Nose bleeds. Fatigue. Fainting spells. Chasing Life has already started to dive into the dark physical and emotional side effects of cancer in its first several episodes, and the executive producers behind the ABC Family drama say they're just getting started.
"There is hair loss and physical repercussions of this poison that she's putting in her body. To ABC Family's credit, they have not shied away from that," executive producer Patrick Sean Smith told reporters Tuesday at the Television Critics Association's fall previews. "They don't want to shy away from how ugly this can be."
The series, which launched last month, centers on 24-year-old aspiring journalist April Carver (Italia Ricci) and how this affects her life and the lives of those around her when she is diagnosed with leukemia. Despite the obvious physical toll that the cancer is taking on her body, so far April has been reluctant to start treatment. "It's a young person's choice. We don't hit everything that you would normally see with the cancer show," Smith said. "It's her journey, and that's what felt fresh to me. ... She makes mistakes, and those stakes are inherent with that."
However, April won't be able to hold off receiving treatment forever. "Our finale of this season is her seven days in chemo and all that goes with that," Smith said.
Smith credited not only ABC Family, which he said has encouraged to depict dark subject matter like April spitting out blood in a recent episode, but also the success of the young adult cancer novel-turned-hit movie, The Fault in Our Stars. "For us, it made it feel a little less scary to go to that place," Smith said.
He also cited a growing conversation in TV shows and movies about "the end" and death and Chasing Life's ability to add to that discussion. "This is a way we can organically touch on issues of mortality without taking the power from everybody in the world or having a zombie apocalypse," he said. "It's a taboo, and young people like talking about things that make grownups uncomfortable."
However, Smith pointed out that, unlike the Mexican telenovela that the series is based on, the show is not quite as bleak. "It's called Chasing Life, it's not Terminales, and that excited us to find the funny," Smith said.
Chasing Life airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on ABC Family. Find out why it's our editor's pick: