A TV show about child abduction is not expected to one of the most heart-felt and charming shows on television. But under the helm of Emily Silver (“Bones”), FINDING CARTER takes a difficult subject and finds a way to introduce a fractured family who is reunited with a young teen girl who had been abducted 13 years before. The twist is that the teen girl, Carter Stevens (Kathryn Prescott), did not know she was an abducted child and grew up thinking of the woman who took her as her mom and all she wants now is to be reunited with the one person she knows and loves — and not stuck with a family she does not remember. FINDING CARTER has achieved a very rare feat by managing to humanize everyone involved and remind us that there are two sides to a story.
In an exclusive interview, star Kathryn Prescott talked about her amazing role as Carter and the challenges that comes with portraying a young woman whose life has been blown apart and how she struggles to figure out where she fits in this new life that is sprung upon her.
When you read the first script for this role, did you anticipate how crazy everything would get for Carter?
KAT: When I read the first break-down, I was like “Whoa, that’s crazy!” But then when I read the script, I saw that it’s not really about that. I mean, it is. The abduction is what sets up the entire show, but you’re not constantly reminded about it all the time. Like in the second episode and Carter’s dancing. From that, you’d think this was a show about a wild girl. But if you think about her conversation with Max (Alex Saxon) where she was talking about how hurt she is — she is now living with a woman who is hunting her mother — and then you see how this girl is just falling apart inside. No wonder she’s going crazy and taking drugs and going slightly off the rails. It’s like this underlying, horrible under-current that this is now her life. It’s not her world. It’s like trauma and shock and it’s kind of like her mom died. But it’s kind of worse than her dying because not only did she disappear and was gone from her life, but people are now in her life now saying, “that woman you thought was your mother, she’s not your mom.” Like her whole life was a lie. So all her memories are getting confused, stolen from her. For her, that was real. So how can she now know what is real and who she can trust? That’s another reason she rejects Elizabeth (Cynthia Watros), ’cause Carter has not had much luck in trusting mothers. So she’s like: “Why should I trust you?”
What do you love about Carter? What do you feel as you embody her?
KAT: The great thing about Carter is she is like an adult trapped in a teenager’s body and the reason she’s more adult and mature in some ways is because she had this mother who took on life and showed her things and really enriched her life, which a lot of people are not lucky enough to get when they are that age. It was more like, “let’s explore the world together.” I was asked once to describe Carter in too words and I said, “old and young.” Because she is so old and mature, but she is still definitely a 16-year old girl. What I also like about Carter is that she has a tendency to come across a little bitchy sometimes, like the prank at the food court on Elizabeth, but when you hear her speech about Elizabeth hunting her mom, you realize that this is a broken girl and she’s actually handling it pretty well.
Carter does have an amazing facade. She is living in this environment where she does not know quite who to trust and she has not yet bonded with them. Yet it is interesting that the one person she does open up to is Grant (Zac Pullman), which is beautiful because it gives her a life-line that she needs.
KAT: In Carter, Grant finds a lot of the stuff he has been looking for. Grant’s story is sad because he is too young. He wasn’t alive when Carter was there. So he doesn’t remember her. He doesn’t have any memories of her. He doesn’t remember having a happy family. He just remembers growing up in a family with this consuming sadness that was there all the time. His mother is cold and she retracted from everything, understandably. His dad has his own things. His sister does her own thing. So his mother, father and sister had experienced a happy life before Carter’s abduction — even if it was brief. But Grant never had that. So I think Grant is in this situation going, “What is wrong with you people? Talk to each other.” He can’t understanding because he wasn’t there for the initial trauma. So Carter comes back in and she even says to Elizabeth, “What is wrong with you? You don’t even tell your family you love them.” So this family is messed up, but they won’t talk about it. And Grant is like, “Yes! Thank you.” She is like his mirror, kind of. They are each other’s mirror and Carter sees her younger self in him because he has that slightly sarcastic, sardonic edge.
