Taking a peek into the inner workings of a famous Hollywood actor and the people who keep his life on track, E!’s new drama series THE ARRANGEMENT introduces Kyle West (Josh Henderson) and what happens when he falls for a young, upcoming actress Megan Morrison (Christine Evangelista) and makes her the offer of a lifetime. In classic Hollywood, arranged marriages were common. But in today’s world, an arranged marriage seems too good to be true. As Megan falls under Kyle’s spell, and intriguing dance of seduction plays out — for with Kyle and his amazing offer comes the deeply embedded philosophy of the Institute of the Higher Mind, run by Deann Anderson (Lexa Doig) and Terence Anderson (Michael Vartan), who seem to control every aspect of Kyle’s life. During a visit to the set, press were given the chance to chat with Christine Evangelista about THE ARRANGEMENT and find out just how dark and twisted things may get behind the curtain of Kyle’s seemingly glamorous life and whether her character Megan is truly ready to be ensnared in an arranged marriage.
What can you tell us about your character and how she gets caught up in this kind of crazy world?
CHRISTINE: Megan Morrison is a struggling actress from Los Angeles in between work and she has a bit of a past of her own. Relationships and family stuff. She’s kind of on her own out there in Los Angeles, but she scores this great audition for this big, new blockbuster movie where she gets a call-back and she gets to audition with Josh’s character, Kyle West. It goes really well and he runs out after her and wants to take her out for lunch, and from there they go to Mexico and right after that she’s presented with this opportunity — “the arrangement.”
What’s the incentive for Megan to accept the arrangement?
CHRISTINE: Initially, I like to think there’s a sincere attraction to him. Of course, he’s like the ultimate mega-movie star. He’s handsome. He’s everything on paper, but there’s this chemistry that the two of them have when they’re together that she really wants to believe is real. It’s the theme of “love at first sight” exists. Can you develop a relationship with love at first sight? Especially in heightened situations.You see it a lot in television. I just realized maybe yesterday, it was like watching some stupid reality show about people on a beach or one of the bachelor series, but they come together in this bizarre situation — and can their relationship flourish after that? It’s about an arranged marriage in Hollywood and does it really work.
What’s in it for her though? Does she really believe at the end of this rainbow there’s love in that kind of relationship?
CHRISTINE: Yeah. I think so. I really think so, which is the only compelling reason to watch these two people because you have to believe that there’s a relationship at stake. You have to believe that they really care about each other. I really do. I really do think she does. Of course, it seems like a plus. Her career changes, her life changes, her wardrobe changes. Everything is magnified on this whole other level, which is exciting, but you realize very soon that it comes with a lot of strings. Is it really everything that you think it’s going to be cut out to be?
Is it a “deal with the devil” in its own way?
CHRISTINE: It could be.
It looks like Megan has some secrets of her own that are going to come into play later. W hat can you tell us about playing this character with a guarded past? Did you know the secrets go into the pilot or did you learn it?
CHRISTINE: I did. I knew it. I found out fortunately in the audition for it. They told me. I’d made up one of my own, which was in a way similar to what is really happening to her, but it creates a real motivation for her to do this. To accept this opportunity. I think that secret, you’ll find it’s the reason behind it all. Because it seems like, I think in some way when we’re little girls or whatever we want this fantasy — this Cinderella story. But it’s like, “Do you really, though?” You find out very early in your adulthood that, no, you kind of want to do things on your own. I think that this is where she is now, but she does it because of what she’s learning from it. There’s no innocent party here.
The Institute for the Higher Mind feels a bit like it’s taking a fictional look at the world of Scientology. Have you felt that at all in the creation of the show?
CHRISTINE: No. I understand what you’re saying, but no. I think when you watch it, you’ll get what I’m saying. That this is a girl, she’s got her own thing going on. I was surprised to see after doing some research, how many rumored relationships there were like that in Hollywood, as far back as Hollywood goes. There are so many different types of insular self-help groups and religious groups or cults, whatever you want to call them and that’s something else I found out too, that there’s not just that one. There’s so many of them that exist. I think this is a very unique story that takes a really cool look at Hollywood and what happens behind the scenes. Who’s making all these decisions?
How big a loop does Megan throw Michael’s and Lexa’s characters when she arrives on the scene because Kyle’s their “bread and butter”?
CHRISTINE: For sure. I think how big of a loop do they throw [her] is the question really.
Because Megan is a threat, right?
CHRISTINE: I think the two of us [Megan and Kyle], we’re just so confused by it and one of them is probably more supportive than the other in terms of the relationship, but that is another whole dynamic I think, with them wanting to protect their image, protect their organization. But then also this is something that Kyle really wants to do and they have to accept that. He is in a lot of ways, I guess I could say, like their “bread and butter” and their representation of it. It’s like who’s going along with who? But there’s definitely a lot of loops, lots of fire to walk through in terms of all of these people. It’s funny, it’s a small cast but the dynamic, the relationships between everyone, it goes on. I like that the most. You think that this is the way it’s going to be with this person, and it changes entirely, which is neat.
