Winding through the “Katy Keene” TV series (shown here) – beneath its zest and glitz and giddy optimism – is a story that keeps being repeated in real life:
Young people keep trying for a new life in the big city. They often fail and occasionally succeed.
Lucy Hale remembers that feeling. She was 15, a Memphis kid who’d been taking singing and dancing lessons forever; after she finished fifth on “American Juniors,” she moved with her mom.
“We packed up her Prius,” Hale recalled. “We moved to LA, only planning to stay the pilot season. (It was) a complete culture shock.”
Ashleigh Murray recalls the same thing on the other coast. After growing up in Kansas City, Mo., she spent the next decade in New York City.
There’s a common pattern for newcomers there, Murray said. You have a job and optimism, then lose both. “Now you can’t afford rent. You can’t buy groceries …. Everything seems to be falling down around you …. It’s like a trial period.”
That part is overlooked in “Katy Keene.” Katy (Hale) is an aspiring fashion designer; Josie (Murray), of “Riverdale,” is a singer. They have talent and optimism; good things happen to them in New York.
This is “a modern-day fairy tale,” said the CW network’s Paul Hewitt.
It’s “bright and optimistic and aspirational,” said Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the “Katy” writer-producer.
But there will be hints of the rest, Hale said. “We’ve created this really amazing, beautiful, optimistic world, but we are going to see the struggling of trying to make it in New York.”
That’s familiar turf, Aguirre-Sacasa said. “I had spent many years in New York, being a struggling playwright.”
He grew up in Washington, D.C., the son of the Nicaraguan ambassador (and, later, foreign minister), but spent 11 years in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood.
That was long enough to be considered legit. “They say it takes 10 years to get the label” of New Yorker,’ Julia Chan said.
She only stayed there a few years, in a global life. The daughter of a Hong Kong lawyer and a Canadian ballerina, Chan grew up in England, studied at Harvard and at New York’s New School of Drama and then became a Canadian TV star.
Now she’s playing Pepper – a blogger and schemer whose best friends are Katy and Josie and Jorge, a dancer who auditions for Broadway and doubles as a drag star. That role goes to Jonny Beauchamp (shown here at left, with Hale and Murray); among the show’s four stars, he’s the one who’s actually from New York.
“I’ve lived there my whole life,” Beauchamp said, “and I’ve never gotten sick of it. I still constantly go to new neighborhoods; I’m still finding new places.”
His youth was spent at lessons – “music theater, dance, jazz, ballet for technique. Then I ended up not doing much with it and I hadn’t danced in a while.” Then came this high-octane role. “I was like, ‘I better get back in shape.’ So I immediately started going to dance class.”
Those classes may include hopefuls whose New York dreams will be squashed. And they include Beauchamp, ready to dance and sing and act in an upbeat, fairy-tale version of city life.
– “Katy Keene,” 8 p.m. Thursdays, CW
– Debut episode (Feb. 6) will rerun at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12