On Sex and Teens

Creator Brenda Hampton reminisces about taking star Shailene Woodley away from folding clothes at American Apparel and the series' "Clooney clause"

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Has ABC Family ever asked you to change anything?

Brenda Hampton: No, they haven't asked for any creative changes in a hundred episodes. The only notes we got were from broadcast standards. One was: "We prefer you not to say that term but to use the term 'oral sex.' " [Laughs.] When we did the show on masturbation, we thought, "They're not gonna let us do this," but they had no problem with [the high school campaign] called "Just Say Me." A lot of the notes we get from broadcast standards are thank-you notes -- "Thanks for pointing that out" -- which I've never seen at any other network.

THR: What did you think the public reception would be?

Hampton: I wasn't sure. It's sex and teens and pregnancy, so maybe parents would embrace the show and watch it with their teenagers and talk about these topics. Or maybe they would go, "You're not watching that."

THR: With Teenager in the title, how long do you think the show can run?

Hampton: I could see it running five more years. And longer -- it just depends whether the audience stays with us. The teen audience is very fickle. So we've tried to make the show broad enough so that older people watch it as well because it would then appeal to teens growing up.

THR: Favorite memory?

Hampton: When I called Shailene to congratulate her on getting The Descendants, I told her I needed to come to New York as soon as possible and do the photos with her for the show to establish that Amy was in New York [in season three, she goes to music school in Manhattan for four weeks]. She told me she was working for American Apparel [the actress wanted real-life work experience], so I would have to wait a week until she gave notice. I said, "OK, walk over to the store manager, tell her you just got a George Clooney movie, and you have to leave now." She said, "I can't do that, I have to work until the date I gave notice." That's who she is.

THR: How has Shailene's work in The Descendants impacted the show?

Hampton: She's learned TV is not less than film, just different. I think she learned that from George Clooney. We now have a Clooney clause: We will let you out to do a film if Clooney is in it, but if he's not, please don't ask to get out.