She also senses that Grant doesn’t have an ulterior motive, like everybody else.
KAT: That’s exactly it. That’s really true. Everyone in Carter’s life, up until this point and even now, she feels that everyone has something they want from her. Everyone has an ulterior motive and that continues throughout the season and her trust in people gets less and less because of the things that continue to happen to her. And Grant doesn’t want anything from her other than her love and his love is unconditional. The only person Carter’s every felt that from before was her mother and now she’s found out that she actually did have this weird thing going on and that undercuts all her happy memories.
Can you hint at when we may find out what the motivation was for the abduction?
KAT: (Laughs) I don’t actually know. I’ve read a draft of episode 12, which is the last episode, but I haven’t read the script for episode 11, and I think that’s when it’s going to be revealed. Lori (Milena Govich), her mom, is not this evil person. There are reasons and extraordinary circumstances behind it. Everyone is going to be seen differently.
Carter also has an inordinate amount of young men in her life. Even as damaged and fractured and a fragile place that she is, all these young men seem to want to be a part of her life. Is she really ready for a romantic relationship?
KAT: No, I don’t think she is. I think you see this a lot in both men and women, sometimes when people are so hurt and sad, something is missing inside of them. And they try and replace that or fill that void with some kind of love and closeness. It’s a dangerous situation because they do not love that person or the other person does not love them yet, and is not going to love them unconditionally. So when you look for that unconditional love in romantic partners it is unfair on yourself because you’re going to end up getting hurt, and it’s unfair on the person you are expecting it from. It puts a huge weight on them. Like, “You must love me no matter whatever I do” and that’s no one’s job. So I feel that Carter’s just rushing into these these relationships. When you meet Crash (Caleb Ruminer) — who is the guy she ends up dating — you’ll see why. He has that same void. They recognize it in each other. But it is still a dangerous relationship, like maybe co-dependent.
Why did Carter leave or flee from her relationship with Max? It seemed so safe for her.
KAT: I think Max was joking when he was like “let’s have the benefits.” I think they just dated once and now they are just really good friends. Max knows he is a friend. I truly think that isn’t a thing anymore. Carter doesn’t see him that way. But Max is a great help to her. He’s her best friend and he’s the only remnant of her old life that she’s got left. So she definitely clings to him, which is a much safer and more innocent relationship than any of the other romantic relationships she has and neither of them would want to ruin that.
It also looks like there might be something brewing between Max and Taylor (Anna Jacoby-Heron), her sister. Will Carter start to feel possessive of him?
KAT: I thought that might be something the writers would do at first, but the more it played, they didn’t go there. I’ve known people who have had boyfriends for like a minute and then they start dating their friends, and the original girlfriend is like, “That makes so much sense. What were we ever doing together?” So there is genuinely no animosity. I kind of love that because it shows women as not always possessive. I think Carter is like, “He’s lovely. Got for it.” They have her blessing a million times over.
What about Gabe (Jesse Henderson)? Is he going to like a butterfly and always hanging around?
KAT: Kind of. Yeah. He continues to like Carter, and maybe stuff will happen with them. But he’s not the central interest for her. It’s not like a love-triangle. There’s no love-triangles. And Carter’s relationship with Taylor is not affected by Gabe. They both realize that their sisterly relationship is way more important.
What is the extended journey for Carter this season? Her life blew up in the first episode, so where is she going to end up?
KAT: Carter ends up getting hurt a lot more. She’s torn with her internal struggle. You definitely see her more okay with the family. You see those relationships bloom, even with Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s cold exterior melts once she realizes that Carter is not going to just take off again — not that she took off the first time. And Carter has friendships. There is a lot more hurt, but there’s a lot more healing too. And some love. There is definitely, definitely some love. There’s love all over with all the characters. It’s really sweet.
To see how the kaleidoscope continues to shift in Carter’s world and whether she will be able to acclimate back with her birth family, be sure to tune in for all new episodes of FINDING CARTER on Tuesday nights at 10:00 p.m. on MTV.