Carter Covington Explains Why MTV Is Ending 'Faking It' With Season 3 (Exclusive)

The showrunner opens up about the groundbreaking comedy's legacy, his biggest regret and how the May 17 finale doubles as a series-ender.
Courtesy of MTV; Anchor Media
MTV's "Faking It" and Carter Covington (inset)

MTV will not be going back to Hester High.

The Viacom-owned cable network has opted to end scripted comedy series Faking It after three seasons, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. The Carter Covington comedy's May 17 season three finale will now serve as a series finale.

To hear Covington tell it, the show's lackluster ratings are to blame for the cancellation. Starring Rita Volk and Katie Stevens as two teenagers who become popular after they're mistaken for a lesbian couple, the comedy's most recent episode collected only 530,000 total viewers with three days of delayed viewing. That's about half of what veteran lead-in comedy Awkward has been drawing on Tuesday nights.

Always a series to push the social envelope, Faking It — co-starring Gregg Sulkin, Bailey De Young and Michael Willett — has explored such subjects as what it's like to be born intersex as well as several LGBT themes as the story has focused on lead Amy (Volk) and her efforts to find her sexual identity.

The decision to wrap Faking It comes as MTV is mulling Awkward's future beyond its current fifth season and as the cabler — looking to renew its focus on music — recently picked up three new comedies as part of its massive upfront slate.

Below, Covington talks exclusively with THR about the decision to end Faking It and what to expect from next week's series finale.

What were your conversations like with MTV to bring back Faking It?

We have always known that our ratings were on the bubble. As a show, we have delivered —every season has been a little bit of a decision of whether we would get more episodes. We've always been prepared for cancelation but when our numbers started coming out for this season, it was very clear that we were not performing as strongly as I would like for it to be a no-brainer for a pickup. Unfortunately, this is a business and we've got to attract eyeballs to earn our spot on the network and this season we fell a little short.

Was this decision purely about ratings?

I haven't heard that there were any creative issues. MTV has been incredibly proud of the show and has always supported it creatively. It was purely a numbers decision. I'm not privy to those conversations so I'm not 100 percent sure.

Had you already gone in to pitch MTV a season four? What did that entail?

I had had discussions with MTV, saying if you do pick us up for one more season to say goodbye to fans, I have a great storyline that I could tell. I did share that with them as sort of a final plea but I think it wasn't enough to sway the decision.  

Why do you think the show, despite a small yet loyal base, didn't catch on with larger audiences? Especially given the show's message of being inclusive to everyone?

I'm not sure. I think the show will have a strong life in the future, whether it's on iTunes or made available on Hulu or Netflix for long periods of time. I think people, when they found our show, really loved it. Early on, perhaps people thought it as a show for LGBT fans and even though I've never seen it that way — I think the show appeals to a broad audience — I do think it might have gotten that impression and maybe people didn't sample it who didn't feel like they fell into that audience.

What kind of legacy do you think Faking It will have?

My hope is that Faking It will be the first show that started what I call the post-gay era on television. We always tried to approach the storytelling as coming from a place beyond coming out stories and really exploring the lives of all of our characters, regardless of their sexuality. My hope is that other shows will pick up from this move the ball forward. Audiences are ready for shows that don't focus on characters' differences and sexuality and speak more to our common characteristics as human beings.

Is there any potential to shop Faking It elsewhere for a fourth season?

Unfortunately, MTV owns the show and usually shopping would be started by the studio and we don't have a studio. There isn't an entity that could shop it. It would have to be someone asking to buy the show from MTV and make more. And because our ratings weren't strong, I don't know if there would be any suitors. Sadly, I think this is the end.

MTV is making a big digital push. Why not continue Faking It as a web-only original? Was that something you pitched?

It wasn't. It's a challenge right now because digital budgets are so small, it would be a pretty strong task to renegotiate actor contracts and get everybody on board for a show like that. The economics are so different that it's a pretty daunting task to do that. I didn't make that plea; it didn't seem realistic.

How did the cast respond to the cancellation?

I am so incredibly lucky to work with five amazing actors who not only loved working on Faking It but really embodied the themes of Faking It, in terms of tolerance, acceptance and genuine love for each other. It's probably the thing that I'm most sad about — that we won't get to see each other every day at work. We really became a family these past three years. I think people are going to look back on Faking It and say, "Holy cow, look at that cast," because they've all gone on to do so many things. I'm so proud to say that I worked with them at this point in their careers. We made the most of our time together. That's the one good thing about living on bubble: we always knew we had a special show and we were lucky to get to make it.

