Q&A: Dave Broome and Jon Franco of ABC Family’s The Vineyard
We recently reported that ABC Family is producing a summer reality TV show based out of Martha’s Vineyard titled The Vineyard—and my, are we in for a treat. The docu-series cast consists of 11 young people between the ages of 19 and 25 who will live on the Vineyard to spend a drama-filled summer together of “new friends,” “new rivals,”, “tight quarters,” “trouble,” and “romance.”
They’re a combination of both island locals and proclaimed “wash-ashores,” or vacationers who are only on the island for a few months in the summer. Of the wash-ashores is 20-year-old Jon Franco, a pre-med student studying at Brown University in the fall—who also describes himself as “a player” (obviously).
We talked with Jon and the creator of the show Dave Broome (who also created The Biggest Loser) about relationships with the locals, the coming-of-age tale on The Vineyard, and most importantly (for the teenage fangirls)—Jon’s washboard abs.
Who came up with the concept of the show?
Dave Broome: My partner, Brian Smith, and I created the idea to do a coming-of-age story and capture it in a unique way, one that really hasn’t been done—ever. When we started to come up with what exactly that coming of age is, we tried to hone in on summer because summertime is really interesting when you’re 20-something years old and trying to figure out your life. The Vineyard was a place we were both familiar with because we both grew up on the East Coast and knew that it was a really special destination.
Why do you say it’s a unique coming-of-age story or something that’s never been told before?
DB: First, it’s being told in an hour-long format. It plays like a soap opera. Story lines intertwine and make their way out over an eight-episode arc. So it’s very unique. In a lot of ways, it’s a genre-busting kind of show. There are a lot of things we are doing that haven’t been done before in the way it’s being presented [to the audience]. We’re excited about it.
Why did you seek out Martha’s Vineyard for a location?
DB: Summertime on the Vineyard is so unique because that island has such a small population from September to the end of May, and then explodes from June through August. Because of that, you’ve got a really interesting blend of island residents who are there for the horrific winter months and summer visitors. In time, the residents both welcome and also despise the visitors. It’s interesting. They need [the summer visitors] so badly and at the same time they change the entire landscape of what the Vineyard is about.
So Jon, which are you—a proclaimed “wash-ashore” or a local?
Jon Franco: I’m a wash-ashore. I’ve never been to the Vineyard prior to the show. Originally, I’m from Boston and this is my first time on the island spending the summer. Like Dave said, when we first get down there, the locals stand their ground. We need to win over their respect and show them we’re good guys. We’re not here to start trouble or take peoples’ women. We truly want to have a good time on the Vineyard.
What was the casting process like for the two of you?
DB: We wanted a blend, so we needed the kids who had either summered on the Vineyard before, or never summered on the Vineyard. Jon fell into that process. Then we wanted a separate group who were local kids, born and raised on the island. So we found these groups.
JF: I do some modeling on the side because I’m a student. Dave contacted my agency and said that they were interested in doing auditions in the Boston area for characters on the show. It was a long process of interviews and getting to know the true side of me.
So let’s talk specifics. How old are you, Jon?
JF: I’m 20 years old.
And who is in your group of friends on the show?
JF: I’m very close with Daniel. He’s not from the Vineyard, either. He lives in Los Angeles, but is originally from Colorado and going to school in Wisconsin.
You are a pre-med student, but also follow up with a self-proclaimed title as the “player” on the show. Why do you say that?
DB: Well, have you seen his abs? I mean, we don’t even have to answer that question, just pull up his picture! I mean, I created The Biggest Loser, and I’ve never seen a body like his before.
JF: Well, basically my whole life, I’ve been focused on my academics. I’m a pre-med student at Brown University. It’s kind of a contradicting stereotype: I live at the gym, I play hockey and lacrosse. I’m a jock, an athlete. But then I have this model side to me. So there’s a lot of pressure on me, and it’s the end of the year, and The Vineyard was my time to see where I wanted to go in my life. But relationship-wise I’ve always had these goals. Me and my dad have always joked that I’ve never been tied down and I’ve never had a way of opening myself up to somebody. And that’s the way I enter onto the Vineyard, too.
DB: Also, the most attractive thing about Jon is that he has this incredible physique and million-dollar smile, but he also has a serious and smart side to him. He plays the anti-jock stereotype. That’s the depth of what the series is about. The cast has a lot of layers to each of them.
From the footage you’ve seen from the show so far, was there anything you thought played out particularly well? Or anything taken out of context?
JF: Everything I’ve seen has truly blown me away by how it all came together. It truly captured who I thought I was in my life at that time, and how I saw everyone who I was living with in the house.
How do you think other Massachusetts residents will receive the show? I mean, Bostonians can be pretty hard critics…
DB: It’s a postcard, it’s such a love fest. I can’t wait until the Chamber of Commerce starts to contact me saying, “We need that footage for ourselves!” It looks incredible and I can’t oversell that enough. They’re going to love it. I would be really shocked if there was one person in the area that didn’t think we portray the Vineyard accurately or showed it for its beauty. In the first episode, we talk about how the locals and the summer people don’t really mix well. They have to work their way in. In the premiere episode, Jon and Daniel try to go to a local party and they don’t get in! It’s real stories that happen there.
How well was this show received by island locals? It’s a small island and I’m sure word got out when camera crews appeared in places.
DB: I think when it first came out that we’d be shooting on the Vineyard, there was a lot of concern from a small group of people. A small group makes a lot of noise on that island. They thought, first, “Oh God, here’s a reality show. One of those shows that’s going to make the Vineyard look really bad.” And second, “Oh God, we’ve got enough traffic in this place to begin with, with no lights on the island. What are these guys going to do?” For us, it was really critical to put everyone’s mind at ease and to display that we’re a small footprint. We’re not Jaws. Unless you were looking for us or saw our cameras out on the island, you wouldn’t even know we were there. There are still locals who don’t appreciate us being there or are judging the show. But I love that they’re vocal about it because we have a chance to prove them wrong.
ABC Family’s The Vineyard premieres on July 23 at 10 p.m.