AWKWARD.’s Desi Lydic and I discuss how Val got her job and more…

It’s all AWKWARD., all the time, this week!  Looking forward to the end of season one, and looking down the road towards season two, I chatted with Desi Lydic (the genius Valerie) about her clueless, overly confident guidance counselor, and what we can expect tomorrow night, and beyond.  We also touched base on how exactly Val ended up with a job…

I swear I’ll talk until I’m blue in the face to anyone who will listen about how much I’m enjoying AWKWARD.
Aw you’re so sweet, thank you for saying that.  We love it to.

Has that been the reaction that you’re getting from people?  It seems like once someone watches the show, they’re hooked. 
You know, I think that’s what’s so exciting.  When I first got the script, I responded to it immediately. I just felt like there was something special about it, and something different about it.  I was invested in the characters, and the writing was so smart, and I loved the message of female empowerment, and of course, fell in love with the Valerie character.  What’s been so exciting is that I had hoped that high schoolers would get excited about the school, and I thought that we would probably have some girls that were 15, 16, that were interested but the cool thing has been hearing that the mothers have been getting really invested in this show and full grown adults, and full grown men are actually tuning in, and going, you know what, I gotta tell ya, I’m actually really invested in this.  That’s been the nice surprise.

Val has to have some of the best lines in the show.  Any time she’s on screen, an episode is instantly better than the already-great.
I’m so lucky, because our writers are so smart and so funny and they come up with the best things. Lauren, you know, started it all, and we’ve got a great team of very funny, funny writers, so I’m so lucky that I get to go to work every day and say stuff that makes me laugh.

What can you tease for viewers about what’s going to happen in Tuesday’s finale?
I think there will be some confrontations.  There will be a lot of heart warming moments.  I think there will be tears, there will be laughs. I feel like the audience will walk away feeling really satisfied.  They’re looking forward to the finale, and they’re going to walk away feeling very good about it.

A little sweet 16 birthday rap never hurt anyone...

I love the relationship between Val and Jenna, even though it sometimes seems that it’s more one-sided, and Jenna doesn’t always respond.
[Feigns ignorance] WHAT! [laughs].

The chemistry there is so solid – is that something that everyone felt immediately, as soon as you were on set, that you knew these people instantly?
Yeah, it was something that, you never know how it’s going to be. You just never know.  You walk in, and you have high expectations of getting to work will all of these talented people, but you really never know.  Lauren was so incredible.  She’s not only a great writer and a great showrunner, but she is kind of a mother hen, and she had us all get together for a little meet and greet before we even shot the pilot, so we immediately go to hang out with each other, and found that we loved each other, so by the time we started table reads and rehearsing, getting on set, we really found our groove.  And, I think that’s something you just either luck out with, or you don’t. We do, we happen to really, really enjoy each other.

With a character like Val – the kids all have their clicks and who they hang out with – but with a guidance counselor, you have the opportunity to be involved in everyone’s story.  Are there people that you get to interact with in the finale that you haven’t yet?  Or will we be seeing more of that in Season 2?
I hope that I get to have some more scenes with some of the other kids in season 2.  I would love to have more scenes with Jillian who plays Tamara, and Beau who plays Matty. Nikki and I had so much fun with our Lacey/Valerie scene that I would love to do more of that.  In the finale, you’ll see some really fun Valerie/[Sadie] scenes which are really exciting for me. And for her, so I think you can look forward to that.  Hopefully, that happens in Season 2, where I get to butt my way in.

I like that Valerie instantly turns into a high school student again, the minute that Sadie is involved, or she’s getting involved in the “cool group.”
Yeah [laughs]!

Great advice - fight Sadie, but not on school grounds

What do you think Val’s high school life was like?
I think that she, for whatever reason, did not have the cool high school experience that she always wanted.  I think she absolutely lives vicariously through Jenna and her opportunity to experience high school life all over again. I think Val is sort of like, the girl who is the awkward uncomfortable, total outcast, and she has no idea, and she thinks that she’s the Homecoming Queen.  And that’s what I love about her.  When I was in high school, I was incredibly uncomfortable in my skin and awkward, and I was not the cool girl but I knew it.  So I love playing a character who just has no idea.  She thinks she’s the smartest person in the room, and the most popular.

It’s kind of a backwards sense of confidence, too, because she has nothing holding her back.
No [laughs]. No sense of boundaries, whatsoever!

Why do you think this is a show that people should get caught up on?
I think it’s universally relateable.  I think we’ve all had our high school experience, in one way or another.  You can find a way to tune in, and laugh.  The jokes are funny, the characters are funny.  The writing is so strong, but I really think the story is what gets people wrapped up, and hooked.  The fun thing has been me hearing the feedback from adults, who you wouldn’t think would be watching an MTV show about teenagers, getting really, really invested because the writing is so good.

I think MTV is making great strides in making a scripted drama comedy that is so much more real than their “reality” shows have been.
Yeah, we are so lucky that MTV has given us the opportunity to do this, to really make something special.  They’ve been so good about nurturing us all along the way, and giving us a great time slot, so that people have the opportunity to tune in and stumble upon it, and we feel just really, really lucky that we get to do this, and that so many people are embracing it.

The W is silent....

It’s funny that you mention grown men are watching the show – I was at dinner last night, talking to my cousins about talking with you.  My cousin, a 40 year old police Sergeant, married, two kids, and he said, Oh I caught one episode while I was on a work trip, and I couldn’t stop; had to cancel plans!
Oh my god! [laughs]. That is so awesome.  I love hearing stuff like that.  I think some teenagers are sitting down to watch it, and their moms come in, and start watching it with them.  And maybe dad comes in, and starts watching it, and gets hooked in the story.  It’s a testament to Lauren and the rest of our writers, and knowing how to tell a great story.

I loved the through lines in the season with the letter for Jenna, and what set the ball in motion for the show.  Do you know who wrote the letter?
I actually don’t know!  I actually, I don’t know.  I am excited to find out with everyone else.  We’ll see, we’ll see.  I don’t know.  I’ve got some ideas.

I love that it could be anybody.  It’s established in such a way that it’s going to be a big surprise, but when you reflect on it, it’ll be like, oh that makes sense.
Yeah, right, right!  It’s like any good thriller, so you just kind of can’t wait to see what happens.  It’ll probably be a big surprise.

Of course there is the Team Matty / Team Jake debate – as a viewer, as Desi, what side do you fall on, and where would Valerie?
Ooh!  I, personally, have always been…now I love Beau and Brett dearly, equally, but all my life, I was kind of into the class president type.  The good guy, the squeaky clean, the Brandon Walsh, so I would probably be a Team Jake now.  But Valerie, I think she’s kind of kinky, she’s into some danger, I think she’s like a little mystery.  So I’m going to say she would probably go Team Matty.

What would you love to see for Valerie as the show continues?
I would love to get to go home with her.  And see what her home life is like.  The 18 cats, and her scrapbook studio, all the inspiration quotes everywhere.  And I would love to meet her mother.  We kind of got teased, or I got teased anyway, with her mother, putting in a phone call in episode 7.  I would love to have a mom next season.  I think that would be fun.

I love that there’s room to wonder how exactly this character got a job as a guidance counselor.  I say that in the nicest way possible, ha, but how did Val get her job?
[laughs]  I think just sheer determination.  I think she’s got really great intention. Somehow, somewhere along the way, someone just thought, well, Hell, she believes it enough, let’s just hire her.   Maybe she stalked somebody.  Maybe through blackmail.  I’m not really sure how she got in the position that she is in, but I think she’s really passionate in making a difference in Jenna’s life, and other students’ life.  She just doesn’t have any boundaries.