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Showrunners Mike Chessler and Chris Alberghini, who took the reigns of the series from creator Lauren Iungerich before season four, hint that there may be more story to tell following the high school comedy’s fifth cycle. But with the first half of season five picking up at spring break and following the characters through graduation, the season premiere does mark the beginning of the end of Awkward’s high school days.
With Jenna Hamilton (Ashley Rickards) and the rest of Palos Hills High School trying to figure out their post-graduation paths, the characters will all be forced to figure out exactly what they mean to one another. And according to Chessler and Albergheni, the Jenna-Matty (Beau Mirchoff) relationship is still at the core of the show in season five.
So this is the beginning of the end for Awkward. Did it feel like senior year behind the scenes and on set?
Chessler: There was definitely a feeling of it being high school graduation. Our cast was, in a way, graduating high school, because they all started this show playing sophomores in high school. And then there was the progression of the show. The actors grew up and grew along with the characters on a certain level. They went through a lot. It’s one of the most tight-knit casts we’ve ever worked with, so there definitely was that feeling, and when we shot the prom episode, it was very funny, because the actresses were caught up and excited about what their prom looks were going to be — the same way I think high schoolers in real life are very concerned about what their prom is going to be like. So there definitely was a feeling that these milestones of high school that we were depicting in 5A — which takes us from spring break through graduation — were milestones for the cast as well.
In terms of it being the end, it might not be. We don’t know about that. We were just feeling like 5A is the end of the high school chapter of the show, and 5B is a whole new reboot of the show. We finished shooting 5B in July, and we’re really excited about how that came out. On the one hand, it’s a nice resolution, but on the other hand, it opens a lot of doors, so this may not be the end of the show.
[Editor’s note: The cast would have to sign new deals to return to the series if MTV and the producers were to agree to a new season.]
Quite a lot happened at spring break at the end of last season, especially in those last five minutes. Are we going to see the characters deal with the immediate aftermath of those choices?
Chris Alberghini: We pick up just a day or two after they get back from spring break, so all of the issues that we left 4B dealing with, we’ll be dealing with the repercussions of those story points at the beginning of 5A.
So is 5A going also deal with that uncertainty of this new chapter of life that 4B starts to tackle?
Chessler: Yes, definitely. I think also that as they get toward the conclusion of their senior year, that feeling of uncertainty gets more intense, because there are all these momentous decisions that they have to make about where to go to college, what their futures are going to be, how they’re going to define their relationships once they graduate high school, and what that’s going to look like—both the romantic relationships and friendships.
Alberghini: I think a lot of the actions that our characters take, a lot of the feelings they’re having, there’s a sense of “boy, this is it. This is the end of high school. This is the last time I’m ever going to do this thing or the last time I’m ever going to do that thing.” And there’s a sense of “do these things define us in life moving forward?” Because when you’re in high school, all of those things seem so important. All of those decisions seem so momentous and life-altering at the time, and it’s very interesting, because we end 5A with graduation, but when we pick up 5B, a substantial amount of time has passed since graduation. So we get to pick up some of those stories, but many months later. So it gives us an interesting way to approach storytelling in 5B.
Season five looks like it’s going to hit a lot of the big senior-year moments, like prom and graduation. Are those major milestones going to be the focus of the season?
Chessler: We have two prom episodes, which we just think are really exciting. As well as graduation, we have grad night. I think 5A really is tied to the sort of seminal events of senior year that we all went through, that Chris and I and our writing staff also went through. We can all talk about what ours were like, and I think most viewers are either looking forward to those events or have already experienced them. It’s a pretty universal experience, and we really had a great time digging into it and seeing how our characters would experience them and what their specific spin on them would be. And we came up with some fun stuff I’m very excited about.
Alberghini: Our approach to senior year, which began with 4A, was always focused on how senior year is such a time of freedom. You have more freedom as a student. You’re really living life because it’s your last year of high school. We wanted to open it up more and get out of school a little bit and send them off into the world, and it so happens that a lot of the big milestone events happen chronologically in those last couple of months of senior year, so that coincides with the episodes that we shot for 5A.
Did you pull from some of your own experiences of senior year?
Chessler: Oh god, yeah. Oh yeah, a lot of stories from all of our personal lives. Pretty much every writer on the show made it into the story in some way.
Lacey Hamilton’s arc has always been interesting, because on a lot of shows about high schoolers, the parents sometimes get left out. But she has always been a part of the story Awkward is telling. Is she going to be going through this transition period as well—sort of parallel to Jenna?
Alberghini: The straight answer is yes. We will continue to see Lacey’s path. One of the things that really attracted us to the show when we first took over was how the parents were such real characters in the show—and so well integrated. Nikki Deloach, who plays the mom, is such a delightful actress and can do so many things that it’s always a pleasure to write for her and see how that really great relationship that Lauren Iungerich created plays out. She interests us as a character.
Chessler: The Lacey-Jenna relationship has been such a core part of the show from the very first two seasons where the Carefrontation letter was so critical. We really love writing for that relationship, because it’s so complex and real and fun to dig into. And on another note, I think in 5A, some parents who we haven’t seen for a while might come back. So that’s a little tease.
On that note, are we going to meet any new faces in 5A?
Chessler: No major new characters in 5A. It didn’t make a lot of sense, because we’re in the homestretch of senior year, and I think we’ve kind of met all the big players. But there are a couple of really fun new characters popping up.
Alberghini: Eva comes back in disguise. No, I’m kidding.
Mike, you said in our season four preview that the Jenna-Matty relationship is at the core of the show. Do you still think that’s true and are we going to continue to see their complicated relationship evolve?
Chessler: Yes, we definitely still feel the same way. That is a core axis of the show: the unlikely way they got together after the pilot and then found their way to dating, and then there’s always something getting in the way. And as you can see at the end of 4B, there were a lot of other curveballs. We will definitely continue to explore what they mean to each other and the timeline of high school coming to an end sort of forces the characters to figure it out for themselves, too. I think we have some very emotional and fun and funny stuff coming. We’re excited about it. The grad night episode is a lot of fun. A lot happens there.
Is there anything else you’re excited about for this season?
Alberghini: I think we dropped a big enough hint that this may not be the final season, so we just want to make sure that gets heard.
Awkward returns at 9 p.m. on Monday, August 31 on MTV.
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