When Greek premiered back in July 2007, it was the little show that could, a low-budget cable series with an unknown cast, aimed at a seemingly niche audience. It was unclear whether a college-themed series focusing on pledging, keggers and the inner-workings of fraternities and sororities could survive in the ratings shark tank. However, upon walking into the two sound stages that Greek inhabits on the CBS Radford lot in Studio City, California, it is clear that the show has proven its worth and is here to stay. currently shooting the season finale that will air this June, the 300 crew members have just started a typical 12-14 hour work day and are demonstrating a level of ease and orchestration that makes any visitor feel like another wheel in their well-oiled production machine.
(Back) Lloyd Segan, Paul James, Amber Stevens, Scott Michael Foster, Dilshad Vadsaria, Shawn Piller, Patrick Sean Smith; (Middle) Clark Duke, Gil Junger, Jake McDorman; (Front) Jacob Zachar, Spencer Grammer
As Executive Producer Lloyd Segan gives us a grand tour of Greek’s 50,000 square feet of labyrinthian sets, we quickly get a sense of his immense passion for the whole production. He points out set dec details like the empty aquarium filled with liquor bottles in the Kappa Tau house, as well as hints at upcoming storylines by showing us the new secret society set and the closet that casey and former flame cappie will soon be locked in. A former frat boy himself, Segan and producing partner Shawn Piller are the showrunners of the series, meaning they oversee not just the set but the entire production process, including casting, budgets, meetings, interfacing with the network, press and editing.
“Greek came to us as a gift,” explains Segan, “Shawn Piller and myself were producing a show called Wildfire for ABC Family. The network called us and said we have this young man [Patrick Sean Smith] who we would love you to consider as a staff writer. They sent over this script called Greek and “we read it and flipped for it.”
Piller recalls that the show appealed to him because Smith had, “nailed a cross section of all my favorite 80s films, from Animal House to every Cameron Crowe film. In fact, Dobler’s [the local watering hole] is named after Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything. The set and storylines are filled with inside jokes and 80s references like that.”
Scott Michael Foster as Cappie
Segan and Piller are obviously proud parents of the Greek family, chatting about the crossgenerational appeal of the show and how their ratings are higher than, say, Gossip Girl (“we kick their ass every week,” grins Segan). Of course, having compelling storylines doesn’t hurt either. Segan points out that Greek has captured such a large audience thanks to its sense of relatability. “It’s about how life really is, the emotional realism of having to make choices; an academic choice, a fraternizing choice, or a relationship choice. And even though it’s a heightened reality, we work very hard to hold the funhouse mirror up to this college world but also portray it as accurately as we can.”
As the tour continues, we bump into a smiling Spencer Grammer, who plays golden girl Casey Cartwright, handing out wrap gifts (mini-paddle keychains engraved with the CRU logo) to cast and crew around set. She generously gives us our very own Zeta Beta Zeta paddle and assures us that, “You can use them, they’re functional. Finger paddling, maybe.”
We also cross paths with Amber Stevens, who stars as casey’s BFF and fellow ZBZ sister, Ashleigh, and has just wrapped a scene. It’s only 3:25 p.m. and her next scene isn’t until midnight. “I will be tired, I will have lots of coffee in me,” she laughs, “But it’s quick, it’s just a scene with me and Scott [Michael Foster]. And we always have fun together, we sing on set.”
Amber Stevens as Ashleigh
The mention of singing sets the bubbly 22-year-old actress off on a whole new tangent of conversation, telling us that, “I sing a lot, I dance around the hair and makeup room. I just started taking this musical theater class that I’m really excited about.” We ask what Broadway role she’d like to step into and she beams that, “I would be Mimi in Rent in a heartbeat.” But for now Stevens is clearly happy to be a part of the Greek set and hanging out with her fellow co-stars. She also tells us that, unlike most Tv shows where actors have their own trailers, the Greek cast all have their own dressing rooms in the same building as the sound stage. “So it’s your own little space with a couch, Tv, refrigerator, bathroom and shower. We’re very pampered,” she admits. Of course, all this small talk leads up to the most serious question of all: how is the craft service? “It’s so great, we can request whatever we want,” she says, “For some reason one day I said ‘I would love Korean BBQ,’ and the next day it was here!”
Over at video village (the nest of director’s chairs and monitors where the episode director and cinematographer sit during takes), we watch the crew shoot a scene with actor Jacob Zachar, who plays casey’s younger sibling, Rusty. It’s a very relaxed working environment, mostly thanks to director Michael Lange who is a TV veteran and has worked on a bevy of teen-oriented shows including Beverly Hills, 90210, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The O.C.
