When I was in high school (oh so long ago), I viewed the new school year as starting over. The summer was spent hanging out with my closest friends, on family vacations and working. Every September was a new year with new classes and in most cases, new friends.
The same is true of the kids at the Keaton School of the Arts. They’re back for another school year in 30 new episodes of Backstage—airing next Monday to Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET/PT on Family Channel—with plenty on their minds. For Vanessa (Devyn Nekoda) and Carly (Alyssa Trask), it’s owning up to pulling the fire alarm. For Bianca (Julia Tomasone) and Jax (Matthew Isen), it means reuniting after a summer he spent on tour with DJ Diamond Mine/Kit (Romy Weltman). And with seven new characters joining Keaton, this year promises to be a humdinger.
To sort it all out, we turned to Lara Azzopardi, Backstage‘s co-creator, showrunner, writer and director for help. She tells us what’s in store for some of your favourite characters, a peek at new ones and the injury that caused an entire rewrite of the Season 2 scripts a week before filming began.
Backstage is back for Season 2! A new season means a new year at school.
Lara Azzopardi: Yes, a new year. The students have all had a summer to get over and evolve during and they return with new problems and new drama. Lots and lots of drama at Keaton!
I always viewed the new fall school year as a clean slate. Is that the case for some of these kids?
One hundred per cent. We’ve got quite a few new characters. All of the emotional storylines carry through. For any viewers who watched the first 30 episodes, you will see a lot of carry over but we are starting fresh. New year, new characters. Old characters but with new problems. We’ve all been through high school so we all bring our problems and stories about it to [the writer’s room] and try to make it as grounded and real as we can.
You have several new characters this year, but does having a group return from Season 1 help you production-wise with filming 30 episodes? Have you all developed a shorthand to make production move more smoothly?
Definitely. Everyone had a rhythm and we were lucky enough to have all of our directors from Season 1 come back. Everyone knew what we were up against. The writing process for Backstage is that I like to have as many scripts finished before we start shooting as we can. We have a big readthrough of the first 15 episodes before we shoot them. We spend an entire day reading and the actors can ask questions. It’s great. However, a week before shooting, our lead broke her ankle. And, fictionally, Vanessa broke her ankle in Season 1 of Backstage. She broke her ankle a week before we started shooting and we had to rewrite everything. That was really fun. [Laughs.] We decided not to shy away from it and just go for it. It meant a lot of sleepless nights for the writers. We were writing as we were shooting.
The first episode begins with Vanessa and Carly. They were the first two characters we met in Season 1. Have you always viewed these two as the anchor for Backstage?
For me, it always started with Vanessa and Carly. Episode 1 in Season 1 is them meeting outside of Keaton and walking in together. Yeah, they are a bit of the anchor. I look at the storylines as streams and they are the anchors for those streams. However, I think that relationship between them is the heart of the show. As a female, going through that experience of high school and having a friend that you grow with and have your conflicts with and love with, that’s where I really share my experience.
Will Vanessa and Carly keep in touch 20 years down the road?
One hundred per cent. Their friendship as a love story is what I try to explore with Vanessa and Carly. I think for sure that they end up together as best friends, talking about their kids 20 years later.
Let’s discuss Jax and Bianca. He returns from a summer tour with Kit. What can you say about their relationship this season?
It’s a bit of a slow burn. It’s going to go up and down. There are some very exciting things that happen with the Jax, Bianca and Kit storyline.
Alya and Miles broke up last season. What’s the deal with them this time around?
Alya and Miles have been arced out through 30 episodes. We like the slow burn on Backstage and it’s ups and downs. I look at them as our OTP—our One True Pairing—and there is quite a journey for them this year.
There are several new characters this season. Can you tease a couple of them for me?
A theme of this season is family. We explore family in the 30 episodes. We try to go into these kids’ lives a little bit more. We have a brother duo in George and Aidan, who are going to be a part of the show. Beckett explores family as you will come to see. Our cast is so big it’s impossible to show every kind of kid on a TV show but we really did try to represent as many people as we grew up with through the show. We’ve got some bad guys this season. But even our bad guys are good guys … we try to figure out the good in the bad and why these kids act the way that they do.
Season 2 of Backstage airs next Monday to Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET/PT on Family Channel. Backstage airs in its regular timeslot beginning Friday, March 23, at 6:30 p.m. ET/PT.
Images courtesy of Family Channel.