Did you prepare next week's season three finale knowing that there might not be a season four and that it would also have to double as a series finale?

I definitely had it in the back of my mind. My last series, 10 Things I Hate About You ended on some pretty dramatic cliffhangers and I felt like that wasn't fair to do to fans if I felt like the show may not come back. We worked hard to create a finale where even though we do end on cliffhangers, they're happy cliffhangers. It's New Year's Eve and there are new relationships and everybody is kissing someone at midnight. That felt like a good launching place for a new season, should we get it, and also a happy place to leave fans if this was going to be the end. 

You previously told THR that your dream ending would be seeing everyone five years after they've graduated from college. How does what wound up being the series finale compare to that?

It's different. If I could control the universe right now, I'd take these actors and create a new show — a modern take on Friends — and put all these actors in the same parts, post-college, and reboot the show. I think they're such great actors and their characters are juxtaposed in fun and interesting ways. I was excited to see that and I'm sad I won't get to. It's definitely fun to think about. I'll probably still think about it for many years. Who knows, maybe one day I'll get the band back together.

Did you pitch retooling Faking It to MTV?

I have mentioned it to MTV, yes. I don't know if they shared my optimism that that would be a fun way to relaunch the show. It would be a risk to take a show that's underperforming and reboot it in a different way and hope it will get a bigger audience. 

What kind of message does the finale send to viewers?

I hope the legacy of our show, and I think series finale speaks to that, encourages people to be proud of who they are and to surround themselves with people who support that. Especially in Amy and Lauren's (DeYoung) story, we really helped showcase that the more you can be your true, authentic self, the more you're going to draw people to you who love you for who you are.

Is there closure once and for all for Amy and Karma's romantic relationship?

That will always be my sole regret: that I never got to explore Karma and Amy together. I never got to look inward at Karma and have her question her friendship and why it's so intense and her affection for Amy. I'm sad that I won't get chance to do that. I felt like fans really deserved that and I'm sad they won't get that.

Looking back on all three seasons as a whole, do you feel like you were able to tell a complete story?

I feel like I was able to tell a rewarding story that viewers can watch from beginning to end and enjoy. It will never be complete for me; but it's as close as I could make it without a final season.

Is there a moment or storyline that you're most proud of?

What the show will really be known for is Lauren's coming out as intersex and being the first series regular who is intersex on television and having so many intersex fans who had never seen themselves represented on TV and seeing in their passion for the show, and what it means and how important it is for them to see yourselves reflected on TV — I'm so proud that we got to tell that story. She came out in the first episode of season two, so we got to tell that story over 30 episodes. I'm really excited we got to do that and I hope that we are just the first show that does that and that intersex people don't have to go another 10 or 15 years before they see themselves on television again.

You still have two projects (comedies #Blessed and Click Bait) at MTV — both with Faking It writers attached. What's the status of those?

We turned in the script for Click Bait (about aspiring YouTube stars) and will hear back on Monday with what they thought of it. The other, #Blessed (about a homeschooled Jehovah’s Witness who secretly begins going to a public high school), we are writing the first draft and hope to get in soon. My relationship with MTV continues and while it's always hard to get canceled, I hold no ill will against MTV. They have been a wonderful partner and I'd hate for the message of our show to be anger at MTV when they were brave enough to pick this show up and put it on the air and support it for 38 episodes. They've been an excellent partner and I hold no grudges that we didn't get to go further with the story.

Would you consider casting anyone from Faking It should either move forward?

Definitely! I think the network would love to work with them again. They've all proven themselves to be great actors at comedy and drama and really skilled and nuanced in what they do and a delight to work with. None of them have any diva antics.

Were any of the characters in either script inspired by characters or actors from Faking It?

We've definitely had people in our heads that represent the characters and because I'm writing with Faking It writers, we can't help but put Faking It cast in those roles in our heads. All of them have popped into a certain character one way or the other. It's fun; you get to color with these great crayons and you don't want to stop coloring with those crayons when you move on to a new picture. 

Anything else you'd like to add?

Our fans have been so passionate and so vocal about their love for the show, sharing fan art and what the show means to them. I'd love them to know that those did not go unheard. We all appreciate it and we loved making show for them because we knew how much Faking It meant to them. We will always have Faking It together.

Stay tuned to THR's The Live Feed after the series finale on Tuesday for a special post from Covington.