Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. But when it comes to entire families, things get a bit messier. Debuting on AT&T’s Audience Network in November 2016, ICE has introduced viewers to the rough side of an unexplored world: the diamond industry.
The series follows the lives of a Los Angeles family business called G&G Diamond. After Freddy Green kills a prominent diamond dealer, his step-brother Jake is dragged back into family matters, risking everything he’s built in his new life.
In ICE, Chloe East takes on the character of Willow Pierce, the only daughter of Jake (Cam Gigandet) and Ava Pierce (Audrey Marie Anderson). Having grown up around the industry, Willow knows a thing or two about gems, but maybe not everything about their journey.
From playing a girl just trying to find her place in Jessica Darling’s It List, to playing the resident smart girl at BOOMS in Disney Channel’s Liv and Maddie: Cali Style, East’s latest role introduces fans to a much more mature side of her acting and interests.
We called up East to discuss joining a darker drama, and what gems she’s picked up along the way.
Before we dive into ICE, let’s talk Liv and Maddie. At this point, we’ve officially met Val – what has it been like to see fans’ reaction to your character?
It’s really cool to actually see the episodes because, when we have live tapings of it, we can only see a tiny, little snippet of it. So, when it comes out, it’s cool to see it come together, and see fans posting screenshots, and what they thought of the episode. It’s really fun to see the response to it.
It seems like people are really responding well to Parker and Val, or #Pal, as you’ve come to be known.
Team Pal, yup! (laughs).
Everyone seems to be shipping it. I have to say though, with the way John Beck and Ron Hart have been handling the couples on the show, I’m a bit nervous. Should we be worried for Pal in the next few episodes? Will they go the distance?
Well…I guess you can see for yourself. But…yeah. I’ll keep that a secret.
Of course. Switching to your new show, ICE, how did you come to be involved with the show and the Audience Network? It’s kind of a newer network.
Right! Well I went in and auditioned for it, like any other audition, and I actually got the sides and I thought “Hmmm, this does not seem like I would fit this character, but I’m gonna go into it!” Because, at first, the audition sides were really mature, and I think they were looking for maybe a 16-year-old. I was 15, and I look younger than I really am. So I was like okay, well I’m just gonna go in. I went in, thought nothing of it, but then like a couple days later, they called and were like “Um, you good show up to shoot on Tuesday, and start, and living in Canada?” And I was like “Um, excuse me?” (laughs).
So I had no idea. Like, of all the auditions, I think this was one of the auditions where I thought “I don’t have a great chance.” (laughs). And I totally forgot about it. So that was really cool, and I was actually auditioning for another show at the time, and I was supposed to test for that one, and do that show, but I ended up choosing ICE, shooting in Canada, living in Canada for five months, and it was really fun! I’m really glad I got to do ICE. It was really different from, you know, Liv and Maddie and stuff, but I definitely think it was a great experience.
So you ended up having to choose and picked ICE, what was it about the sides that attracted you to playing Willow?
At first, I was really attracted to playing someone “bad” in a way. (laughs). She was a bad gal! I won’t say what the scene was, because they might actually, if there’s another season, put it in. But she was a partier, she was drinking, she was doing things that obviously I do not do. So she was a little rebel child, and I really wanted to play that. For some reason, I was really attracted to that. I don’t know what that says about me, but I was really attracted to playing someone bad.
So we actually shot all of those scenes in Canada, and when I went to the premiere I was really excited to see them. But, I was confused at the same time, because after we shot that pilot, [for] the rest of the episodes we filmed during the season, my character totally changed. They didn’t want to make her this rebel child, they wanted to make her more innocent and mature, and more like she can hold her ground and be a leader. So, when I’m going to the premiere I’m like “This doesn’t make sense” and they ended up cutting all those scenes from the pilot. So that was funny – when I auditioned my character was one thing, and when it came out, [she] was a completely different thing.
In general, ICE is much darker than what we’ve seen you in in the past, and, as you mentioned, Willow was a darker character. Was that harder for you to tap into, or did it give you more of a chance to explore your abilities?
I was really excited to go dark, and to go down a dark road! And I think the first day of shooting, there was a hostile scene, and Antoine Fuqua, who’s directing it – and I LOVE Antoine. The reason I chose [to pursue] ICE was because I watched Southpaw. I loved Southpaw so much, it’s probably one of my favorite movies. I think it’s so good, and Training Day is so good, and The Equalizer, so I love all these movies, and I was so excited to work with him.
The tone of the set was so…it was just so on the down-low, I guess. It was just mostly improv and it caught me off-guard right away. I was like “Okay, this is something different. I have to really absorb Antoine and the way he works.” So it was a very different experience the first day shooting, to be thrown in there, and from just coming off a Disney show too. So throughout the season I, of course, got used to everyone working with everyone, and I have great relationships with everyone I worked with. But yeah, at first I was like “Oh my gosh, this is different!” (Laughs).
