Michael Willett of ‘Faking It’ on Shane’s Relationships, Being a Gay Wingman and More
The premise of MTV’s Faking It may seem a little farfetched at first glance. Two best friends, Amy (Rita Volk) and Karma (Katie Stevens), have tried everything to become popular in their progressive high school in Austin, Texas. Nothing seems to work, until the duo is mistakenly outed as a lesbian couple to all of their classmates, thus shooting them to superstar status. Not wanting to give up their newfound popularity, the girls decide to play along. Ridiculous, right?
Somehow though, the show manages to make the plot work. Created by Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov and produced by Carter Covington, Faking It is one of MTV’s freshest, wittiest and most original scripted comedies in years.
In Faking It’s universe, being gay means being popular, and the girls can thank the fierce and fabulous Shane — played by the equally fierce and fabulous Michael Willett — for their newfound celebrity status. The most popular guy in school, Shane facilitates Karma and Amy’s “coming out,” and later becomes one of Amy’s close friends and confidants, after she realizes she may actually not be faking her attraction toward Karma, who remains oblivious and has set her sights on Shane’s best friend Liam (Gregg Sulkin), the resident sexy artist and bad boy.
An expert in fashion, ballroom dancing and taking the perfect (naked) selfie, Shane isn’t afraid to speak his mind. But more importantly, he’s always around to provide guidance in times of crisis, whether that means serving as a wingman for Liam at a gay bar or helping Amy hit on girls in a lesbian coffee shop. He also has the best one-liners. “If these people find out you’re faking it, they will lynch you and not even notice the irony,” he tells Amy early on in the season.
Introduced to singing and the stage when he was young, the openly gay Willett first appeared on screen in a Little Debbie commercial when he was 13, but didn’t get the acting ball rolling until he was older. “When I was in high school, I quit acting in L.A. temporarily so I could be normal,” the 24-year-old Fresno native tells GALO. At 19, Willett permanently moved to L.A., and since then his most notable roles have included two other, albeit different, gay high school students: Lionel in Showtime’s United States of Tara, and Tanner in G.B.F. (Gay Best Friend), an indie, Mean Girls-esque comedy that premiered at Tribeca Film Festival last year (and is currently available via Netflix’s streaming service). And did we mention Willett has singing chops as well? His YouTube channel includes original songs and live covers (there’s one that involves him shirtless singing Natasha Bedingfield’s “Strip Me,” which you might want to check out).
Read on to find out what Willett had to say about Faking It’s portrayal of high school LGBT life, what’s next for Amy and Karma’s relationship, and Shane’s friendships and future endeavors.
GALO: Faking It mainly revolves around the relationship between Amy and Karma. They recently decided to initiate a threesome with Liam that ended the opposite way most people thought it would, with Karma backing out instead of Amy. How will this event affect Karma and Amy’s relationship, and how does Shane fit into all of this?
Michael Willett: I think that it’s really upped the ante on their relationship. I feel like it has given Amy a chance to step up and stand up for herself, and do what she wants. You’re going to see some deterioration of Karma’s confidence. Shane has been a part of the whole relationship in that he’s been sort of the one to push it. I think Shane’s idealized the relationship and wants them to be the perfect celebrity lesbian couple. I think Shane is going to see that it’s really affecting everyone, negatively. And that’s kind of difficult for everyone.
GALO: Shane was recently introduced to “frenemy” Lauren’s (Bailey Buntain) dance partner. He immediately took a liking to him, but, in the end, he denied the guy when he asked him out on a date. Why did Shane say no?
MW: [Laughs] Because Lauren called him out! Lauren put him on blast and said, “I know who you are, I know what kind of guy you are. You like to have a lot of boyfriends and you are kind of motivated in self-interest.” That’s because she is that way too. Lauren is exactly the same way, and I think that’s what’s interesting about their relationship. Lauren and Shane are very similar, which is why they butt heads constantly.
GALO: What’s interesting about this show is it portrays being gay in a different light. What I get from it is that in Faking It’s universe, being gay is popular, normal and not a big deal. What is the importance of the way this show portrays the modern LGBT high school experience?
MW: I’d like to think it does a couple things. I think one is that it’s important to show a world that is accepting of all different kinds of people, because I think that’s where the world is headed. At least, I hope it is. I’d like to think of it as a thing to look up to for the future.
In terms of the LGBT community, it’s nice to see different kinds of gay characters, who are dealing with issues beyond being bullied and beyond dealing with the pressures of society. I feel like once we move beyond that, we have more stories to tell. There are a lot of stories from the perspective of LGBT people that have not even been told yet. So, I’m hoping this is sort of an outlet for that.
GALO: If the show is renewed for season two, what aspects of Shane would you like to see explored?
MW: If we are, it sounds like people really want to see more of Shane’s love interests. I think you’re going to see Shane’s vulnerability more, in that he’s not always confident and together. He has insecurities, just like everyone else.
GALO: One of the memorable scenes on the show so far is when Shane and Liam go to a gay bar and serve as each other’s wingmen. Would you say this is common in real life, and have you had a similar experience?
MW: I think so. Absolutely, I’ve gone out with many of my friends and I’ve pretended to be their boyfriend, whether they were straight girls, gay boys or straight boys, it doesn’t matter. At some point, I think I’ve played that sort of c—k-blocking role when we’ve gone out. I think it’s a new thing. It’s probably new, as far as on seeing it on TV. And I think it’s relatively true to life.
GALO: You’ve also portrayed two other gay high school students. Tanner on G.B.F., which premiered at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, who’s involuntarily forced to begin his openly gay high school experience. You also portrayed Lionel in United States of Tara. Based on your own high school experience, out of the three characters was there one you related to more?
MW: As an actor, I think you really play each character differently. I feel like Tanner in G.B.F. was more of who I was, maybe when I was younger — more introverted. I had more social anxiety. Shane is much more of who I’ve become, now that I’m older. He knows who he is, and he’s not going to let anyone affect him negatively. The big thing I always talk about is just because they’re gay, doesn’t mean they’re all the same. So that’s what I would like to show. I think there are lots of different stories to tell.
GALO: So which character would Michael Willett hit it off with?
MW: [Laughs] I guess Shane. When I first auditioned to play Lionel, I didn’t really like him. I thought he was kind of mean. And Tanner’s really sweet but I don’t feel like he stands up for himself too much. That would kind of bother me as a friend. When I was playing him, there were a few times when I wanted him to grow some balls and stand up for himself. So Shane is definitely like…he’s fun, he’s funny, and he’s smart and fashionable. Shane is probably everyone’s best friend.
GALO: On your Twitter bio, you list yourself as a musician first, then an actor. Do you consider yourself a musician at heart, or do you love both crafts in different ways?
MW: I guess if I could have it my way, I could just write artist. That’s sort of what I consider myself most of all. I don’t really prefer one medium. I sort of look at all of the art forms. I like to express myself through music. Acting is a way for me to represent other people, and a way for people to connect with me. My music represents myself, my internal world.
Catch Michael Willett in MTV’s “Faking It” on Tuesday’s at 10:30/9:30c.
Video Courtesy of MTV.
Video Courtesy of MTV.