As the actors finish another take, Lange is satisfied and shouts, “cut! very nice.” That means Jacob Zachar is done for the day but hangs around to chat with us for a minute. Hailing from Chicago, the 22-year-old Zachar had previously worked on commercials, indie films and theater before joining the cast of Greek but is still eager to learn his craft on the job and says that, “You never want to feel like you know everything.”
Jacob Zachar as Rusty
Listening to Zachar talk about his co-stars, it is obvious that the young cast are all very close and share a group dynamic which successfully translates on-screen. “I’ve made some really great friends out of it which is great. Especially since, as an actor, you want to have trust with people you do scenes with every day because you’re really opening yourself up on camera,” Zachar explains. However, he also frankly points
out that, “certain days you just want to stay to yourself because there are so many people around that it’s overwhelming to say ‘what’s up?’ to 150 people every day.”
Fans of the show will know that Zachar plays Rusty, the geek who decided to join a fraternity and has been hazed to Hades for the privilege. Does that make reading the scripts a little more nail-biting for Zachar? “Yeah, they do like to put him in embarrassing circumstances. I’m just waiting for the part when they’re gonna de-pants me in front of everyone,” he laughs, “But I’m a fan of slapstick physical comedy so I’m usually glad when they put that stuff in.”
As we quietly try to navigate our way around the set facades and back to the outside world, it’s a little crazy to think that the crew will be there shooting until 2 a.m. and then back to do it all over again tomorrow. Of course, for the Greek crew it’s just another day at the office, bringing all the laughs and lessons of the college experience to life like no other show on television.
By Carla Thorpe
New episodes of Greek premiere March 30 at 8pm on ABC Family
Spencer Grammer certainly seems to have inherited her father Kelsey Grammer’s (Cheers, Frasier) comedy chops and passion for acting. We sat down with the charming 25 year-old actress to talk about her role as Greek’s ‘it’ girl Casey Cartwright, her own college experience and her newfound knitting skills.
How did you get started in acting?
It’s something I’ve been doing my whole life at different times. My Mom took me to auditions when I was a little kid. I did ballet, I was always performing. Then when I was about 12, I decided that I wanted to start acting more, going on auditions again and I kept doing that until I decided I wanted to go to college.
So where did you end up studying?
I grew up in L.A. and then I went to Marymount Manhattan college on the Upper East Side. I went there for
art history at first and then changed my major to the theatre program and started acting classes.
How was your college experience dIfferent from Casey’s?
My school was a small liberal arts school so we didn’t have football teams or sororities, so it was pretty different. But I feel like our show is really about the characters and that period in your life when you’re trying to figure out who you are and who you want to be and being independent from your family. I can definitely relate to all that.
What kind of role has your Dad played in your acting career?
I’ve seen my father’s career, how it blossomed and how much he loves it. The general feeling when you’re on a set is what I fell in love with too. So for me it’s like following in his footsteps in some ways and he’s a
great role model.
What have you learned from him?
He always told me that to get a role you should show them a moment of truth. I interpreted that as to be honest with the character you’re playing, to find the humanity within a character and identify with it. If you’re doing that then you’re showing something real, something tangible and I think connecting with an audience in that way makes what we do sort of special.
How did you land the role of Casey? What was the audition process for you?
When I got called in for the Greek audition there were about 14 pages, which is a lot for an audition and I’m like, “There’s no way I can learn all this the night before!” But what I find is when you have really good writing, the words just come pretty easily or you just get the character’s voice. So for me it was really easy, I memorized it without having really tried. It came down to me and this other girl and they kept saying that I was too “hip NY chick” and they didn’t know if I could play the girl next door. But I guess I convinced them because here we are three years later!
What's it like being part of such a young cast?
We’re all really young and none of us have done a lot of work in terms of primetime or movies so everyone is really new and we’ve all learned together. It’s just a really happy place to be. Of course we have our own little dramas every day like, “I’m not gonna wear those shoes,” or “I hate my hair,” but that’s just the familial aspect of working with people for 15 hours a day.
I like to surf, bike ride and swim. I’m pretty outdoorsy, I like hiking. But I broke my foot about eight weeks ago so I’m wearing a walking boot pretty much the entire second season. They tried to shoot around it but sometimes I think you can see it so it’ll be really funny for people, it can be like a drinking game. Oh, and I
took up knitting and now everyone’s knitting on set. All the girls, we’re saying that we’re having a knit-off; who can make the most scarves by the end of the season.