ABC Family has another hit on its hands, though it may be diving further and further toward ABC Family (Women), and Jane by Design has opted for the ultra-quick DVD release. Hitting just two weeks after the season finale, the DVD doesn’t offer bonus features, but gives you the chance to jump into the show, in case you didn’t get on board until after everyone was talking about it.
The show, though certainly mainly geared toward a certain age demographic, delivers solid writing, and layered characters. Like many of the shows currently airing on ABC Family, Jane by Design rises above the expectations it likely creates on paper.
16 year-old Jane thinks she’s applying to be an unpaid intern for a fashion powerhouse, but is mistakenly interviewed to be an executive assistant to one of the biggest names in the game, and at an impressive salary to boot.
Now Jane finds herself struggling to keep a lot of balls in the air, as she still has to deal with High School, and everything else in her life, while catering to her demanding new boss, and swimming with the rest of the sharks in the fashion world, and her own particular corner of it.
The show has its ups and downs, but overall it fits nicely into the niche the network is creating, and Erica Dasher spills over with the quirky sort of charm needed to keep this one on track. Andie MacDowell works well in her role also, and that was one of the big question marks going on. Not that you didn’t expect her to be able to act generally, but this is a special gig, and some actors don’t have the ability to play to the light-hearted, especially in combination with such a role.
For all that Jane quickly finds herself constantly stressed, and ever about to be late for something, there is an easy-going delivery about the show that somehow reminds me a bit of Being Erica (one of my all-time favorites). The resemblance makes sense, because Erica is equally in a state of constantly dealing with big problems, big emotions, and dramatic turns, and yet that show also gives us a friendly, easy, engaging encounter with Erica and her mad dashes.
Despite the focus on the fashion industry, and the clear aim at… well, people who can stomach the fashion industry, the show’s biggest achievement is how it manages to play down the particular niche, and focus on the situations and characters. Thus, viewers interested in fashion surely have extra points to dish out, but those who aren’t are still perfectly comfortable.
If you haven’t taken a look yet, I really encourage you to do so. If there is any chance you’ll like it, even that little nagging twitch of a possibility, you will.
Below take a look at a few clips, an interview with series star Erica Dasher, and then enter to win your very own copy of the DVD release.
Erica Dasher (The Lake) as Jane Quimby
Andie MacDowell (Groundhog Day, Shortcuts) as Gray Chandler Murray
Nicholas Roux (Lemonade Mouth) as Billy Nutter
Rowly Dennis (TV’s “Desperate Housewives”) as Jeremy Jones
India de Beaufort (TV’s “One Tree Hill”) as India Jourdain
Meagan Tandy (10 Things I Hate About You) as Lulu Pope
Matthew Atkinson (TV’s “CSI”) as Nick Fadden
David Rogers (TV’s “Cougar Town”) as Ben Quimby
ABC Family’s Q&A Session with Erica Dasher – Jane By Design
On the show a lot of your scenes with Andie MacDowell are either on the phone or on a video screen. How is it different doing those scenes versus when you get to actually work face-to-face?
E. Dasher The great thing is Andie is always on set. At first they set it up like that because she lives in North Carolina, but after the first episode she came and got a place out in L.A. while we were shooting so that she could be on set. She does all her off camera dialogue. Even if I have to look at her in the office somewhere and she has nothing to do with the scene and I’m just supposed to be watching her walk somewhere, she’ll do it. She’s incredible.
Also, in the show we see Jane franticly switching between her school and her work like. Do you go and switch back and forth between those two different scenes or do you film all of your work scenes one day and all of your school scenes another day?
E. Dasher Usually we’ll have days where it’s half the week we’ll be on one stage, which has the house and the school, and the other stage has Donovan Decker, which is this grand, beautiful set. But no, there are days too where we’re literally running back and forth across stages, the whole cast is. So it’s fun. It’s a bit of a character setting.
Well the show is such a success. How are you finding your newfound fame?
E. Dasher Good. I mean I feel like I can still walk down the street so it’s nice. I’m getting a little taste of it. It’s really felt very encouraging and good seeing the overwhelming support on Twitter and Facebook, but I still feel a little removed from it. It’s a surreal experience.
Was there instant chemistry when you began working with the cast?
