Read our exclusive interview with actress and singer Allie Gonino, who is presently starring as Laurel Mercer on the acclaimed ABC Family teen drama series ‘The Lying Game,’ which is currently airing the second half of its first season. The show, which is based on the series of books of the same name by Sara Shepard, follows foster child Emma Becker, played by Alexandra Chando, as she finds out she has an identical twin sister, Sutton.
The girls were separated at birth, and Sutton was adopted by wealthy parents and has a seemingly ideal life, including an adoptive sister, Laurel. Sutton convinces Emma to step into her life for a few days, so she can travel to Los Angeles to search for their birth mother. In the process, Emma discovers her sister’s many secrets. Gonino discusses with us, among other things, how her band, The Good Mad, fits into an upcoming episode of ‘The Lying Game,’ and what convinced her to audition for the role of Laurel.
ShockYa (SY): Your band, The Good Mad, will be featured in the January 16, 2012 episode of your show, ‘The Lying Game.’ How does the band fit into the storyline, and will you be playing any of the group’s songs on the episode?
Allie Gonino (AG): Yes, it’s Laurel’s first time playing on stage, and basically it’s a surprise to her. The band, which is actually called Strangeworthy on the show, is playing at this ballet fundraiser that Kristin (played by Helen Slater) is putting on. Then Laurel ends up on the stage with the band and they play a song, which is an original song of ours, called ‘What Money Pays For.’
SY: What are some of the challenges of balancing your music with The Good Mad, and playing Laurel Mercer on ‘The Lying Game?’
AG: Well, luckily, everything has tied together recently. So we’ve been able to hang out a lot more and write, and play our music. So I’m just thankful that I have time to devote to both things. But it is hard when the boys are in L.A. for us to have rehearsals over Skype. But we’re going to make it work, and whatever’s supposed to happen will happen. We’re trying to take it one step at a time.
SY: Before you joined The Good Mad, you were also in another band, The Stunners. So what was it about ‘The Lying Game’ that convinced you to take time away from your music, and audition for the role of Laurel?
AG: Well, The Stunners were on tour with Justin Bieber, and that was the most amazing opportunity for us. We got to a point where we were writing, and everyone was going off in different directions. Hayley (Kiyoko) was doing Lemonade Mouth, and some of the other girls wanted to focus on school.
Then I got the job (on ‘The Lying Game’), and it was time for me to have a steady job. So I took it, but we’re still good friends. There’s no bad blood between us. Everyone is doing really well.
SY: What was the experience of touring with Justin like?
AG: Crazy. (laughs) I don’t think we knew what to expect, but I think all the expectations we did have were met. Everyone on the crew was really cool and nice. We just had a ball. We hung out with the dancers and his back-up singers, and we made good friends with them.
It was like being at summer camp, but you’re traveling all across the country, and you have your four or five best girl friends. You’re just having fun, and touring with the biggest act in the world. It was unbelievable, and the fans were great.
SY: What was it about ‘The Lying Game’ that led you to want to be a part of it, and how did you prepare for the role of Laurel before you began filming the show?
AG: Well, when I read the script, I just immediately connected with Laurel. I felt that we were meant for each other, and there was a lot that Laurel was going to teach me, and is teaching me today. I think I have a lot to offer to the role.
When I booked the role, I was really excited. The book hadn’t even come out by the time we shot the pilot. But I read ‘The Lying Game’ before we began shooting the actual season. So with that in mind, I sort of just collaborated the Laurel in the book with my own sense of her, which is basically just a younger version of myself. The writing is really good, and has her pretty defined. So I just go with it. (laughs) I just kind of winged it, honestly.
SY: Speaking of the books, how many of them did you read as you were shooting the season? Did you read all the novels that have come out so far?
AG: I only read ‘The Lying Game’ before we began shooting. I actually haven’t read ‘Never Have I Ever,’ I need to do that! (laughs) I’ve been so consumed. I look reading, but I’m sort of all over the place. I love to read fiction, philosophical and spiritual books like that. Once I get back into a fiction phase, I’ll probably pick that one up.
SY: How has the fan reaction been like to the show? Have the fans of the books accepted the television series?
AG: I think surprisingly they’ve been very accepting of it, despite the differences. I think there’s enough mystery and enough secrets and lying games going on to peak their interest, and to keep them coming back.
Plus, we have cute boys on the show. I don’t care how much you can read a book, you can’t look at any hot boys, like you can on the show. (laughs) That’s a huge reason why we get the younger crowd. I’m sure the older ladies like to look at them, too.
SY: ‘The Lying Game’ is one of the latest teen drama series based on a book series to be broadcast on ABC Family channel. What is it about the show that you feel differentiates itself from the other series on the channel?
AG: Well, our show is very stylized. It’s a very exaggerated version of what this storyline would be like in real life. We have amazing stylists dressing us for every scene, and our hair and make-up is always perfect.
‘Pretty Little Liars’ is very stylized as well. But that’s something that we do have in common. But what I feel makes us different from them is that we have a wide range of ages on our show. We have the parents’ story-lines going on, separate from the kids. So it really covers a lot of demographics.
SY: ‘Pretty Little Liars’ is one of the more popular shows on television right now for young adults. Do you feel any pressure to compete with the show, or do you feel ‘The Lying Game’ can stand on its own?
AG: I definitely think ‘The Lying Game’ definitely stands on its own. I don’t feel the need to compete with anything. I’m just here to do my job, and do a good job acting. As long as I have the job, I’m going to be grateful for it. I just hope that we continue to do well and progress, and provide good entertainment and a way to escape from the craziness that is real life.
SY: The second half of the first season of ‘The Lying Game’ premiered on January 2, 2012. Are there any updates on what’s going to happened during the rest of the season that you can discuss?
AG: Yeah, you get to find out in the next episode a big secret that Justin’s (played by Randy Wayne) been hiding from everyone. It has something to do with Ted (portrayed by Andy Buckley) and the bracelet that he gave to Laurel.
Laurel gets to perform on-stage for the first time. So she’s getting to express herself through music a little more, which I think is going to be very good for her, especially coming off of a break-up so fresh.
Let’s see, what do you guys know? (laughs) I don’t want to speak too much, and spoil anything. That’s all I can probably give away right now.
SY: What is your working relationship with Alexandra like?
AG: Alex is awesome. She’s very serious about her job, and picks what she does very seriously. She’s a great energy, and is always very positive on set. She always wants to have a good time. She’s so goofy, we always goof around and make jokes. So it’s fun to work with her.
It’s crazy how Alex can be so evil with Sutton. She has this element, or maybe it’s the character, or a combination of both, that she has a sinsiter way of playing an evil character in a funny way. I think that’s why Sutton has any kind of fan-base. Yet she does all these terrible things. I admire Chando for being able to pull that off. It’s a difficult thing to do, and she does it really well.
SY: Being part of both The Stunners and The Good Mad, and such television shows as ‘The Lying Game’ and ’10 Things I Hate About You,’ do you have a preference of playing music over working on TV series, or vice versa?
AG: It’s hard to say, because I’m new at discovering all the wonderful things about acting. Being on set is like a microcosm of how the world operates. Everyone’s trying to make something happen. We’re all there to make art.
It’s the same with music, but music is different in that it’s raw. It kind of comes from a power that doesn’t necessarily exist in the artist. As a musician, I’m a vessel. As an actress, I’m a vessel, but it’s for a fake, made-up person. So it’s very different, but I love both. I would have to say that I’ll probably be doing music for the rest of my life, regardless of what my career does.
Written by: Karen Benardello