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Interview with Chasing Life’s Italia Ricci

ABC Family’s Chasing Life recently returned for its second season. Italia Ricci stars as April Carver, a young reporter in her 20s whose life is completely derailed when she discovers she has Leukemia. As season 2 begins, April is navigating life after relapse. Talk Nerdy With Us caught up with Italia to talk about being April, her upcoming nuptials (real and fake!) and what it’s like on the set of Chasing Life. 

What has been the biggest challenge of playing a character with cancer?

The biggest challenge was probably the first season when I…just coming home on the weekends and being able to turn off cancer makes me feel pretty guilty. So, getting to do that, sort of phantom survivor’s guilt was really tough. But, the more people that I meet and the more people that I talk to the more proud that I become of being able to be a voice for this community…I’m not as hard on myself anymore which is good. I think the biggest challenge is separating myself from April at all, just because I relate to her so much as a human. We’re very similar. Sometimes when I don’t have to turn it off, I go home and I can’t separate us.

How has April’s illness changed your outlook on life? Have you noticed you look at things differently?

Definitely I have put some perspective lenses on my personal life that I hadn’t previously had before this show. When I’m dealing with scenes that are just so heartbreaking and you sort of accept the fact that this is some people’s reality and when I go home and I’m complaining about having to move into a new house or something so stupid and superficial, I constantly have this little slap in the face being like ‘seriously? This is ruining your day?’ And then I remember what April has gone through this week or whatever it is we were filming and I’m like ‘you know what? I can get through this?’

The show has such heavy subject matter, what do you do on set to unwind and have fun?

Honestly, we’re always having fun. Even a sobbing scene, as soon as they yell ‘cut’ somebody’s there with a one-liner joke. Everybody gets along so well, not just the cast, but the crew, the writers, the directors, everybody just gets along so well, that the levity…everybody brings a piece of it to work so that the days never really feel that bad.

Who is the funniest person on the show? Who brings the most humor to these moments?

That’s so hard because there’s so many. Scott [Michael Foster] is a total goofball. Aisha [Dee]’s laugh is contagious. Haley [Ramm] is adorable and you just wanna…she’s just a ball of sunshine all the time. Richie [Brancatisano] is like the practical jokester, like the prankster who’s pranking everybody and being sort of like an annoying little brother but in a really funny way. Everybody has their own flavor and we all just sorta mix into this beautiful bowl together.

That sounds like so much fun.

It is. I could not be happier doing anything else.

Of all the people on the show, your character gets to interact the most with the other cast members, but is there anyone on the show who you wish you got a chance to do more scenes with?

Yeah. Ford! I’ve only said one line to her, and you guys haven’t even seen it yet. I was like ‘I only get this one line! I want more. I love Ford!’

That’s such a great answer! Now I want that, too.

I know Dylan [Gelula] is just so dry and so funny and so like…she reminds me of the best friend on My So-Called Life and I’m like I just wanna bottle you up and take you everywhere.

I loved her on Kimmy Schmidt.

Right? My real life roommate just joined the show, too.

Oh, really?

Yeah! He lives in my guest house and he just auditioned and he got it and it was just such a cool thing.

We talked a little earlier about bringing April home with you, there are some parallels between your real life and April’s this year. Did it impact you at all being engaged [to real-life fiance Robbie Amell] and then playing that story on the show?

Um, it didn’t really impact me…it was a little weird to be honest. Just because…well I mean…OK, so when April goes to try on dresses on the show, I found my wedding dress there when we were shooting. I went back there on the weekend and bought my wedding dress.

 Really? That’s crazy! I love that!

 I know it’s kinda cool. But it was weird. On the day we filmed the wedding, it was like walking into this church and it was beautiful and there were all these extras and there was a bridal party and it was so real and they had the music going even, the Wedding March, and Mary Page [Keller] who plays my mom turned to me she was like ‘this is weird, right?’ And I was like ‘this is very weird!’ To turn the corner and not see the man that I love that I want to spend the rest of my life with. Don’t get me wrong, I love Scott, he’s great, but I felt like I was in an alternate universe, it was so strange. And it’s also just weird too, like I’m sure that my family isn’t going to want to see me getting married to another dude. It’s also funny cause on his show, on The Flash, he was getting married on his episode too. So it’s all kinda surreal.

Of the scenes that have aired, what has been your favorite scene to film so far on Chasing Life?

Of the ones that have aired, I really like that sledgehammer scene cause I feel like it lets out everything that she had been trying to keep together throughout the season. She never really let herself go. And that’s the biggest response that I’ve gotten from a lot of survivors and people fighting. This woman at Cancer Con that I went to in Denver was telling me how after she was told she relapsed she ripped the steering wheel off her car and had to have AAA come so that she could drive home cause she was so angry. There are so many people who have those moments. So to be able to see someone else going through that makes you feel like it’s okay, it’s normal. And even people without having it be cancer, just when you have no more control and you have to somehow let it out. I feel like just being able to do that, it was very cathartic for a lot of people. But to film that obviously wasn’t my favorite, it was devastating. I love filming the big scenes with the family and Emma. That whole Christmas episode with the dueling grandmothers, I could not keep it together. And wait til you see April’s bachelorette party!

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