This summer, the has housed the production of ABC Family’s new series The Nine Lives of Chloe King.
Skyler Samuels plays the title character, based on the series of books by Liz Braswell, who learns she comes from a race of people called the Mai. They have the powers of cats: balance, speed, hearing, etc. We visited the stages earlier in the month to speak with the actors.
“Our production offices are in Gilligan’s Island,” Samuels bragged. “If you notice, they’re kind of dug out. There’s a little hill and the little bungalows that are there now are where the island used to be. Now those are our production offices and we have a small coy pond that was leftover from the remaining set. The coy pond is like two feet with a fish in it, but we’re proud. It’s like the remnants of past shows but it’s really cool to be on a lot that is so historic.”
Most of the Nine Lives cast are still under 20 years old. They may have seen their predecessor productions in reruns, but they recognize that they are part of history. Grace Phipps plays Chloe’s best friend Amy, and she notices the difference between the classic studio soundstages and the recently remodeled section on which she works.
“The studio has this great old vibe but then down here, it’s huge-normous,” Phipps said. “So it’s not stifling the way some older studios are because we’re on a nice old lot with all the history but our actual building is not [old]. Also it’s centrally located. I like it. Any studio is fun though. You can always watch really colorful people walk around.”
Even though the new stages are only a few years old, one of the show’s stars is here for the second time. Alyssa Diaz plays Jasmine, another Mai with cat-like powers. She previously guest starred on another ABC Family show before Nine Lives.
“Greek, I actually worked on that show so it was really surreal to see how they changed everything,” Diaz said. “I did a guest spot on the show, but now to be a series regular, it’s really neat. It’s nice seeing how they just transform the sets. It’s funny because I’ve come to this lot a lot as a younger actress auditioning. Now that I have a show here, it’s surreal.”
Sometimes the storylines take the cast on location for acrobatic battles and chases. After those travels, the cast enjoys returning to a local home base.
“It’s nice having the balance,” Benjamin Stone said. “Some days after three days on location, I’m like okay, I just want to work on the stage. We have the high school, the book shop, everything [here].”
The stars are confident they’ll be working in Studio City for many more years. Samuels sees Nine Lives fitting in with the studio’s legacy. “What I love is driving into the lot every morning and seeing the plaques of all the shows that have been here and all the years that they were here,” Samuels said. “I look forward to when we can get our plaque in Chloe King from 2011 on can be marked on the door, because I think this show’s going to be around for a while.”
Fans of the show might get to see the stars hanging out in nearby shops. Diaz is an avid reader and frequents . “I hang out at the bookstore a lot, and” Diaz said. “I’m always at Book Star, always looking for new books to read.”
Phipps and Samuels enjoy Toluca Lake’s restaurants and spas. “I think more around Toluca Lake is where we’ve hung out in the past,” Phipps said. “We’ve sushi’ed, we’ve gotten coffee, we’ve gotten mani/pedis and we’ve done . We both live really close.”
Samuels says she spends most of her free time at home studying for school. Nine Lives wraps leaving her just enough time to finish her junior year at a private school. “But, you know, I love hanging out on Tujunga, Ventura, going to get frozen yogurt and cupcakes and burgers and all those other fun L.A. things,” Samuels admitted. “I do that stuff all the time and . Favorite thing about Los Angeles. It’s been a life saver many a time.”
Fans of the books came to the show and now fans of the show are reading the books. The actors themselves were big fans. Phipps fell in love with Amy in the novels.
“I read the books and there was this one moment where Chloe goes over to talk to Amy, and she’s sewing her own corset for Halloween, throwing glitter everywhere, going about also doing her math homework and listening to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode soundtrack,” Phipps said. “I was like oh my God, I have to be this character.”
The show does go its own way though. Samuels appreciates the version of Chloe that the show allows her to play. “It’s loosely based, emphasis on loosely,” Samuels said. “We have a lot of the ideas based in the mythology of the show and some of the same characters in the show but I think what the writers have done to make the books TV friendly and kind of adapt it to this new young audience is really great and much more exciting than the books I think.”
With only three episodes aired, fans are already delving into the secrets and twists of the Mai mythology. Alek (Stone) told Chloe that her kiss would kill a human. She believes it because a man she kissed has died, although she doesn’t know that an assassin snuck and killed her victim.
“I didn’t lie to her,” Stone asserted. “For me, I definitely told the truth from what we know. Everybody remembers that I said they would die. I actually said they would die, or depending on the kiss, it could be paralysis or just something bad. We don’t know, I don’t know what will happen with some things. They’ve left it kind of open but I think it’s pretty much guaranteed that something very bad would happen if she did actually kiss him. If Xavier hadn’t been killed by an assassin I’m sure maybe he would’ve died in his sleep.”
Great romances are made on will they or won’t they, but Chloe is now dealing with can they or can’t they? “It’s becoming more and more apparent that Chloe is going to need to find a way around this whole kissing curse because Brian (Grey Damon)’s her true love,” Samuels said. “While she’s really attracted to Alek, Chloe can’t live knowing that there’s no way to kiss Brian. There’s got to be some little loophole so I think Chloe’s quest for season two or book two for us would be trying to figure out how to break the curse. So that’s something to look forward to.”
Chloe’s female friends will become closer too. So far we know Jasmine can kick butt, but Diaz is going to get to show her vulnerable side. “You see a lot of depth with Jasmine as she gets more personal about things that she’s gone through, as her and Chloe get close,” Diaz said. “So there’s a great scene coming up with Chloe and I talking about Jasmine’s past. Jasmine, her mother and that whole conflict, starts to get unraveled. It gets really interesting, really intense and fun.”
The King family provides some drama too. Chloe has decided not to tell her mother about her Mai powers. “It gets difficult because trust is one of the hardest things that Chloe has to learn to deal with in this metamorphosis, going from a young girl to a young woman, meanwhile taking on her role as the uniter,” Samuels said. “At first, the big secret from mom is hey, I’m the supernatural leader of a supernatural race yet we still do this whole mother/daughter thing. She doesn’t want to share that with her mom because she’s scared that her mom might not accept her, look at her the same way.”
The Nine Lives of Chloe King airs Tuesdays at 9 on ABC Family.