What would be your advice to somebody who was going into an arranged marriage situation like that?
CHRISTINE: You know what? I thought about this. It’s worked for centuries, right? It goes back as far as … well, we’re not doing so good right now with the divorce rate’s going up pretty high, so you do what you gotta do. You do what you think is right. You look back at the history of arranged marriages and yeah, they’ve worked. But I don’t think that’s something I can do, but I respect it.
Do you think that there’s a point for Megan where it goes too far? Like if she doesn’t pull back, you’ll lose faith in the character that you’re playing?
CHRISTINE: Do I question the decisions that she’s making? Honestly, no. Not yet. It seems like your imagination goes wild when you’re thinking of this situation that she’s in. Is she going to sacrifice her character? I think she’s super strong. She does a really good job of holding on to that and making decisions. Whether they’re artistic decisions within the show or things in the relationship where she definitely holds her own. I admire her as a woman and I don’t think that she’s just going along with the fairy tale aspect of it all.
Can you talk about working with Josh? How’s that going?
CHRISTINE: It’s great. I say that all the time. I just feel really lucky that I work with someone that’s nice and funny when you’re sitting around this person for 17 hours a day and we’re intimate too. So I feel very lucky that I get to work with someone that is open to ideas and makes me feel really comfortable in those situations. I think he’s a great Kyle West, which is important to me.
If the show’s a hit, how ready are you to play this character and be in this world and be in Vancouver for 4, 5, 6 years?
CHRISTINE: Well, I got to tell you. I just got episode 7. They just sent it to us and I read it and the show takes such a turn and I wrote showrunner and I was like, “Dude, this is everything and more that I envisioned!” Like this sort of rabbit-hole going. The thriller element is just getting more real and you’re getting into the psychology of, “I’m moving with it, I’m moving with it, I’m moving. What’s real and what’s fake?” I might be giving a little too much information here, but it excited me so much. If I could do that for a couple of years, I would be the luckiest girl in the world. Plus, it’s such a great character. There’s so much emotional depth to who she is and where she’s come from. But being in Hollywood and fighting to keep who you were, while everyone’s trying to change you and change the way you look and change the way you dress. There’s a lot of things. It’s very exciting. Everything from the clothes to the trips that we take. It’s a very exciting show to be on because there are so many different elements to it.
The show is being groomed as a show that defines the E! brand for the next decade and really changes the perception of the network. Given that, is that causing there to be more eyes on you guys right now or are the networks pulled back and let you guys do your own thing, just figuring it out?
CHRISTINE: I definitely think there’s a very unique tone to this whole project that I don’t see on the network, but there hasn’t been this air of control at all, as far as I’ve seen. We’re not dealing with copious amounts of script re-writes. I don’t feel that presence at all, honestly. It’s not even like anything’s being stifled in any way. I don’t know if that means anything. Yeah, I definitely agree with you that the tone is very different, which is cool. It looks really good. I was surprised too. I’m like, “Oh, that’s what we’re doing?”
Why do you think audiences will gravitate toward your character? We’re all supposed to see the show and that world through her eyes.
CHRISTINE: I think that’s a very interesting approach. To me, that’s one of the most exiting things about the project that she acts like — she navigates what’s going on behind the curtain in Hollywood through this self-help group and you identify with her. There’s something I think very relatable to her and very grounding and you trust her and seeing this and experiencing it for the first time that she is, I think, really draws you in. Also I thought was really interesting too that you are as the audience, experiencing this in real time as it’s happening to her. This new relationship. Everything is new and she’s just this very open palette to it all.
What was the biggest challenge for you in taking on the role?
CHRISTINE: I think what’s challenging is understanding how vulnerable she really is. I think that’s one thing that you could very reasonably gloss over, but seeing how vulnerable she is in this situation and she doesn’t realize it. Playing this girl that is on the surface very strong and opinionated and knows what she wants, but really leaving herself open to a lot of disasters and still thinking that she can take it on. I think it just becomes more serious as the role progressed, I see it happening in that the world gets a little big. A little too big is how she feels about it. How understanding somebody feels in something like that is … I don’t know.
I would think that would feel isolating.
CHRISTINE: Yeah, because not only you’re signing this contract into this relationship, but you’re actually signing away your entire existence. Is it your artistic integrity that you’re signing away too. There’s so many things. Are you selling out? There’s that notion too that we talked about that I thought was really, “That’s real.” Is this person selling out? That’s what I would take away from it as an actress. If somebody was putting this in front of me and I like that we don’t ignore that topic. That we talk about that and that she deals with that.
It’s kind of like they built this ivory tower and expect you to live in it and you’re like, “Wait a minute, I don’t need a tower.”
CHRISTINE: For sure. It’s fascinating. Do you want that Cinderella fairy tale, or whatever it is that you want to call it? Do you really want that? Once you’re in that ivory tower, you can’t get out.
To see how the fairy tale worked out for Megan, be sure to tune in for the premiere of THE ARRANGEMENT on Sunday, March 5th at 9:00 p.m. on E!.