The Best Years follows orphaned and full-ride scholar, Samantha Best (Charity Shea, “Alpha Dog”) as she starts her freshman year at the prestigious Charles University in Massachusetts. Samantha has been shuffled through the foster care system her entire life and is finally looking forward to a future of new opportunities and friendships. She’ll have to contend with the ins and outs of college and mingle with a new world of ‘frenemies’ as she struggles to find her own identity. Along the way she will meet new roommate Kathryn Klarner, (Jennifer Miller) a rich socialite from one of the most prominent families in the mid-west, Dawn Vargas (Athena Karkanis) child actor who trades in Hollywood for college, and Devon Sylver, (Brandon Jay McLaren “She’s The Man”) a fellow scholarship recipient and star basketball player who has caught her eye. With her new dysfunctional family and a part-time job at Boston’s hot spot Colony, Samantha will find herself juggling a lot more than just academics.
Your resume is mostly made up of movies. Have you always been interested in doing a television series or did The Best Years draw your attention specifically?
Charity Shea: The Best Years drew my attention. My agents and I were more focused on feature films, however I really like the character Samantha and I the premise of the show. I was up for the challenge of playing a character different from what I have done in the past. Also, to experience an unfolding through time with one character as opposed to a movie where the beginning and the end take place in one script.
You’ve also done some theatre. How does that differ from film/television? Do you prefer one over the other?
Charity Shea: Theater, television, and film are all completely different. In theater there is the excitement of a live show, television requires a different style of acting, and film is smaller, and it’s the soft subtleties that count. All are fun because they provide different and new experiences in your life.
What attracted you to the role of Samantha?
Charity Shea: What attracted me to the role was her complexity. She is the good girl who means well, but makes mistakes. She is strong on outside because of a tough childhood, yet broken and delicate inside. She is edgy, fun, unstable, and in need of love, but very independent and only counts on herself. However she always gives her heart away, and her expectations can be high so people continually disappoint her. Samantha wants to believe the world outside her foster home is perfect and good, but it’s not.
You probably get this a lot, but how familiar were you with Aaron Martin’s work on Degrassi: the Next Generation? Did Degrassi’s success influence your decision to work on The Best Years in any way?
Charity Shea: No, I wasn’t influenced by anything when taking the The Best Years. I simply liked the project and the character.
Samantha’s had a rough childhood: losing both her parents, then being shuffled from various foster home until she made it to college. Has it been a challenge relating to that?
Charity Shea: Yes, it’s difficult to understand what an orphan goes through. Trying to understand the many layers of her personality throughout the season was always a surprise! I learned a lot by living in Samantha’s shoes, and as actors we always look for a challenge.
Samantha and Devon were instantly attracted to one another, but naturally events arise that will keep them apart for now. Can you tell us more about how their relationship develops this season?
Charity Shea: Their relationship is damaged by a series of misunderstandings. I love that they bring different qualities to the table. Sam isn’t the typical girl Devon likes, and she doesn’t fall all over him like other girls. Sam has some depth and he likes that. Devon is all about family and Sam, being an orphan, always wanted a real family. He is the family kind of guy and she finds that attractive. They have their ups and downs and you hope they figure it out.
Will we learn more about Samantha’s past as the season progresses?
Charity Shea: You will learn a lot about her past, and it comes as a shock. Well, it did to me anyway when receiving the scripts. The writers love to tell us one thing and surprise us with another unexpected story line. I love it, because I love surprises.
Samantha’s first day of college and already she’s made “frenemies” with her roommate. What can we expect more of: hugs or cat fights?
Charity Shea: Sam and Kathryn have a love / hate relationship through the show. Even when they are at each others throats they still like each other underneath. Even when Sam threatens Kathryn to leave her alone, Kathryn continues to push her, and Sam lets it go. I think Sam adores Kathryn. Like a difficult, unmanageable student is often very dear to the teacher.
Teen dramas are notorious for their love triangles: Brenda, Dylan and Kelly on 90210. Dawson, Joey and Pacey on Dawson’s Creek. Tommy, Jude and Jamie on Instant Star… Will there be a third wheel for Samantha and Devon?
Charity Shea: There will be third wheels and maybe even more wheels to outfit a train. You’ll have to wait and see. Good stuff!!!!!
There seems to be a little mystery involving the woman who is responsible for Samantha receiving her scholarship. Can you give us a hint about why she’s so interested in your character?
Charity Shea: I can’t give you even the slightest hint. Ha ha, but nice try! No – there is a reason and it will unfold throughout the season. Watch for the clues! 😮
What’s it like working with the rest of the cast? Being the lone American in a cast of Canadians, did they take you under their wing?
Charity Shea: The cast totally took me under their wing. I always go home for Thanksgiving – this would be the first time I was going to miss Thanksgiving at home. We always have a big one, and I get to jump around to different functions, so I was SAD! All the cast members came together and we had a big feast. The Canadian Thanksgiving was a month before, but they celebrated another one with me. They were thoughtful and wanted me to feel at home. It was great – this year I will miss Thanksgiving with my Best Years peeps.
You’ve moved around a lot: Colorado, Hawaii, Paris… How has that affected you as both a person and an actress?
Charity Shea: I learned a lot personally traveling around, living in different places. I do take some of my experiences and apply it to my acting. You can create a well rounded character by knowing a variety of people.
On the subject of moving, it sounds like you went through a lot of The Best Years-style drama during your first few months in LA: everything from being stalked to almost dying from carbon monoxide poisoning. A lot of people would have given up and went home. What made you stay?
Charity Shea: I told myself “Just make it through today, live through today and that’s it. I can always get in the car and go home.” Day by day, worry about tomorrow, tomorrow and so on and so on. Trying to find a job, living out of my car for few days was fun in some weird way. But, I couldn’t go home and tell everyone I failed. My friends were making bets on how long I would last out there. I just couldn’t, baby steps are everything when times are hard.
What’s one question no one ever asks in an interview, but you wish they would?
Charity Shea: They pretty much ask everything under the sun. I think through all the interviews everything has been covered right down to my most embarrassing experience. 🙂
What’s next for you? Do you know if you’ll be back for a second season?
Charity Shea: The show is so much fun, I hope we go back for another round. I am looking at some future projects. We will see what happens!
Interview By: Emma Loggins
– The Best Years Official Site
– The Best Years Gallery