'Faking It' Showrunner Carter Covington: How I Made It In Hollywood

The exec producer of MTV's groundbreaking comedy 'Faking It' writes for THR about his path to success.
Courtesy of MTV; Anchor Media
"Faking It" with Covington (inset)

Growing up a closeted gay kid with minimal athletic ability in the Reagan-era South, television was my salvation. TV Guide was my Bible. Ricky Schroder and David Hasselhoff were my Messiahs. Still, I never dared to dream that one day I might have my own TV show. The only person from my hometown that had ever made it in Hollywood was John Tesh, and I was no John Tesh.

My parents both loved their work, and they encouraged me to find that for myself. I taught sixth grade in Mexico, chasing adventure. I worked as an ad exec in New York then went to business school at UCLA, chasing money. For much of my 20s I lacked a purpose, and it was painful. I medicated with television.

With nothing better to do, I was about to open a spa with my hairdresser when Sept. 11 happened. That tragedy pushed me to take stock of my life. I knew I had come to Hollywood for a reason, I just wasn’t sure why — until I met Michael Green (Everwood, Smallville) at a friend’s dinner party. He was the first real live television writer I’d ever come across and as he described what his job entailed, I got chills. Could my lifelong obsession with television actually translate into a career? Nervous, I called Michael a few days later and asked if I was insane to even ponder giving this a shot. After all, I was an ancient twenty-nine-year-old who knew no one in the industry. I’d never been to film school, or taken any creative writing class whatsoever. To Michael’s credit, he didn’t discourage me. He stressed that television writers come from many different backgrounds. In fact, he said he could see me doing well in a room. Provided I had talent.

I enrolled in a writing class at UCLA Extension and wrote my first spec script. Was it any good? I had no clue. A friend sent it to a friend who worked in the accounting department at Gersh. They sent it inter-office mail to the TV lit department and a young and hungry agent named Amy Retzinger read it. She called to say she liked it, and asked to see other samples? I wrote my second script that week and sent it off, hopeful she’d sign me. She didn’t, but that script secured me a spot in the Warner Bros. Comedy Workshop, which landed me my first agent, who encouraged me to write my first pilot.

Just a Phase was a Wonder Years-esque story inspired by my life growing up gay in the 1980s. As I finished it ABC Family, under [then-president] Paul Lee and [development exec] Kate Juergens, was looking to move into scripted programming. Just a Phase was their first comedy purchase. Three years after deciding to give this a shot, I was standing on the set of my own pilot based on my own life. It was surreal.

It also didn’t go to series and I was totally unprepared for the heartbreak that followed. I had hoped Just a Phase would be that show I needed when I was young. Which is why I’m so grateful to Mina Lefevre. She was my executive on that project, and we became good friends. Eight years later, she took over scripted programming at MTV, and she called me up. They had a concept called Faking It. The premise was simple yet scandalous: two girls pretend to be lesbians to be popular. Was I interested?

Faking It has been everything I had hoped Just a Phase would become and more. Despite its title, our show loudly proclaims that it’s OK to be exactly who you are, without shame. Three of our five main characters are a part of the LGBTI community. We’ve collaborated with GLAAD on groundbreaking stories about intersex and transgender youth. Our message of equality and acceptance is broadcast to young people all over the world, including on MTV Russia. This is, hands down, the most rewarding job I’ve ever had and I hope it never ends. But I’m sure at one point John Tesh felt the same way. That’s what scares me.

MTV's Faking It returns March 15 on MTV.

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