Can Ayrica juggle practice and tending to her baby sister? Will Ryan choose her boyfriend's basketball game over a team formal? Does a bad grade mean the boot for Amanda? It's Bring It On meets Dawson's Creek when Lifetime premieres Cheerleader Nation (Sunday at 10 pm/ET), an eight-episode series chronicling the Dunbar High School (of Lexington, Ky.) cheerleading squad's pursuit of a third straight national championship. Perhaps no one on the team has it as rough as sophomore Ryan Shea Martin, whose mom, Donna, is the varsity coach! TVGuide.com talked to the duo about bringing their real mother-daughter issues to reality TV.
TVGuide.com: When you signed on for this, were you at all afraid it would only add more stress to your already somewhat tense relationship?
Ryan Shea Martin: I was really worried about the stress. My mom gets really stressed anyway, and that stresses me out. The cameras, always being around, only added to it all.
Donna Martin: I feared how people would view us, but I didn't fear that it would do any kind of damage to our relationship at all. I love Ryan with all my heart and I know she loves me the same. We're both very strong people, we're very open with each other about everything.
TVGuide.com: Donna, as a varsity cheerleading coach, what do you have the least tolerance for?
Donna: A lack of respect and lazy people. [Laughs] I expect you to work hard and show some respect.
TVGuide.com: What would you say is Ryan's greatest weakness as a cheerleader?
Donna: I think she probably is more stressed than some of the other girls due to the fact that she can't get away from me at home.
TVGuide.com: Ryan, how much harder is it for you being the coach's daughter?
Ryan: It is a lot harder. She can't, like, praise me in front of others or anything.
TVGuide.com: Suppose that you, Donna, were a 7-Eleven clerk. Would Ryan still have found within herself what it takes to make varsity?
Donna: Ryan's very talented and I would like to think so, but probably not. I think part of her excellence is due to wanting to please her mother as well as the coach.
Ryan: I don't know if I even would have started cheerleading. She was a coach before I was born, so she got me started young. I mean, I love it now, but when I got started at age 3 or 4, I didn't really know [what I was getting into].
TVGuide.com: Ryan, did you go out of your way to "drum up drama/teen angst" for the cameras?
Ryan: No. I know a lot of people act different on camera, but I tried to be myself.
TVGuide.com: I liked the moment where you and your boyfriend play Yahtzee. I love Yahtzee.
Ryan: OK, they did make us do that! [Laughs] [The producers] were like, "What do you all do?" and I said, "We're really boring. We like to just watch TV." They said, "Well, we can't show you doing that, so why don't you play a board game?" My boyfriend didn't even know how to play!
TVGuide.com: Donna, the cheerleaders' pushy mothers almost come across like child-beauty-pageant stage moms. Do you hear that a lot?
Donna: No, but you know what, watching some of these commercials [promoting the series], I worry that people are going to think it is like that, and it isn't. It is a sport just like any other sport. That's what people need to see when they watch this show. This is a group of parents and kids working together toward a goal as a team. And because it does involve girls, yes, it's going to be traumatic, because girls are very emotional between the ages of 14 and 18. Somebody cries every day.
TVGuide.com: What is your extremely qualified take on the Bring It On movies?
Ryan: Well, the first one was funny, but it wasn't like real cheerleading. Not really, no. Some of the things the cheerleaders did weren't accurate. But it was better than some movies and TV shows have been, where the cheerleaders are all blonde and just cheer for the football game.
TVGuide.com: Do either of you think you came out of this experience any closer? Did it shed light on any issues?
Donna: I think it shed some light on some issues. For instance, it has been pointed out to me several times that I don't praise Ryan. I rarely praise her. I avoid even looking at her at practice sometimes, because I'm fearful that the other girls on the team will not treat her well if I do praise her. She's in a no-win situation, basically: She's extremely talented but I can't really praise that talent like I would if she weren't my daughter.
Ryan: We have a really open relationship and while she may get on my nerves sometimes and I get on hers, we were always really close. I don't think we necessarily got any closer through this.
TVGuide.com: What's the one thing you hope viewers come away from Cheerleader Nation with?
Donna: The one thing I want people to see is that this is no different than that football show [Bound for Glory] on ESPN. I want people to see how hard they work and what kind of effort it takes to pull something like this off not only by the girls but by the parents, by the school administration.... It takes a lot of people to make this team work.
Ryan: I'd like to just see people get the "stereotypical cheerleader" out of their heads. It is a sport. We try out, we have a team, we compete, we win. [Laughs] It's a sport.