E. Dasher Yes, actually I was cast first and our creator, show runner, and network had me come in and read with all of the other characters. So they really wanted that chemistry to exist with Billy and me, and with my brother and me. So I think that was a really smart thing that they did to go through that process and make sure that we connected from the very beginning.
Is it true that you broke your ankle when you were auditioning for Jane?
E. Dasher That is very true. I had gone through the first part of the process, the pre-read and the call back and right before the test I was at a café, writing, working on my own stuff. I hadn’t heard anything so I figured it wasn’t happening and I got a call from my manager that I was testing for the show. I didn’t even have the part yet. I had never tested for a show before so I got very excited and I wanted to step out of the café to be nice to the other patrons, since I was being loud and obnoxious.
As I walked outside there was a step into the parking lot and I fell over. I was still on the phone with my manager and I was like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so excited. Oh gosh, my ankle really hurts.” It started swelling and I went to the doctor and he had them put me in this big boot to make sure that I could walk around during the test the next day. They still cast me, fortunately, but it was definitely broken and the first episode was a challenge.
Jane by Design is all about fashion, and as a lady you probably keep up with the latest fashion trends, but did you have to do any special research into the business side of the fashion industry to credibly portray your character Jane?
E. Dasher I did. I had been an assistant at different points so I had done a little of pre-research, but yes. Our costume designer, Olivia Miles-Payne, is a genius and she’s exposed me to a lot of young designers. I think the thing about fashion is the industry moves so quickly. A lot of it lives online as well so it’s easy to keep up with it, but you have to sort of stay educated in order to do that. I spend a lot of time reading blogs and stuff online and listening to Andie, because Andie grew up in the fashion industry.
There’s a lot to admire about Jane in both her worlds. What strikes you has her strongest quality?
E. Dasher I think she’s a really genuine person. I don’t think that she has any airs about—obviously she’s lying about her age in order work in the fashion industry, but I think she’s really vulnerable. She makes a genuine effort to do the right thing and to help out and is willing to take on any challenges. I think that’s where her likeability lies and that she is not an inauthentic person at all.
Do they ever incorporate some of your own style to some of Jane’s?
E. Dasher I think some of my own style lives in Jane even more than it does on the red carpet right now. ABC Family has these incredible in-house stylists that will dress me for the red carpet. Right now on the red carpet, it’s about taking risks and finding out what I like and what looks good on me in photographs. Sometimes I really like it and sometimes I feel like it’s a miss, but I’m learning. I’m learning how to do that.
With Jane, I say this all the time, but Olivia Miles-Payne, who’s our costume designer, is a genius, and I think part of her genius lies in that she knows there is magic in collaborations. So she really works with what looks good with our body types and what colors look good and what we’re naturally attracted to while still building distinct personalities for each of the characters.
But Jane has these sort of like tutu-y things, these tiered skirts. That’s sort of how I pictured her and it’s what I wore to all of my auditions. That became incorporated very quickly into the show. I felt like it was really fun and feminine and flirty, and I think that’s a large part of Jane’s style.
What’s been your favorite moment filming so far?
E. Dasher It’s hard not to say standing under the Eiffel Tower doing a scene. It was the last scene we shot and at 8:00 the Eiffel Tower lights up and starts glittering. It was a pretty incredible moment.
Has there been anything that’s been difficult for you to do so far?
E. Dasher Honestly, I’m so supported by the cast. Really it’s such a fun set and I think that has a lot to do with our show runner, our Executive Producers April Blair and Gavin Polone. They’re really even keeled people and they’re both really passionate about the project. Everyone’s prepared and on time and memorized. Everyone really cares about the material. I think when you have people at the top that are cool, good people it trickles down.
But I think the hardest thing was, again, the hours. And for the writer too for our show, she was doing the same thing. She’d stay in a hotel near the studio. She was doing rewrites late at night and we were not doing a lot of sleeping. So I think that was it, but it’s fine. It’s like we’re making a TV Show. We couldn’t be happier.
What’s the biggest thing that has changed about your life since you got the show and it’s been airing?
E. Dasher Not a lot just yet. The publicity side of the job is a big change. I do a lot of events and talking to you lovely people. That’s been the biggest change. It’s just like, you know, you getting photographed and going out and realizing that like where I am online, on Twitter, people are looking at it and reading it. So I just have to be a little bit more conscious, at this point, about what I’m putting out into the world.
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