FAMOUS IN LOVE’s Niki Koss on binge-watching, directing, and giving back

Photo Credit: Ryan West

Tonight on Freeform, after the final season premiere of PRETTY LITTLE LIARS ever, FAMOUS IN LOVE premieres.  Not only that; you’ll be able to watch the entire first season immediately, On Demand / on Freeform, as soon as your heart desires. The show follows an aspiring actress (Bella Thorne’s Paige) who is plucked from obscurity and cast in a starring roll that changes her life overnight. The series is based on the novel by Rebecca Serle and show-run by I Marlene King who knows a thing or two about bringing books to TV.

Niki Koss plays Alexis Glenn, one of the many characters harboring a little secret, as she goes toe to toe with Paige. To talk about the premiere, and the immediately binge-ability of the show, I recently got on the phone with Niki.  What to expect, what she’s been doing to keep herself busy, and what she’s been watching recently are just a few of the things we talked about – check it out!

I think it’s so interesting that Freeform is trying this binge kind of approach to it. What are you thoughts as a part of the show about everybody getting to see it all at once?
Oh, I’m so happy it’s bingeable, mostly for selfish reasons. I can’t wait to just sit down and binge it with my friends and my family, but it’s also the kind of show where the second it ends, you need to watch the next one. I definitely think it’s a good thing.

We see that all the time, obviously with the Netflix and the Amazon shows that are out there right away for you. For it to be on TV, this is something new and it’s kind of exciting to be a part of that kind of new wave of TV.
It’s very exciting. I think Freeform has been doing some amazing things the past year or so. I think they’re only getting started in what they can do as a network. They’re really finding their footing and I’m real excited to see what they end up doing.

Did you know the books/FAMOUS IN LOVE before you got involved? Were you a fan of that? Or was this just one of your run of the mill auditions that came along? What was it like kind of joining this show?
Ooh. I hadn’t read the book before the audition but I think I read it really shortly after or when I got the call back. I had read it really shortly after I read the script and had to read the next one. I liked the second one even more than the first. From then on, just became obsessed with the show. It’s such a great concept.

For people who aren’t sure what this is, how are you describing maybe the story of the show or what we can expect from the first couple of episodes? What is FAMOUS IN LOVE?
Okay. FAMOUS IN LOVE is about a girl who auditions for a huge blockbuster movie and essentially gets famous overnight. It’s about her experiences in young Hollywood. It sort of pulls back the curtain and gives you an inside look into this young Hollywood world. It gives us a look at a side that we never really get to see. People have kind of been describing it as a GOSSIP GIRL meets ENTOURAGE, which I would say is pretty accurate.

Being in young Hollywood yourself, how much of the show kind of feels realistic to you as being a part of it?
There’s definitely moments where it glorifies on the show. But it’s a TV show, so that should be expected, but I’d say, for the most part, they do a really good job of portraying that world in an accurate and realistic way. There’s so many moments. This is an interesting thing that they don’t show, they don’t tell you really, but a lot of the scenes on set are shot on our set. Scenes in makeup rooms are actually in our own makeup rooms and the products that are out are the products that are used on us every day.

It’s kind of you really get to feel the world you’re in when it’s what you see every day.

Obviously, Marlene has quite a track record, with PRETTY LITTLE LIARS and other novel series into a series like that. They veered from the books a little bit there. How closely to the source material would you say the show is?
I’d say the show is pretty different from the book. It managed to keep, I think, most of the best parts of the book that I think people will be most attached to or feel most connected to, but it’s stayed away from it quite a bit. My character, in the first season of the show, is a really different version from the one in the book, but I think maybe in further seasons, she’ll end up getting to that place. She’s not there quite yet.

FAMOUS IN LOVE – Freeform’s “Famous in Love” stars Niki Koss as Alexis. (Freeform/Nino Munoz)

I think it’s interesting, the description of your character. “Like most people in the show, Alexis has a secret.” It sounds like this is kind of a show where, on the surface, we’ll kind of see Paige’s overnight success, and then get to know these characters a little bit more, maybe their past, maybe their dark secrets as the season goes. Would you say that’s true?
Mm-hmm, yes!

What’s that like? Do you know? When you get the script, when you read it, do you know your secret right away or is that something you as an actor were finding out too as you were reading?
I think it’s pretty much, you find out pretty much in the pilot. My character’s storyline is so intricate and fun throughout the whole season, but there ends up being a lot more secrets than her initial one that are a lot juicier even.

What was is like working with this cast? Did you know Bella, Carter [Jenkins]? Did you know any of these guys before you guys got together? What was the chemistry like on set?
I knew Keith [Powers] and I had met Georgie [Flores] at the auditions. I watched Carter on UNFABULOUS back in the day. I knew who he was. I was a big fan already. Yeah, other than that, I didn’t really know anyone. It was such a special … It was an immediate connection between all of us. I think we were all so excited to be working on that show and equally passionate about it and thrilled about it and grateful for it, that we really made it a priority to be a family and we kind of have become a little family. It’s great.

