Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
The biggest cheers this season on the new CW series "Star-Crossed" have come when Drake stands up for his friends and evens the score with some high school troublemakers.
Actor Greg Finley, who was once a real-life troublemaker, plays Drake.
Finley grew up in Maine with Division II basketball hopes, but hip surgery quickly derailed those plans. Instead, he wound up at a smaller school.
"I wasn't really happy with the way things were going," Finley said during a phone interview. "Got into some trouble and did some things I'm not proud of."
He wound up in the hospital with an abscess in his throat. Bedridden and depressed - at a true low-point in his life - something unexpected happened.
"All I would do was watch movies," Finley said. "I never even thought of acting. My mom would just bring me stacks of DVDs to watch when I was bedridden.
"The only time I wasn't really, really depressed was when I was lost in these stories - these movies. And so, I had this weird epiphany that that's what I wanted to do."
Jan. 7, 2005, Finley packed up and drove to L.A. His family and friends were surprised, but understood Finley needed a change of scenery.
Though he had no acting know-how, or training, for that matter, Finley's real-life experiences gave him an advantage when auditioning for roles.
"My life experience kind of put me - I think it gave me an edge, the things I went through. And I think how I grew up and stuff, it kind of gave me an edge, as far as what I'm doing right now in my career," he said. "It's just something I thought I could do. I never really thought about going to class or school for it. I kind of just believed it. I kind of just knew I could do it."
Within three years, Finley found himself a regular gig on ABC Family's "The Secret Life of the American Teenager." He spent five years playing Jack. When that series ended, Finley quickly found another, landing a key part in the new CW show "Star-Crossed."
"I really thought it was a cool concept," he said. "And I really thought it was a cool story."
In "Star-Crossed," a band of tattooed aliens flees a dying planet in search of continued existence. These visitors crash land on Earth in 2014 and, though they mean no harm, they are quickly attacked and forced to defend themselves.
One of the Atrians, 6-year-old Roman, escapes and finds refuge in a Louisiana family's backyard shed. There, he is befriended and comforted by a 6-year-old girl named Emery. The two bond over cold pasta.
After a short time, Roman is found by some human troops, blasted with a laser, and seemingly left for dead.
When the dust settles, the Atrians are segregated and forced to live in a "District 9"-style "Sector" camp. Though they are successful in starting a new life, and building families, the Atrians are very much considered outsiders.
Ten years later, attempts are made to integrate seven Atrians teenagers into Baton Rouge-area Marshall High School. There, Roman (Matt Lanter) and Emery (Aimee Teegarden) are reconnected and form something of a "Romeo and Juliet" relationship.
"Star-Crossed" is sort of a hybrid of two classic CW shows: the first season of the revamped "90210," with a very definitive high school caste system; and the latter seasons of "Roswell," where aliens and humans tried to find love and freedom amidst ever-growing threats of conflict.
The series is equal parts sci-fi, action-adventure and romance.
"The pilot's cool, but I can be honest and tell you that it just keeps getting way better and way better and way better," Finley said.
"I can genuinely say that this show is awesome," he added. "There's this whole sci-fi world that they create that I hope people really dig, because it's amazing."
Finley's character, Drake, is the "Atrian 7's" muscle. He is suspicious of humans, and won't stand for high school bullying. After Roman is jumped in the hallway, Drake finds the perpetrator and manhandles him after school.
"Drake is my favorite character I've ever played," Finley said. "I feel like Drake is the kind of character that all actors would want to play. He's bad-ass, but he has a heart.
"One scene, I'm crying for my mom, because she's in prison. And the next scene I'm beating up four guys.
"It's just a cool role. It's got a lot of arc. He's very complicated. He's very torn with this world that he's been thrown into.
"His best friend, Roman, he doesn't understand why Roman has so much love for these humans. He doesn't really find out about Emery until later on.
"He's just such a fun character to play. There's a lot of levels to Drake."
Lanter leads a talented, up-and-coming young-Hollywood cast.
"I have to admit, I was really impressed with Matt's (work)," Finley said. "He's really talented, and I feel like he really does carry the show for us. He does his thing, and he is so great.
"Everybody is really good."
Plus, "Our sets are unbelievable. ... Our sets are unreal," Finley said.
As "Star-Crossed" unfolds, a rebel sect of Atrians will threaten the human race - much to the chagrin of Roman and the Atrians seeking peace with the world.
"Things start to happen very fast, and it gets pretty intense pretty quick," Finley said.
"Star-Crossed" airs Monday at 8 p.m. on The CW.
Finley also is working on an independent film of his own creation, "Danny Boy," which will shoot next year.
>>Follow Greg Finley and find out more about the actor on Twitter @Greg_Finley.
•Joshua Maloni writes about television shows such as "The Voice," "Helix," "Psych,"
"The Black List," "Grimm" and "24." Follow him on Twitter @joshuamaloni.