lesbian. He can be a contradiction of things, and we're gonna explore that in the next season.
One of the things I like about the show is that it feels very high school — these characters are still figuring things out, which makes sense because they're really just kids.
CC: When we watch it, they're doing very sophisticated things — they're sleeping together. Their behaviors are such that, I don't know that many 15-year-olds that are actually in this predicament. But it is important to remember that they are 15. The characters are 15 and 16.
Were you surprised by the backlash you got before the show even started?
CC: I wasn't surprised, because I had that same initial reaction when I heard the concept, because MTV brought me the concept. My first reaction was, Whoa, that could be really controversial, to play someone's sexuality as a joke. And then when I realized I could put my own experiences — of growing up and having feelings for my friends and not being able to express it — into the show, and I pitched them that and they were very excited about that, I realized MTV and I were excited about making the same show. I think in my head, I thought, Oh, people will see. They'll get it from the trailers. And then they didn't really. I wanted people to be surprised when Amy kissed Karma at the end. I think we all wanted to protect that moment. So in the marketing of the show, we sort of protected that twist and sold it as the premise that I thought might be offensive. We kind of created the controversy inadvertently.
I think the thing I was surprised about is how many people refused to watch the show because of it. It's taken a lot of people a long time — and there are still people out there who are not gonna watch because they're still offended by the premise. And that kind of saddens me, because I think those people would be the show's biggest fans, or at least see that we're trying to do something positive.
How do you feel that you've served those fans who were wary about Faking It? How have you answered their concerns?
CC: I think the passion with which the fandom is crushing on Karma and Amy means that we've done our main job well, which is have people really root for these two to be together. They're this new term I've learned: 'OTP — one true pairing.' They're the Ross and Rachel of this show. They're the Sam and Diane. They're the couple that everybody wants to have figure it out. So it makes me very happy that there's such a strong attachment and such passion behind people 'shipping them.
There are definitely higher standards for queer characters, simply because there aren't enough of them on television. And so we tend to invest a lot in every instance of LGBT representation.
CC: And I think that people don't give the show the credit it deserves for — I know that Brittana, Brittany, and Santana on Glee, they're always in the C story. They're never gonna be the stars of Glee. And this show is built around this central relationship, which I think is such a gift. This story doesn't have to be told in the corners of someone else's story.
Speaking of Glee, Brittany ended up dating a guy after she and Santana broke up, and they kind of answered that controversy by making a joke out of how pissed the fans would be. I think that hurt people, because it played into this stereotype of the angry lesbian on the internet. How do you balance being sensitive to your fans with knowing that you're going to make them mad, because that's part of your job?
CC: To be honest, I don't have the answers. I'm still learning this. I'm trying to be as respectful as I can. I know that my heart's in the right place. I come from the same community that is worried the show is not going to treat things right, so I feel the burden of making sure it's a rewarding experience of people who tune in because they felt these feelings in the past. I feel pretty good about the fact that I'm in the driver's seat. I hope people can trust that I will, over the life of the series, hopefully tell a tale that they'll feel is really fulfilling, and they'll be glad they watched, and they'll share with their kids.
Let's talk about the larger world of the series. It's interesting to me that homophobia isn't really a concern, outside of Amy's mom (Rebecca McFarland). And even she is just uncomfortable, not hateful. What went into the decision to stay away from those issues, and to create a world where coming out is something that's only celebrated?
CC: I volunteer for the Trevor Project, so I've heard a lot of stories from young people across the country about how hard it is to be gay and to be out in high school. And I didn't even consider coming out in high school, so just the fact that kids are doing it these days shows an evolution. But I've also heard people talk about their school experience and how it was a little more like Hester High, and I thought, Why don't we show a high school that has kind of turned a corner on this? Why not exaggerate it, and give people a vision of what a high school could look like that's not dealing with bullying and homophobia? I also was excited to have a character like Shane [Michael Willett], who can exist free from the burdens of shame and self-loathing. I wanted the show to not have to debate whether being gay is OK. I didn't want us to get bogged down in that. I wanted the show to make a very strong and unified declaration from the pilot that being gay is perfectly acceptable — in fact, it makes you stand out. It makes you unique.
It definitely opens things up in terms of storytelling, because you're not forced to retread these familiar coming-out stories and bullying stories that we've seen time and time again.
CC: Yeah, and it's felt that way in the writers' room. We've all been excited because when we start to tell stories, we're not going, Oh, now she has to come out to so-and-so. Even Amy coming out to her mom, we knew that that story — she hadn't even come out to herself yet — was being used as a device for her to stand up to her mom and to basically tell her mom, 'See me.' It was less about her accepting her sexuality, because Amy wasn't even sure if that was her sexuality. We've really enjoyed being able to tell stories with Shane and Amy that feel like turning a new page.
While we're on the subject of Shane, he has a love interest now. What can you share about how that will play out in Season 2?
CC: I'm excited to explore Shane in relationships. And I say plural because I think Shane is going to be a little like Goldilocks, trying on many different relationships to see which one fits. One thing that Michael and I talked about a lot when we talked about Shane was, he is this character who does great things and also kind of bad things. And we accentuated that in the finale. And now he's dating this guy who's so good, and can he keep that up? And what happens when he meets the guy who's so bad, who's so clearly wrong for him? Can the guy who's too good compete?