We’ve talked in the past and you’ve mentioned loving filmmaking and wanting to be a filmmaker long-term. And Antoine is a huge name in the directing world. What kind of learning experience was it working with him?
I loved working with Antoine because, I mean, he’s the kind of person where I would want to see HIM in a movie. He’s honestly just the coolest person! I want to see him with Denzel, in one of his movies. He’s just the coolest, but so sweet, so down to earth, and the way he directs is so specific. He really caters to the actors too. Whatever we feel, or I felt – he gave me a lot of freedom to change lines, or even my wardrobe – he asked me a lot [about] whatever I felt comfortable with with my character. So it was very collaborative at the same time.
With Audience Network being a bit more of an independent network, did you guys as a cast have more liberties while filming?
That’s actually why they chose to, or it’s one of the reasons why it’s on Audience, because you have so much more freedom. There’s no boundaries – well I guess there’s some, but not as much as other network shows. So they do have a lot of freedom, and a lot can happen on the show, and a lot does happen. (laughs). It’s very riveting, and very dark. There’s a lot of action and a lot of drama.
With previous roles you’ve had, in Liv and Maddie and Jessica Darling’s It List, you came into established fan bases. ICE is completely new, Willow is a brand new character, did that change your approach at all going in?
I don’t think it really changed my approach at all. I mean of course having a good fan base is great, having people care about the show. But I actually don’t really think much about [it]. I don’t think it really affects the way that I even promote the show, or work.
Now, we’ve been talking about how dark it is, and how it explores the “underbelly” of L.A., but I imagine you do have fun on set. What’s been the most fun part of filming for you?
Ooh, all of it is really fun! I think I had the MOST fun filming on Halloween. At first when I got the schedule I was like “Oh my gosh, I’m filming on Halloween.” I wanted to go back to L.A. just for a day, and go trick-or-treating with my friends, and at the time I thought it was the end of the world. But I’m so glad that I got to work on Halloween with everyone, because everyone dressed up. The sound guys had their own little station where they had Halloween questions from movies and television, and if you got them right you got a candy bar. It was really, really fun, I dressed up like a pumpkin. (laughs). We took so many fun photos and videos that are just hilarious.
The show is a drama, but at the heart of it, it’s about a family just trying to stick together. How do you incorporate and focus on the family dynamic throughout the show?
So, a lot of my scenes are with my mom throughout the whole season. I do have some with, of course, all the characters, but it’s definitely a very close relationship on and off screen. There’s no one I have a great relationship with on screen, and barely anything off. We’re all very close. It’s really fun to work with people you like, and I genuinely love everyone that I work with on the show.
And you have some pretty big names on set, but you’re one of the only, if not THE only kid on set. Was that tough to adjust to not having any peers around?
Well yes, because I just came off Disney Channel where everyone was my age. I’d go into the school room and there’d be people my age working on schoolwork. On ICE, they have a school teacher and I’m the only person in class. But I actually really like working with adults. I watch a lot of movies I can talk about with adults, because they’ve seen them. But a lot of times, when I’m talking to kids my age it’s like “Oh! Do you want to go see this?” And they’re like “Is that out right now?” and it’s like “Nope, it came out 50 years ago.” (laughs). So sometimes I’ll drag my friends to those types of movies, but it’s cool to have other people to talk to about other things I like, that they can relate to.
Where do you draw the inspiration to play Willow?
We have this really great guy that works on the show, and he owns a diamond store in Vancouver, right near where we filmed. And he’s actually an extra on the show. It’s pretty funny when you watch episodes it’s like, “Oh my gosh there he is!” And he actually helped me a lot with studying about diamonds and learning about the different grades and inclusions, all those different aspects of the diamonds. So it was really cool to actually learn about what my character would be learning about. I have this little notebook on the show – I hope they still have it – but I have all these notes about diamonds and drawings of diamonds.
So now when you’re going to all these events, and people are wearing diamonds, you can pick up on all the details and tell them about their jewelry.
(laughs). Oh yes, of course! “Yes it’s very very slightly included.” (laughs).
The show is all about diamonds, but do you have a favorite gemstone?
That’s a really hard question, because since I was working working on ICE, I was surrounded with just diamonds, diamonds, diamonds. But if I had to choose one, I would say…maybe a ruby. I love anything red. I don’t know about wearing a red gemstone, but if I had it in my room, that’d be cool. So I would WEAR the diamonds.
ICE airs on Wednesday nights on AT&T’s Audience Network.