Sunday, January 2, 2011

Ian Harding talks about Ezra, relationship with Aria

Talk a little bit about how you originally got the part of Mr. Fitz?

The part of Mr. Fitz, I pretty much just got the audition, and then I went “Oh he’s a series regular on this TV show,” and I wasn’t really expecting much to come of it, because most of the time you don’t get the part or what not. So I just memorized the lines, went in, and pretty much just flirted with the casting director, went through the process, met Lucy and she reminded me a lot of my friend back home, so I think there was kind of that instant chemistry, and next thing I know, we were going up to Vancouver to shoot the pilot.

When you read the part and went in for the audition, what attracted you to the role?
I knew that he was a teacher that got into a relationship with a student, and I was worried where that might lead. But I figured “Oh, well this could be fun,” just to get to the whole heart of the matter. He has sincere and honest feelings for this girl that come around once in a lifetime, so I don’t think he can ignore that. So I think that would be an interesting part to play, minus the fact that it’s kind of illegal.

Did you read any of the books?
I did. I read the first five. And I enjoyed them. It was kind of weird getting the books off the shelf. And of course, I had bought and read the books prior to realizing that I could have just gotten them on Amazon. I could have saved myself the weird looks from the teenage girls. And at the time, I was really shaggy and didn’t shave and so it looked very weird.

They were like “Why are you in the Young Adult section right now?” You don’t belong there.
Like, excuse me…yeah.

So obviously, the relationship is not legal…

Kosher, if you will. But why do you think that viewers are really rooting for Aria and Mr. Fitz?
I tread on such a thin line. Because it’s something that’s real and honest and they’ve found — I venture to say — soul mates. It’s such a difficult thing to describe because obviously there’s a huge huge connection and I think you root for it, because it’s obvious. The only thing that’s separating them is about 6-7 years age difference, which is not terrible, and it’s also not like I’m 40 and she’s 12. So that’s obviously an issue and when I’m your teacher, that’s another problem. But minus that, they’re two people that love each other. So the circumstances are just not in their favor.

If you think about it, if she was 2 years older, it would still be the same age difference but it would be fine.
Yeah. If she were 18 and off to college, who cares. Literally, it would be perfectly fine. But because it’s the way it is…

The writers have said that Aria and Mr. Fitz aren’t sleeping together. It’s so innocent and I think that adds a lot to the relationship. It isn’t so dirty.
Yeah (laughs). I’m certainly not slipping her any roofies.

I hope not!
(laughs) ABC Family would have really just lost it. I think that both the characters are aware of that. It’s very precious, it’s a very fragile thing. It’s innocent while at the same time, very mature. Which I think is an interesting dichotomy.

Are there things about Mr. Fitz’s relationships past that we might see in the future?
I think that would be an interesting twist. The writers on the show definitely take in the storylines and the skeleton that was made by the books and are running with it. So I would not be surprised to see an old flame come up and be like “Hey I think we need to give this another shot.”And I have to say “No I’m dating a student. Thanks but no thanks.” I know that there have been other people that come into the storyline that present an issue in terms of romance for both Aria and I. So I hope. Let’s keep those juicy storylines going.

Perhaps a lack of parental approval?
Yeah, maybe. I doubt if I go up to Ella Montgomery and I’m like “Can I take your daughter out?” She’s going to be like “Oh sure!”

Do you think there may be someone who comes into Mr. Fitz’s life to tempt him away from Aria that’s his age maybe?
I know there’s a new character, the babysitter that comes in. There are sparks, but it’s definitely a wrench in the spokes, we just have to see how bad the bike accident is.

That makes sense. Do you think Mr. Fitz believes Aria belongs with him or Noel?
He’s Team Aria! I think he’s Team Aria with a nice asterisk with a footnote that says I’m going to be really team Aria when I don’t risk going to the penitentiary. But yeah, I’ll say Team Aria, for right now.

What sort of fan reaction have you gotten to your character? Are there a lot of people in support of this relationship?
I guess. I think something that kind of worries me is [people who say] “I wish I had a hot English teacher like that” or “I wish I had that.” And I was kind of like “Whoa whoa whoa!” I’m not by no means saying “Yeah! Go out with your teachers! It’s great!” This is fiction. I think what is important in the storyline is the love element and that they’re just very specific people. Aria’s a very mature girl for her age, and Mr. Fitz is also — he’s 23. And I know what it’s like to be in that part of your life, and you’re still trying to figure things out, and what’s right and what’s wrong. And you’re totally re-assessing everything in your life. So that’s a very specific situation. By no means am I saying “Go out and try to boost that grade, if you will” But I think it’s a good time. The fan reaction’s been great. I’ve met a few fans in real life and they’re very much like “Oh we like your work,” as opposed to “We love our english teacher.” So I’m like no, no, no wait. That’s not what I’m saying.

Did you anticipate the show would be such a huge success?
No. I guess ultimately you never know how big something’s going to be. And I know this from years of experience. But I knew that there was a built in audience because of the books but I didn’t know it was going to be the 3 point 4 million something like that which for ABC Family is like astronomical. I was expecting teenage girls to like it. I knew that. I’ve gotten stopped in checkout lines at the grocery store by male clerks who are in their mid to late 20s and they’ll very discreetly be like “I like the show, man.” Or they’ll be like “Yo, who’s A?” And I go like “really?” I’m happy. It seems like predominantly young woman show, I think you also have to take into consideration there’s all these other storylines. Also, there’s all these beautiful women on it, like what guy is not going to like that? Are you kidding me? But I am a bit surprised where it’s gone.

So I know you can’t spoil anything really but can you give a little teaser of what’s coming up for Mr. Fitz?
Complications. Perhaps a physical altercation. And a one-on-one scene with a character that I have yet to have a one on one scene with.

I was just about to ask you if there’s someone you want to have a scene with that you haven’t already but it looks like you will.
From a purely actor’s standpoint, I’d love to do a scene with Sasha [Pieterse, who plays Alison] but I can’t because she’s dead…question mark, quote on quote.

Maybe you knew her a long time ago?
Maybe at Hollis she snuck into some party and I’m like “Hey, you look young.”

Yeah, that’d be hilarious.
So I would love to do a scene with Sasha. Or Laura Leighton. But I’m just excited for where it’s going to go. It seems to be, knock on wood, up from here.

I heard you might have joined Twitter?
I did not join Twitter. It was actually Shay [Mitchell, who plays Emily] texted me and said “Hey, are you on Twitter because you just asked to follow me.” I’m not on Twitter, I don’t know who that is. And I’m not on Twitter not out of spite like “Oh, I hate Twitter.” I really don’t have any qualms with it, it just makes me anxious. I’m so bad at it. I’ll be like “having bread, it’s good.” Who cares? You know?

It’s a lot of access too…
My sister’s on Twitter, and if something really terrible has been said — like she caught that guy and said I know you’re not my brother, because my brother’s not on Twitter, then she’ll tell me. Or if someone’s on Twitter like “I’m Ian Harding, and I’m on drugs!” I’m pretty sure that’s not me.