I think we're gonna play a lot with Shane's inner turmoil of, Who am I? Am I a good guy? Am I a bad guy? Am I attracted to good guys? Am I attracted to bad guys? I think he'll question his conscience and where it serves a role. I'm excited for Shane to have a romantic life and let it be a real journey of 'Who do I like?'
Do you think Shane gave any real consideration to Pablo's (Anthony Palacios) celibacy? He didn't take too long to decide he was fine with it.
CC: Oh, it was such a knee jerk. I think he was caught up in the moment, and it was romantic, and, This guy's so cute. I think his mouth got him into a situation he's not sure he's going to be able to maintain.
Going back to Liam for a moment, I'm curious to know how he fits into the world of Faking It if he's not dating Karma — or sleeping with Amy, for that matter. What might his role look like going forward?
CC: We're gonna flesh his world out a little more. Really, in the first eight episodes, we've mostly seen him in the context of Karma and we've seen a little bit of his relationship with Shane, and that's what I think we'll explore more — this friendship between a straight guy and a gay guy, and what that looks like, and how their relationship came about, what their backstory is as friends. I'm really excited to spend more time with them as friends.
I imagine it was a conscious decision to have no physical attraction between them.
CC: Yes. I had actually put in the second episode, with the dance, I had put a storyline in where Liam is cautious about going to the dance with Shane, because he's worried about digging up old feelings that Shane had in middle school. And Shane's like, I didn't have any feelings in middle school. And Liam doesn't believe him. And then Liam gets rejected by Karma, and he wants the validation of Shane saying that he had a crush on him in middle school. So he kisses him at the dance, and then Shane's like, See? I don't feel anything! But I pulled it back because I realized that if Shane were to say, 'No, I don't have feelings,' the audience wouldn't believe him. They'd be like, Oh, sure you do. And I didn't want their relationship to be bogged down with that. Karma and Amy's has plenty of it. And I wanted it to be kind of pure and just about friendship.
It's a fine line, because you don't want to play into the cliché of the gay guy in love with his straight friend, but you also have to be realistic — Shane is a teenage boy, and Liam is really attractive.
CC: But I do think when you know someone your whole life — they're more like brothers. I have a lot of friends that I was attracted to at first, and now that we're friends, the idea of that is just gross. So, was there attraction early on? Perhaps. Is there any more? No.
So you haven't seen any Liam-Shane 'shippers online?
CC: I have! I have. And I think that's great. But I don't think we'll explore it.
I'm also hoping we see more of Lauren (Bailey Buntain) next season, especially after she and Amy kind of found common ground in the season finale. Can she still be adversarial but also something of an ally?
CC: Very much so. She will be pulled into the world we've created more this next season. Our goal is to not have to have her be the antagonist in every plotline. She's going to be more interwoven. I think we've evolved her relationship with Amy and with Shane. But Lauren's someone who has a very hard time opening up to people. She has a very hard time being sentimental, letting her guard down, so she's always going to have this prickly vibe to her. I think she wants to be part of the group, but it scares her. So we're gonna make sure we keep a charge so that she doesn't become warm and fuzzy. I like Lauren with claws. I don't want them to go away.
In that way, she's a lot like Sadie (Molly Tarlov) on Awkward, who mixes this hostility with vulnerability. It must be a conscious choice to kind of subvert the traditional bully archetype.
CC: Yeah. And her revelation about what the pills are for is going to, I think, change everyone's opinion of her.
So you know what the pills are for?
CC: Oh, yeah. We've known since — I pitched it to the network when we got picked up, and we've been kind of laying little hints throughout the series that people will probably see in hindsight.
People are obviously going to be distraught after this finale. What would you say to viewers who have decided they're giving up on Faking It because their hearts just can't take it anymore?
CC: I would say: Please don't declare you're not gonna watch the show again until you've had at least two weeks to calm down. I would say give yourself two weeks, see if you still feel the same, and then think about every TV show that you've ever watched, and when the couple you most want to get together gets together, there's no more show. That's not to say that the final episode of the series is gonna be Karma and Amy getting together, but the push and pull is short-term pain and it's building on a larger story that I hope people will stick with. Anyone who's upset with this season finale will really regret it if they don't keep tuning in. Because they may miss the things that they've been waiting for. I'll leave it at that.
You said that Karma and Amy getting together isn't necessarily the endgame for you. But it's not not the endgame either. Not that you would tell me right now regardless, but it sounds like there's some ambiguity as to where this story is going to end up.
CC: I think that I, too, want both Amy and Karma to be happy. I think this has been a really painful eight episodes. The next season, because this secret will be out, I don't think will quite so heavy. But I want them both to be happy, and I feel like they can't be happy until they've processed this and figured out how to move on as friends or more. And that process is gonna take a while. I mean, it's a big revelation. They're not in the same place. But they're also 15 years old. They've got a lot more time — and hopefully many more seasons — to figure it out. So there's still a lot of hope for Karmy 'shippers out there. I want to say everything I'm thinking, but I don't want to give too many spoilers, because the whole purpose of a TV show is to enjoy the ride, and I think that is the ups and the downs. I just took everyone off of a big drop on the roller coaster. It's gonna come back up again! That's what a roller coaster's all about.