If you’ve followed either me personally or Talk Nerdy With Us on Twitter for the past year, then you know how much I love Carter Jenkins and his character, Rainer Devon, that he plays on Freeform’s Famous in Love (see this tweet and this tweet from before the first season even premiered last year for proof). Rainer Devon is a womanizing movie star who has a troubled past with alcohol and isn’t used to hearing the word “no.” But Carter brings such depth to the role that we can’t help but swoon and root for Rainer episode after episode. I got the chance to talk to Carter about what his audition process for Famous in Love was like, what it was like working with Danielle Campbell in season two, Raige and so much more. Keep reading to see what he had to say.
I’ve read most of your interviews regarding Famous in Love, but I don’t think I’ve ever read about how you got involved originally. What was your audition process for the show like?
Yeah, they kind of did this with all of the guys. They initially brought me in for Rainer, but then I ended up also reading for Jake. I had known Bella [Thorne] from prior, because I tested for something else that she was doing. I didn’t get it that time. [But] I wasn’t intimidated by her. I think that’s the thing that they were running into, is a lot of people were kind of getting intimidated or they were getting outmatched. Bella is a big personality. She is intimidating.
But anyway, it went great. We get along great. We had instant chemistry. I did test for both roles and I found out that I got the part and I was like, “Well, which part?” and my agent said, “Rainier.” And I said, “Oh, I’m the movie star. Oh God, they made a mistake” [laughs]. Because I was a little intimidated by the idea of playing a movie star. Most people think celebrities are these perfect people. But then the more I thought about it, I realized that they’re not. I know some people that have become pretty big celebrities and they’re just people. They have their flaws and it’s a journey. And that was something I was interested in bringing to it. It was like not playing at the idea of being a movie star and trying to seem too perfect, but really showing the humanity of it, the real side of it that’s not always pretty.
In terms of the beginning of Famous in Love, I know Rebecca [Serle] was, and still is, super involved in the show’s production. What’s it like working with her and collaborating on creating this version of Rainer with her?
Rebecca was so collaborative and there for any questions we had. I was pretty nervous about getting it right. You know, this is her baby. She empowered us to make it our own and bring ourselves to the role. I was really nervous about it. But I remember after we did the pilot, someone tweeted her and asked, “If you could have any actor to play Rainer, who would it be?” And she replied and said Carter Jenkins. I saw that and I was so touched and it made me feel very comfortable and like I was on the right path.
There’s a time jump between where season 1 ends and where season 2 begins. For Rainer, the biggest things that happened is him going back to rehab and Paige not picking him. Personally, I wish we had gotten to see what happened during that time, specifically the aftermath of the press conference and circumstances that helped Rainer make the decision to go to rehab. Did the writers tell you anything about that period of time? Or did you come up with it in your head?
Yeah, the latter. This happens a lot with these types of scenarios. You just kind of spend some time imagining what must have happened in those two months. They didn’t tell me exactly, but I imagine that it must have been pretty bad.
Was there anything specific you came up with or did you just imagine it wasn’t that great?
I think, “How could that press conference have gone?” I don’t think that in that moment she says, “I choose you, Jake.” I think Nina steps in and gets that whole thing ended. They move past Jake, because I assume maybe security takes care of him and then they kind of take a couple more questions and wrap up the press conference awkwardly. And then maybe Paige just doesn’t give him any indication of what it’s going to be and maybe he has some more relapses, he’s back drinking. Maybe that event is what sets him to make the decision to go back to rehab. I liked that they make the time jump because we can all sort of imagine our own version of that. How did we get here? And [now] we’re playing catch-up in those first couple of episodes.
In rehab, Rainer meets Harper, which is where all great romances clearly start. I’ve got a couple of questions off this. First, what can you tease about where that “relationship” will go?
Rainer is an addict and has an obsessive personality and Harper has become his new addiction. It’s a safe place to hide from what’s real. But in the next episode [2×03], everything really comes to a head here with the news via Alexalicious getting out about Nina and Jordan’s affair and so Rainer really has to turn to Harper and find refuge in her. Their relationship starts with something that might be on the surface, mostly physical and superficial, but it actually kind of grows and deepens. People that are rooting for Raige might have to really give this Harper/Rainer story a second look, because it might be a legitimate love triangle here. I think people might root for Harper and Rainer, which I don’t think they have a great ship name like Raige but there’s something there.
Off of that, what was it like working with Danielle Campbell?
Oh, it was so great. I actually recommended Danielle for the part.
Yeah. I just felt like we needed someone that was going to be very powerful, and wasn’t intimidated by movie star Rainer. She’s supposed to be this girl that grew up in Hollywood and was kind of a bad girl since a young age. Danielle’s been around; she’s a powerful woman. So it was a good match. I really enjoyed working with her.
Honestly, I guess I wasn’t surprised, because in these types of shows, and in life, you don’t get what’s easiest. What you want, sometimes there’s a way of making you really work for it. [With] these types of shows you don’t get what you want, but it keeps you coming back. I think they are really taking the slow burn, and I still root for Raige. But maybe this gives Rainer and Paige a chance to build a friendship outside of their romance, and maybe long-term that’s something that could help them really last, if they ever find each other again.
Seeing as the Paige-Rainer-Jake love triangle is such a big part of Famous in Love, how do you as an actor approach trying to make Rainer not be seen as “just a love interest” for Paige? Is that something you think about when you’re approaching Rainer for each script?
They do a good job, in the writing, of making Rainer a three-dimensional character that has a lot going on in his life. Of course, his love life is a pretty central part of that. But there’s a lot of other things with his family and friendships and work life. Yeah. I don’t feel like it’s just a love interest.
Earlier you were talking about how in this week’s coming episode Rainer finds out about Nina and Jordan sleeping together. Did Rainer react how you thought he would, especially considering how he reacted to the Alan news last year?
I had wondered all last year what this revelation would look like. I had my ideas of what it might be. But they did a great job in the writing of it, because Rainer’s back on set of Locked. I’ve been an actor for most of my life and when you are working a lot, life goes on and that means good news and bad news. Sometimes you have to handle it while working. And the best actors put it into the work, because it’s real and it’s timely and it’s current, it’s in your body and so he’s on the set of Locked when he finds out, which I think just plays on the front of the show really well. How you deal with it, while acting a scene that’s very intense at the same time that something’s happening in your life, is very intense. You see him put it into the work. That’s the thing that I think is beautiful about acting–is that you can use it, what’s happening in your life, you can use it and then it can become cathartic.