Freeform is deepening its drama bench withRecovery Road, a new series that centers 17-year old Maddie (Jessica Sula) as she's forced to go to school during the day and live in an adult sober-living house at night after her excessive drinking goes too far.
The series, premiering Monday after The Fosters, will take a hard look at the perils and stigmas of addiction, especially pertaining to young people. The show is based on the novel of the same name by Blake Nelson, but rather than spanning Maddie's entire adolescence, the show will focus on her initial, first 30 days in rehab for the first season. During her time at the house, she'll encounter different characters with varying levels of addiction including Verne, (Daniel Franzese) the former dancer turned sober-house lifer; Wes (Sebastian De Souza), the mysterious bad boy whose worst fear is losing his sobriety again; and Rebecca (Lindsay Pearce), a familiar face from Maddie's past she's not happy to see at the house.
Sula spoke to TVGuide.com about taking on such a serious subject for the series and what Maddie's battle for sobriety looks like in the first season.
What is it about this house that resonates with Maddie even though she doesn't think that she belongs there?
Jessica Sula: What strikes her is that everyone [at the house] has to talk about their feelings. That's something she hates, but often the things you dislike are the things you need the most. She gets struck by people just being open with one another and having empathy. People seem happy to talk and they can relate. She's never seen that before. Rebecca is in the house. She knows Rebecca. There's a lot of unfinished business. She wants to stay because she wants to hash things out. She's thinking about her past relationships with Rebecca being in the house, future relationships she could have by actually being honest with herself for a change. The fact that she can't remember to the [the night before she's busted] is scary. That really makes her question or not if she has an addiction. She can't remember and that's really not a good thing.
She says early on that she's a virgin by choice, which is unusual for characters of this type on television. What's behind that choice and why is it so important?
Sula: It's important because she's clearly a girl with confidence. She's probably someone in the school that's viewed as popular. I like that about her because she's sharp and witty. The same way she can be so opposed to the idea that she's an addict, she's opposed to the idea that anyone can have her virginity. That to her is not cool. She's going to wait. She has that power and she knows. She's someone who is forthright. She knows what she wants. That was a key element of Maddie and it's a good thing because it shows that she's comfortable with who she is and unapologetic. That's why she wants to stay in the house because she can't remember that thing she's so proud of. That has been taken from her without even knowing.
What is it that draws her to Wes in the house?
Sula: Wes has an element of maturity that she doesn't see from the boys in her high school. He's talking about something that she understands, slightly. That triggers her curiosity like, "Ha, I understand what this person is saying. Could this mean I am like these people in this house?" Plus, she's a teenage girl so she thinks he's attractive when she first meets him — but then he has an element of mystery about him. They have similar thought processes. She's drawn to him because they are going through similar things.
Keeping her sober life separate from her school life is a big part of this show. How is that tension going to increase through Season 1?
Sula: It's already hard enough because Rebecca was once part of that [high school] world. They know each other. That is already going to make it a little difficult. She's going to have to carry on making up excuses about why she can't go here or there and everywhere. She's suddenly going to be shutting people out so it's a choice of whether she's going to be honest or not or if she's just going to keep up appearances. That's the journey of the season. Is she an addict and how is she going to keep up living in two worlds?
There are going to be a lot of teens watching this that may not have a problem to the extent that Maddie does, but what can they get out of watching this show?
Sula: It's such a normal thing to go out drinking on a Friday night, "Live for the weekend!" and all that stuff. It's for people to be sitting at home and think, "Do I actually depend on this? Is this fun or is this an excuse for me to drink a lot?" [The show] is for [viewers] to have empathy for people going through addiction. It is a disease. That is still something that humans debate now. A lot of people don't even want to talk about it. To have something on mainstream television for young people and it deals with all different ages. There are a lot of different ages in the house. Hopefully, if someone does feel connected to the characters in the sense that they do think they have an addiction, they will go and talk to someone professional who can help them.
Recovery Road premieres Monday at 9/8c on Freeform.