Ever watch a teen drama and think either the actors were too old, the dialogue was too mature or the storylines just weren’t realistic? Well, that’s not a problem with new teen drama Broken Road. Creator and writer Courtney Haigh has experience with the trials and tribulations of a typical American teenager. Seventeen-year-old Haigh, who also stars in the show, talks to me about how she came up with the show’s concept and what it’s like having a television show on her resume. Fellow Broken Road actress Asona Lui joins to talk about her involvement and why real teen stories have just as much drama.
Sharon Tharp: Hi girls! How are you?
Courtney Haigh and Asona Lui: Good! Thanks
ST: How did the idea for the show come about?
CH: Basically I had been helping shoot an independent film over the summer and I love teen dramas. I was sitting around watching a few of them and I thought, you know, why not? Let’s write a T.V. show about teen life in a small town. I thought it would be a really interesting concept so I sat down and wrote thirteen episodes.
ST: Wow. Once you had the episodes written, where did the process go from there?
CH: Well, we actually held auditions at 94.5 Country, our local country radio station. We had over 45 kids come out and from there we picked our lead cast of fourteen.
ST: What about this show did you want to differently than other teen dramas?
CH: For one, it is written by a teenager for teenagers to watch. That is very different. And a lot of the experiences in my writing are from real things that I’ve gone through. I think it makes it way more personal because it is a real teenager’s story being told to other teenagers, you know? So that’s what I think makes it really different from 90210, for example, or any other teen drama.
ST: Right. Now, were these actors that came out to the auditions trained or were they your friends?
CH: Actually, all of the people I have never met before.
ST: How do you all get along?
CH: Oh, we’ve become such a close family.
ST: Asona, how did you get involved in the show?
AL: Well, I actually did an independent film that airs on TBS now called Through Martha’s Eyes back in 2004 and I was on the set of Dogs of Eden and I met Courtney there on the set. We talked about the project a little bit and she was writing a new character in the show that she hadn’t originally cast in the beginning and got in touch with me later on and asked if I’d be interested in taking on the part of Sasha.
ST: Can you talk a little about Sasha? She seems like she stirs up some trouble a little bit.
AL: She definitely does. The first five episodes of the pilot season you don’t really know about Sasha, but she shows up in the sixth episode and you find out that she is actually coming back and everyone is really surprised to see her. She sort of disappeared and then you find out that it’s because she and Libby have a very deep dark secret. Sasha comes back to reclaim her throne and break up the triple threat, which are the girls who are running the high school.
ST: Both of you seem to play the bad girls. Is that correct?
CH and AL: Yep!
ST: Courtney, did you always really want to play Libby?
CH: These characters are based off of people I know and I really did, ever since the beginning, wanted to play the mean girl. It’s so much fun. And the greatest part about writing it too was that I added in three new characters including Sasha that I didn’t have in there before. But now they’re my three favorite characters. They are so fun and so evil, and it’s cool to be able to do that.
ST: Is there a challenge when your writing to satisfy the audience, but still write the characters and stories how you want to write them?
CH: Well, there’s definitely a lot of challenges of having to accumulate what the audience likes and I think that so far from airing in Topeka has been very well and they really like it. So, I guess I am doing the right thing.
ST: That was actually my next question. How’s Topeka responded to the show and you guys filming in and around the city?
AL: They’ve definitely have responded well and everything is pretty positive. We have been out and about filming, and Courtney and I have directing and filming local commercials as well, and we were filing out on the streets just a couple weeks ago and people, you know, wait for us to finish and won’t cross the street and stuff like that. Everyone’s pretty excited and asks us what we’re doing. The two of us have been out in restaurants and people have recognized us and asked us for autographs and things like that. We hear kids talking about it and people talking and not realizing that we’re a part of Broken Road saying like, “Did you see the episode?” and “Did you see what happened?” So we’re pretty excited.
CH: The town has been so supportive of us. They let us shoot anywhere. They gave us a proclamation declaring February 21 “Broken Road Day.” It’s pretty cool and they have been really great to us.
ST: Definitely. Now, where did the title “Broken Road” come from?
CH: Actually we were trying to figure out the name for the show and couldn’t and we just happened to be listening to that song, “God Bless the Broken Road” by the Rascal Flatts on the radio and we were like, “Oh my god, let’s call it Broken Road.” And that’s just how it came to be Broken Road.
ST: Great. So, how does it feel now that Corey Feldman and Ed Asner have come aboard?
CH: Well, I’m so ecstatic. It is insane. They are such talented people and for them to want to come on board, especially for the actors. They are going to be able to learn so much from Corey and Ed and it’s just amazing. They are just the greatest people and we are all really looking forward to working with them.
ST: Yeah, it seems something that started as a small idea has gone on to be this big thing with the YouTube views and Web site visits. How does it feel to have all the press and everything?
AL: Well, I think we are all really excited about it. I think that from the beginning, we all hoped this would happen and imagined that it would, but for it to really be happening is absolutely very exciting. Now all of us, the cast, are really excited to get to work. Now that we have all these great people coming on board, all the kids back in Kansas we are all ready to really just hone our craft.
CH: Last night, Asona and I were able to go to our very first red carpet for Race to Witch Mountain and that was really fun. It was a great time.
ST: Awesome. Where do you see the show going? Where are you in the filming process now?
CH: We’ve filmed six episodes, which we call out pilot season and it aired in Topeka as a kind of tester. And then it’s going to go on the Web starting March 15 and right now we are in pre-production for the rest of the 7-18 episodes, which will hopefully be on a network or possibly syndicated.
ST: What has been the biggest challenge?
CH: I would say probably the fact that we shot it with one camera and one light. That has extended our hours a lot longer and we’ve had to use car headlights as lights and I think that we would do a couple close-up shots with camera and then we’d have to move the whole set and move the camera around. It was probably the biggest challenge for us.
AL: Yeah, definitely. And I also think all these kids are all in school so we had to work around people’s schedules the best we could and recognize the fact that these actors also have other things going on in their lives but definitely still want to be a part of the project.
ST: How do you have time to do anything else? What else do you like to do besides act?
AL: Well, Courtney is involved in newspaper at school and I am in a singing group. I sing.
CH: Yeah, lately our lives have pretty much become all Broken Road, which doesn’t bother me. I like it.
ST: Do you ever get writer’s block?
CH: Yeah, there are times that I am writing and I kind of get stuck. But, eventually I pull through and next thing I know I am at 21 pages, which is what I need. And then I’m like, “Oh I wish I added this.” I’ve already got so many plans for Season 2. And hopefully, I want to bring on a staff of teenage writers with me to help so I’m not the only one writing and we can really get other teenager’s stories.
AL: Yeah, we really love the idea of maintaining the teenagers writing and putting on this production for other teenagers. We like the audience to watch and be able to identify with these characters and maybe be like, “Oh that same thing happened to me.”
ST: Great. Thanks guys! Anything you want to tell your viewers?
AL: Sure. We’d just like to encourage everyone to check out the pilot season episodes on BrokenRoadTV.com. For the next six weeks, they will be putting up a new episode every Sunday at 7 p.m.
CH: It’s one teen talking to another and I think that’s what makes it really special.
AL: And it’s definitely still dramatic though. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
CH: Yeah, we definitely keep the drama.
ST: Great. Thank you for talking to me!
CH and AL: Thanks!