ABC Family’s new drama Huge is based on the book of the same name by Sasha Paley. It focuses on seven teens from different backgrounds attending a weight loss camp as they deal with issues including self-esteem, friendship, rivalry, romance and body image.
Nikki Blonsky, who made her acting and film debut in the musical Hairspray, plays Willamina who has been forced to attend camp by her parents. David Hasselhoff’s daughter Hayley portrays Amber, who wants to lose weight and get a ‘perfect’ body. When she arrives at the camp she discovers she is the thinnest girl there, and feels a newfound power she’s never felt before.
I spoke with Nikki and Hayley about their new series.
What’s the premise of the series?
Nikki Blonsky: Huge is a series about several kids at a fitness camp. We all come there for our own varies reasons. It’s more of a show about self-discovery. It’s a show that teenagers can really relate to and find themselves by watching it.
Hayley Hasselhoff: Most of America is over a size 14, and this is a show where kids can tune in and say, ‘Hey, those kids look like me and they’re going through issues that I’m actually going through myself.’
Can you talk a little about your character, Willamina?
Nikki: Will is definitely feisty, she is the opposite of me, she has blue hair; she’s a rebel without of cause. What I love about Will is she doesn’t care what anybody thinks about her, she’s doesn’t want to be at the fitness camp, her parents make her go, but she goes with the determination of, ‘If they’re going to make me go, I’m going to go my own way.’
Her motto is, ‘If you don’t like what I look like, turn around, don’t look.’ So she kind of has this abrasive feel to her, which I love to play, which is very different for me. It’s not that she’s mean, she is just a very strong willed character, and has a lot of opinions. There’s a lot of pain behind it, and she’d rather do something big and grand than show you her real emotions.
Can you tell a little about Amber?
Hayley: Amber is the most determined girl in camp. She came there to lose weight. She saved up all her money to go. She has a dysfunctional family at home. At home she is more of the girl who is in the shadow. She thought she was always the curvaceous girl who no one really noticed.
Once she gets to camp her eyes are re-opened. The popular girl takes her under her wing, the guys start to like her, and she doesn’t know how to deal with it because that’s totally new to her.
But I think that the biggest process for her is really learning that the way that she’ll make it in all these groups is to be true to herself. She’s such an amazing character just because she’s so determined and that’s why me and Will’s character are so opposite, because we get in fights over that.
So you’re not friends on the show at all?
Nikki: We actually play enemies on the show. We’re both so determined in totally different ways. If I going to go to camp, I’m determined to gain weight, and she’s determined to lose weight, so that’s where we clash.
These kids are sent to the camp because they have a weight problem. How do you project that without getting across to the kids watching that they might have a problem?
Hayley: I think that once you’ve watched the show you’ll realize that it’s not trying to point out your outside look or you losing weight, it’s really a show about self-discovery and finding yourself inside. It’s about finding their emotions and growing into themselves and being true to who they are.
How do you balance that reality when being overweight is a serious health problem for many teenagers?
Nikki: It’s a very delicate issue and I think the way our show deals with it is that we put out serious issues like eating disorders and we deal with them in a very delicate way and handle them with care.
At the same time, there are other things going on in the show with the characters that are going to make you laugh, and you’re going to remember this girl is still dealing with this eating disorder, but she’s still cracking a joke.
It’s a very fine line, but we have such incredible writers, Winnie Holtzman and Savannah Dooley. Winnie has such a hit with My So Called Life and Wicked, and she’s totally taken this and made it into such a beautiful family and she’s made that fine line very clear.
Hayley: If you feel true to yourself you’ll feel good on the outside.
If you tuned into this series, what would you get out of it?
Nikki: I would (think) there were people on TV that were brave enough to put girls who aren’t a size 0 on television.
I would feel more secure within myself and more comfortable that there were actresses out there that were representing the girls that weren’t skinny, and nothing against those girls, I love them, but I’m on the plus-size, and I would really want to watch the show for that reason.