Why do you think this is a show that, you know, everybody could relate to or find something in? What is it about FAMOUS IN LOVE that you think a lot of people will sit down and enjoy?
Well, it’s really fun to watch.  I think life gets so crazy, especially nowadays, that it’s going to be really refreshing for people to be able to sit down and just sort of escape to this world that they never really get this sort of glimpse into and just kind of have that experience for a couple of hours and just have fun.

It sounds like a story really sets up a good run for this first season and we’ll kind of be on the edge of our seats waiting for Season Two, I’d imagine.
I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for Season Two. That’s for sure.

Do you get a chance to watch a lot of other TV? Is there a favorite show that you kind of have to watch that you can’t miss?
Ooh. I really like binge watching TV. I can’t even honestly, can’t even remember the last time I watched a show weekly, but once I start a show, it’s bad. I can’t stop. The last time I did binge like crazy was I got really into GAME OF THRONES. Shortly after that, binged every episode of PARKS AND REC.

Oh, that’s a great show to binge on too because it’s like yeah, I’m just going to sit down and watch 200 episodes. It’s all funny.
Yeah. It was like very, very intense time of my life and then just a really fun and lighthearted time! [laughs]

It looks like you’ve been busy besides this too. What else have you been working on? I know you shot some movies, some TV movies, web series. What else is going on or have you been involved with?
I am also a director and a writer so I’m always writing and I’m working on … I acting in a movie right now called BURYING YASMEEN. That’s really fun. I get to play a geographical surveyor with Asperger’s. This quirky desert loner girl. It’s really fun. I just finished a pilot that I directed and we’re hopefully going to start selling that. Yeah. That’s kind of-

Was it that you wanted to be an actor? Or was it you found yourself pulled towards the directing and writing and acting kind of was there? What was that like, that intro into this world for you? Was it the writing? Was it the acting?
I’d always known, my whole life, that I wanted to act. Then, through that, once I really started trying to that after high school, there were these points that were so … I would just go in these funks because nothing was happening and there were these long chunks of time where the industry would just sort of really slow down and I wouldn’t be working, so I started writing and directing and just fell in love in with it. Now, I would never be able to choose between them.

I think, so often, some of the best ideas, I would say, come from people who are writing for themselves. They know themselves really well. They know what they want to write. They know what they want to read. That kind of makes it more interesting for other people to read it too because it’s so heartfelt.
I completely agree.

Photo Credit: Ryan West

It looks here like you get involved with a lot of giving back and participating in organizations and things like that. Do you have something that’s really tugging at your heartstrings right now? Something you’re really involved in?
I’m really in love with the organization right now called PATH. It’s this amazing charity. Their goal is to help the homeless and find them homes, basically. They do an amazing job and everyone that works there is just an actual angel. Every time I go there, I have to do a life check. I’m like, I’ve got to start doing more. It’s an amazing charity and I highly encourage anyone who wants to get involved in something to check it out.

I mean, that’s interesting. You always hear people say they want to get involved and they just don’t know how, but I think the first step is finding something like you said, you’re passionate about this. Fins something you’re passionate about. Spend a couple of hours a week working on that and you find joy in it.
Definitely. I think it’s almost, not pointless, but it’s so much less rewarding to volunteer or help our a charity that you’re not very passionate about. I think the first step is just figuring out what you care about and what you want to advocate for and everything sort of falls into place from there.

Do you have a favorite kind of genre? Do you love comedy, drama, dramedy, dark stuff? Is there something you love writing more maybe than you like acting? What are your favorite things, if you could choose to do something. What would you love to do?
I started out really loving dark drama and that was kind of the main thing I wanted to be acting in and as of lately, I have been getting really into comedy. I think I really like writing comedy right now. Directing, I think, drama would be my genre for that. As far as acting goes, I love just being able to do it all right now. I think the best part.

Take your time now, obviously, you want to try everything. You don’t want to pigeonhole yourself right now and say, no, I’m only going to do one thing because there’s so much out there.
There’s so much. It’s so hard to pick!

That’s the thing. As an actor, do you feel … There’s like 100 000 TV shows. Do you feel overwhelmed by what is out there and am I making the right decision? Is that an overwhelming situation where there’s so much to choose from or to go after? What is that like?
Man. It’s so hard to choose. It’s intimidating. Most of the time, I’ll sit down to watch a movie and by the time I pick it out, I’m two hours in and exhausted and ready to go to sleep.

Can’t wait for the show. I think it’s something we haven’t seen. We’ve seen these stories of famous girls or whatever, but the added darkness that might be there. I think it’s kind of the way Freeform is going and I like that, so I’m really excited to see where it goes.
Yeah. I think that’s one of the coolest parts about the show is that they explore that side of it. They explore that side of it and let us take a peek at what that’s like too. Not just the glitz and the glam.

FAMOUS IN LOVE premieres tonight at 9/8c on Freeform but you can watch the whole first season today! Find Niki on Twitter and be sure to tune in to the premiere!