Brandon Jay McLaren with Athena Karkanis, <EM>The Best Years</EM> Brandon Jay McLaren with Athena Karkanis, The Best Years

If you are a fan of the teen drama, the brand-spankin'-new show The Best Years will be just what you need to fill your Friday nights with fun. The series debuts on The N this Friday at 8:30 pm/ET and stars a sexy cast of college-age kids who deal with their freshman year and some pretty heavy topics right off the bat. Of course there are love triangles and quadrangles and more, and most revolve around Devon, the basketball star played by She's the Man hottie Brandon Jay McLaren. was lucky enough to catch the funny (and drool-worthy) McLaren while he was in New York City for an up-close and personal one-on-one chat. Why did you want to do this show? What was exciting about it for you?
Brandon Jay McLaren: Well, I remember when I got the script for the pilot and it just seemed grounded and it wasn't trying to be gimmicky. There were no haunted islands or magical [elements], you know what I mean? It was simple and truthful and it really spoke to me. And it tackles some hot topics!
McLaren: Yeah, we don't shy away from anything. There's a moment in the first episode leading to the death of a character that really shocked me.
McLaren: I was shocked, and again, I knew what happened! Maybe that's a problem. What happens after that was a little surprising to me, too, just with the way everybody dealt with it.
McLaren: In my freshman year at college... Are you going to tell me that this is based on a true event?
McLaren: One of my suitemates died as well. Really? Are you pulling my leg?
McLaren: Wouldn't that be terrible if I really was, if that didn't happen? But no, really, I kid you not. On our way back from Christmas break, [my friend] was driving home from upstate New York and he got in a car accident and passed away. Terrible. That's awful.
McLaren: But it's very true, everybody deals with it in a different way. Some people cry, some people laugh.... And some people hide what they're doing. I have a feeling that death is going to haunt everybody the rest of the season.
McLaren: I'm not going to say anything, because either way you're going to know something. If you keep at me, I'm going to say something ridiculous. Do we get to see you play basketball?
McLaren: Yeah, in Episode 4. Are you a good player?
McLaren: I used to be very good at basketball and then I stopped growing, so I had to start [working on] my soccer career. So the soccer stuff we saw in She's the Man, that was actually you?
McLaren: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. I went to SUNY Albany on a scholarship, so soccer was my gig before I started [acting]. Why didn't you have them make Devon a soccer star?
McLaren: They tried to, apparently, but we shoot in Toronto from winter to winter and those exterior shots wouldn't have worked. Originally I was going to be a football player, but they had to ax that, too. So what are the girls like?
McLaren: Oh, everybody's great. [Yells to his costars across the room] Charity [Shea], I love you! Love you, Jen [Miller]! Yeah, everybody is really great. And I think because everybody really, really likes the show, they tend to be a lot more pleasant all the time. You said The Best Years will have no supernatural stuff, but are there mysteries going on? Or is it just pretty straight-forward drama?
McLaren: There are some cliff-hangers. There's one through-line story and amid that there are all these other story lines going on, so it's very busy and entertaining. Which girls will Devon be hooking up with?
McLaren: You name it, I go there. This is such a tough job for you then!
McLaren: I know. [After she saw the episodes that have aired in Canada] my mom was like, "What are you doing?" I'm like, "Mom, I don't write it! I just do what they tell me to do! I read the lines!" Devon and his friends are at clubs that serve alcohol and you don't really see that on American TV shows. They try to sort of hide it....
McLaren: Pretend it doesn't happen, right. Was that reality something that interested you?
McLaren: [Laughs] The gratuitous drinking? No, but just taking it to the next level.
McLaren: Well, like I said, the pilot wasn't sensationalizing anything, it wasn't shying away from anything, it was trying to tell it the way it is the best that they could, and I think people will gravitate toward that. Do you think this show is for college kids or kids going into college?
McLaren: We're already on Episode 5 in Canada, and I've had 13-year-old girls come up to me and respond really, really well. Like, "Hi, you're beautiful, I want to marry you" 13-year-old girls?
McLaren: Yeah. [Smirks] But then I've been out and I've gotten owners of nightclubs saying, "Hey, I really liked your show, man." It's been cool in that sense, it's been such a huge range of people who liked something about the show. I'm trying to figure out how to coax some more information out of you. I can call someone in Canada and find out what happens....
McLaren: I'll make that call first, not gonna happen. You're going to call the entire country? C'mon, tell me something about Episode 2.
McLaren: Um, there's going to be a lot of love triangles, a lot of figuring out who likes whom and how serious they are with one another.... Just like college. So, what else is going on with you?
McLaren: I just finished a film for the Sci Fi Channel called Snow Demon. It's like a sci-fi horror movie. And right now I'm actually working on National Lampoon's Ratko with Efren Ramirez from Napoleon Dynamite. It's ridiculous, but it's so much fun. Is it exciting to shoot those sorts of movies, or is the 10th time you say a joke not funny?
McLaren: She's the Man was the first comedy I did, and it was probably the hardest thing I've ever done, because every day you go home and you're like, "I suck. I suck at what I do." They can always edit it to make it look good, right?
McLaren: And they usually do. Comedy is very, very difficult. What do you do for fun?
McLaren: I run a lot. I still play soccer, I play guitar, I write. I'm big into cooking. OK, leave us with the No. 1 reason why people should tune in for the first episode of The Best Years.
McLaren: They're going to meet five very, very different and interesting characters. There's going to be a huge, shocking surprise and there's going to be a very, very juicy cliff-hanger. And pretty people.
McLaren: If you say so.

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