Thanks to the trivia game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”, most people only think of six degrees of separation as they connect obscure movie stars to the Footloose icon. But the concept of six degrees of separation truly means that any one of us could be connected in at least a vague way. ABC’s new fall series Six Degrees explores that concept with six very different people and their intertwining journeys.
The main characters are Laura, a grieving single mother, who begins the chain. Next is Whitney, the self-made success story who thinks her boyfriend is cheating. Move on to Steven, the artist/photographer who believes he’s lost his “eye.” Follow with Damian, who can’t escape his criminal brother’s shadow, then on to Mae, the girl with a dangerous past that she’s hiding from, and finally to Carlos, the good guy with a crush who doesn’t know what he’s in for.
This intriguing tale of intertwined destinies reminds us that romance, success, peace or forgiveness might be right around the corner, but they can also be lost in an instant. It’s a story that underlines just how small the world really is, and how someone just five people away might be shaping your future right now.
To cover the entire spectrum of stories will take many seasons, or so the producers hope. Dish decided to focus on the young side of the story. Erika Christensen (Swimfan) plays Mae, the mystery woman and Jay Hernandez (Hostel) plays Carlos, the lawyer who may get in over his head with her.
The two already have a six degrees sort of connection in real life. “Jay and I met six years ago,” said Christensen. “We had the same publicist or something and we went to a party together, the Vanity Fair party. You can find a picture of us at the Vanity Fair party from like six years ago and we didn’t even know each other. And we kind of haven’t spoken in years and then all of a sudden, here he is and I’m like, ‘Hey, man.’ And we get along famously now.”
The reunion had a profound impact on Hernandez as well. “I think people are connected in so many different ways. The connectivity of everything in life, I firmly believe that’s a reality. One thing does affect another. It’s kind of a butterfly effect sort of a situation. So I do believe things are connected in ways that we don’t really understand or we won’t understand until some future time.”
With two lovers weaving in and out of each other’s lives, Six Degrees could create an enormous sense of audience frustration. It took Tony and Angela years to hook up on "Who’s the Boss?" and they lived in the same house!
“I know the direction of the characters in the show but I don’t know all the particulars which is kind of interesting, kind of brave and kind of scary at the same time,” said Hernandez. “Film, you know where a movie starts and where it ends. Television, which is new for me, you don’t know where it ends. You know where it starts but it can go a million different directions. It’s going to be challenging I guess, but I’m looking forward to it and I think people will go along with the love story. Everybody loves romanticism and people like to sit down and be entertained in that way, so I hope the audience will like it.”
Six Degrees will also show audiences Hernandez as a grown up. Carlos Green is a lawyer who works his daily job, a more individual career than Hernandez has gotten to play with roles as high school athletes or rescue team workers.
“That was one thing that was intriguing about it, the fact that I got to be in a courthouse. It was exciting. The first episode had a couple scenes in the courthouse. To walk in there and to talk to council and to have clients, that whole experience which I’m definitely going to be doing more stuff in the courtroom, it’s exciting to me. It’s something that I’ve never done and it just feels good as an actor to be in there and experience that.”
The character was not originally Latino, but changing his name to Carlos made that an easy fix. “It wasn’t really specified. They had an open mind and it’s not really explained as of yet what my ethnicity is. I don’t know if it’s important. A city like New York is so diverse that you expect a little range in terms of ethnicity. He’s a New Yorker.”
Christensen’s character, Mae, comes to New York to lay low, and won’t reveal what she’s running from for a while. In the pilot, she goes from standing topless out of a sunroof to taking a nanny job with children. Will domestication water down Mae’s sexy side as the series progresses? “I think that’s a part of herself that will always be there but we’ll see how it comes in handy or how she has to hide it,” Christensen said. “At this point, she is a nanny and that’s what she’s trying to fit herself into, just for the safety and the anonymity. So I’m sure that’s always going to be a part of her though.”
New York may give her the best opportunity to blend in amongst millions of people, yet still have an exciting life. “She’s obviously a fun-loving girl and she didn’t have to come to New York City. She could have gone to anywhere else in the country to lay low. So I think she’s definitely got her own hopes and dreams and certainly a personality there, so that’s just kind of at odds with her current circumstances. I think like any city, it depends where in the city you are. But Manhattan is so dense, and there’s so many little nooks and crannies, and I think personally I find it easy to disappear into one corner of it.”
With so many interconnecting stories at work, ensemble films like "Crash" come to mind. However, "Six Degrees" is a New York story. “I didn’t think "Crash",” said Hernandez. “Yeah, that sort of idea of the connectivity, I guess so but it didn’t strike me as reminiscent of "Crash". Just the setting is so different to me. I’m from LA so I know LA very well. The city of New York is something new and exciting for me and the idea of people living in New York is very different from LA. You can walk, you can take the subway, you can take a cab. It’s very tight though. It’s centralized. In LA, you’re in a car.”
New York becomes a character in Six Degrees as all of the actors have relocated for filming. For the Hernandez family, that means less quality time with Jay. “My mom’s bummed out about that,” he said. “I’m across the country and I’m not going to be able to go to mom’s house for some barbecue, that kind of thing so she’s sad about that but I’m considering myself bicoastal right now. That’s my plan. I still have a place here so I will be coming back pretty often.”
The city gives Hernandez plenty of opportunities to get in touch with his heritage though. “When I am out there, I like going to bars, shooting pool and hanging out with friends that I haven’t seen because generally it’s like I’m working so much, I don’t get to see them. So spend some time with them, I’ve got a buddy that lives in the Bronx and his mom cooks home cooked Puerto Rican food which is great. So I don’t know, go to nice restaurants. That’s one thing I love about New York is they have so much food. It’s a fun city.”
Food seems to be a popular respite for the Six Degrees cast. “I have a friend who’s there and I really enjoy the proximity and the convenience and spontaneity and the energy and all the things that everybody else loves about New York,” said Christensen. “I keep a log of restaurants. I’m always eavesdropping when people are talking about restaurants, taking notes. ‘And it’s on where? What are the cross streets?’ You know where I go all the time? Spring Street Natural. It’s this great restaurant that’s on Lafeyette and Spring. [I order] a fruit salad and tomato bread and omelets and vegetarian options for people that don’t eat meat.”
Luckily, having six leads on a show gives each individual actor some days off to go exploring. “If I was on a show like "24" where it’s one guy all the time, that’d be another situation because it demands so much of your attention and there’s not really any free time,” said Hernandez. “We have six people, we have a lot of different stories we have to follow and keep alive so it does spread the workload which is great.”
Six Degrees premiers on Thursday, September 21, 2006 at 10 pm et/pt on ABC
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