In the dual role of identical twin sisters Emma Becker (the foster kid with the heard of gold) and Sutton Mercer (the privileged society princess with a talent for weaving webs) on ABC Family's The Lying Game, actress Alexandra Chando shows off her flair for playing the virtuous, when not sinking her teeth into acting out the dramas of the deceptive. Double the work though the part may be, playing out the saga of the twins separated at birth and reunited by chance, is a challenge the actress is evidently well-prepared for judging from her stellar performance on the show.
Based on the book series penned by author Sara Shepard, the storyline — like Shepard's other YA series turned TV show, Pretty Little Liars — is nose deep in secrets, betrayals, and mistrust, with Chando's Emma on the side of good, while her Sutton veers further into suspect territory with every episode.
Taking on the role of twins is a tough job for any actor to tackle, especially when you factor in the switch-swap Parent Trap scenario seen in Season 1. As Chando shares in her interview with Hardly, the distinguishing characteristics of each sister isn't always obvious, it's a game of subtlty when it comes to turning off one character, and turning on the other. "I think shaking myself out of one character and into the next is the most challenging because we move so quickly on our set, that it takes a moment to get my bearings," she says.
A natural in both roles, Chando is undoubtedly more an Emma; grounded and easygoing, the actress is all giggles on the set of her Hardly shoot. Dressed up like a cross between an Upper East Side Miss and eclectic art school girl, Chando flexed her chameleon charm for us while on set. Occasionally though, she couldn't help but break out of character and let out a laugh when asked to play up the part of the bored art snob.
Back in the fictional world of The Lying Game, the opportunity for laughter doesn't often present itself to characters — particularly not Chando's Emma. With the plot thickened and intrigue heightened to the point of boiling over with audience anticipation, Season 2 (premiering January 8th) is set up to be chock-a-block with scrumptious secrets and shocking reveals. The mysteries awaiting audiences in the upcoming season has even Chando on the edge of her seat. "I am always chomping at the bit for the next scripts! I never ask our executive producer and head writer, Chuck Pratt [Jr.], any details because I prefer to read them in the script," she says. "I love seeing how everything is going to play out between the characters. It makes it more exciting that way because I feel like I have that brief opportunity to experience the show as an audience member does."
From revealing the idiosyncrasies behind each of her characters to how she deals with the pressure that comes part and parcel with the Hollywood scene, Chando takes us inside her life, on and off set.
Let's start with the obvious question, is it tough playing two characters on the show? It seems like it would be! Playing the two roles has definitely gotten easier. I feel as though I really know these girls now, which helps me make choices about the characters much more quickly. The workload tends to be challenging and extremely time consuming, however, it really is an incredible thing to see once it is all said and done. It is helpful as well that I have a great double, Nikki, who acts as Sutton when I'm Emma and vice versa.
Have you given either of them signature traits that the audience might not pick up on, but that you would recognize? There are certain ways Sutton stands or enunciates that is certainly different from Emma. There are little things that help me that the audience doesn't necessarily pick up on, especially the wardrobe. Though the clothes aren't extremely different, Mimi, our costume designer, and I made it a point this season to make Sutton's wardrobe a bit more distinguishable.
Hmmm...we'll have to watch out for those subtle clues! Is there one character you have more fun playing? I love them both! But I have to say, Sutton is a blast to play. Her sarcasm and selfishness makes for some interesting scenes! Along with that, when Sutton becomes vulnerable, which you will see in Season 2, it brings about a challenge for me as an actor to decide just how emotional a person like Sutton would get.
That's tricky, she's so good at hiding things. Speaking of hiding things, we get a lot of questions from our readers about how to spot a liar, whether it's their boyfriend or a frenemy; has the show taught you any handy tips when it comes to spotting a liar? I think depending upon how good of a liar a person is it could be tough! However, if you know the person well, something in your gut will tell you something is off. I think that is the biggest thing to listen to: what your gut is telling you.
Agreed, it rarely leads you the wrong way. You graduated high school before moving to New York to pursue acting full-time, did you make a conscious decision to stay in school and have a "regular" high school experience, rather than pursue acting and work with tutors when not working? I did graduate high school, and continued on to college in NY. Throughout high school I was auditioning and actually filmed a pilot in Los Angeles my sophomore year. I think for me it was important to maintain that normalcy. At that time, school came first for me (and my parents), and if I was able to balance auditioning and working professionally at the same time, it was an added bonus.
It's been said that Hollywood is like high school; since you've attended a regular high school and currently work in Hollywood, maybe you can provide some insight? I think Hollywood is like high school, I think the real world is like high school! No matter what industry, there will always be some sort of drama or hierarchies and cattiness. Unfortunately, some people's "high school" mentality never leaves them. In which case, it is important to know who your true friends and confidants are.
Makes sense! As a young Hollywood star, do you feel added pressure to be a good role model to your fans? I suppose I do. With the media so blown up these days — and social media — I think now more than ever, people in Hollywood are seen as role models to young girls (and guys). Therefore, I do my best to act accordingly. I think it is important for young girls and teens to understand that their favourite actress or actor is only human and learning as they go, just as everyone else is.
It definitely makes things harder with the media always hanging around. From the reports in the press, the scrutiny of young Hollywood stars seems especially pointed at girls. Do you feel at times your life is under a microscope. I do think that the press does scrutinize, whether it's who someone is dating, where someone went out, or how much weight someone has gained or lost. That last one is a huge one. I think the pressure to maintain an "acceptable" body image is insane. It has been for years, and unfortunately I think it will continue. It amazes me because everyone is so uniquely beautiful in their own way, that "skinny" or "fat" should not even matter.
It shouldn't — not at all. I think when it comes to media cameras, the red carpet seems especially terrifying! Have you gotten use to walking the red carpet, and going to premieres with all the press and fans around, or do you still get butterflies? It's gotten slightly easier, but I still get crazy anxiety before a big event or red carpet. I think you may be hard pressed to find someone who absolutely loves the red carpet experience.
The style on the show is really great, do you follow fashion trends? Any your currently loving in particular? I love our clothes on the show. I have so much fun dressing up everyday on set, and it has gotten me much more into fashion and trends. I also loved the winter whites from this shoot — so crisp and classic! I am really loving the menswear looks that are out now, and the touches of leather.
You looked amazing in the winter whites, you should try that look again! How would you describe your personal style? A bit all over the place. I've been really into simplifying my wardrobe lately with a lot of basics. I'm a jeans and t-shirts type of girl. But, when I'm putting an outfit together, some days I will be preppy, other days a bit more chic and sophisticated, and other days I get back to my New York roots and wear all black! It really depends on the mood I'm in, and the occasion I'm dressing for.
Last question, any special plans for the holidays? Catching up on rest perhaps before The Lying Game's Season 2 premiere? I am spending time on the east coast with my family. I have two older brothers, and it is always so nice when we are all together — Christmas is definitely one of those times! And yes, lots of rest!
Stylist - Ashley Zohar at The Wall Group
Makeup - Kelsey Deenihan at Exclusive Artist Management
Hair - David Stanwell at Exclusive Artist Management
Props - Ninaki Priddy