Love is a very mysterious thing. It is intoxicating, addictive, and all-consuming. It is also confusing, heart-breaking and by far the most elusive prize in the universe. Whether it is discovering a first love in high school or marrying your soul-mate, love is the mystery we would all like to solve. In a unique and clever storytelling technique, the MTV comedy series has cleverly woven through its second season the equally cursed love stories of Jenna Hamilton and her mother Lacey Hamilton (both fantastically portrayed by Ashley Rickards and Nikki Deloach). In a recent exclusive interview, Nikki took a few moments to share what is really going through the mind of Lacey and her incredibly complicated relationship with her daughter Jenna.
This season – hasn’t it just been a roller-coaster ride?!
NIKKI: Yes, it has. I love this season. I think the writing is great. They did such a great job. I hope everyone else is liking it as much as I am. [Laughs]
Right now it seems like there is a whole lot of things going on with Lacey: she had her husband move out, her ex-boyfriend is in the picture, and she’s still kind of reeling over the guilt of the letter. So where exactly is her head at?
NIKKI: I think going into these last couple of episodes that her heart is broken about the fact her husband has left her; and her heart is broken because she wrote that letter to her daughter and she’s hoping to repair the relationship with her — and her head is just not screwed on tight. [Laughs] So that’s where her heart is and that’s where her head is. She’s basically still reeling from everything that’s been going on with her and her head hasn’t quite caught up with her heart. I think with these wedding episodes, she is just trying to get through it the best way she can and to be the best maid of honor for her best friend Ally – yet at the same time, when Ben walks back into her life and comes into the picture, I think it sets her back another couple of steps. Her husband just left her and she’s starts thinking, “Did I make the right choice? Did I make the wrong choice years ago?” I think that happens to a lot of people when that first love comes back into your life many years later and you’re going through something. That’s when you tend to revisit those places from your youth. So she’s a confused lady right now.
What would you describe is her source of strength during this tumultuous change period in her life?
NIKKI: I think for Lacey, she never really had to dig deep and find that source of strength. Obviously, when she had Jenna, she was really young. But even back then, she was so young and she was doing it on her own. She was really just trying to be the best mother she could be without any kind of skill set. I think the same thing is true for her 15 year later with Jenna. I think this whole season is about redemption for Lacey and for her to dig a little deeper to find that strength — and what she really learns is that the strength always existed inside of her. That strength to make the right decisions and that strength to do what’s best for her daughter, and also that strength to do what’s best for her. And I think this season she will really find that. I think it’s a great and powerful storyline for mothers who are watching and also for teenagers to realize that it’s never too late in life to really figure out that everything that you need is already inside of you and that you are strong enough to handle anything that comes into your life. So Lauren, our creator and writer, really crafted a beautiful story for Lacey in that way — in a really funny, but heart-warming way.
It feels like it was a little bit of a surprise that Lacey’s husband left her over the incident with the letter. Is there going to be someway for Lacey to win him back?
NIKKI: Yeah, well, it’s very interesting. This whole season is about redemption for her, so I think over the course of the rest of the season, the viewers are really going to see more — a lot more is going to be revealed about Lacey’s past, especially her past with Kevin. I’m really interested to see viewers reaction after a lot of this comes out because it’s going to show Lacey in a better light and it will show that it wasn’t easy for her, and the journey hasn’t always been Kevin being the guy who is putting all the pieces back together and how Lacey just sits around and makes a mess out of everything. It’s a really beautiful way of telling a story, which a lot of mothers and daughters can relate to. I know when I was a teenager, I would look at my mom and be like, “Why is she doing what she’s doing? What mother does this?! Why is she hurting me and breaking my heart?” But then I realized, especially after playing this mother and having to kind of justify Lacey’s journey, that mothers at every turn are doing the best they can. They are doing the best they can and they have a whole lifetime and baggage they bring to the table as well. So I’m curious to see what fans think at the end of the season.
It’s proving to be an interesting season with all the story arcs going on, and it feels like Lacey and Jenna are simultaneously having parallel journeys without really realizing it.
NIKKI: What I love about what Lauren does, and she and I have had multiple conversations about it, at the end of the day boys come and go and friends come and go, and sometimes you never talk to them after high school or they may remain friends, but that foundation of who you are begins with that relationship with your mom and dad. But for a teenage daughter, especially your mom. So Lauren [Iungerich] starts every season with Jenna, but she also parallels the Lacey and Jenna story throughout the entire season: what the mother’s going through, the daughter’s also going through; and on some level, what the daughter’s going through, the daughter’s going through on another level. It’s really beautiful because you see these two characters grow together and the mother-daughter relationship evolves. It’s not right on the nose; it’s not right in your face. It’s just really subtle in a way that most mothers and daughters can really relate to. So that does happen and Lauren really makes a point of doing that every season.
Will it be a wake-up call when Jenna’s secret relationship with Matty becomes revealed — rocking her relationship with Jake — will she then feel a kinsmanship with her mom because her mom has recently gone through a breakup herself?
NIKKI: Yes, absolutely. Oh my god, I can’t tell you what happens, but I can’t wait for everyone to see Episode 10. I love Episode 7 and Episode 8. They are two of my favorite episodes. Lauren [Iungerich] wrote them and she directed them. She just killed it. She just did such an incredible job. But Episode 10 has a special place in my heart because I think for the first time, mother and daughter really connect. They really, really connect and Jenna gets to understand her mom and what her mom’s going through, and Lacey begins to understand her daughter and what her daughter has gone through. It’s just such a beautiful episode. I can’t wait for everyone to see it!
Lacey has been such a rich character and it is unexpected. What is the one thing you absolutely love about playing Lacey?
NIKKI: Oh god, one thing?! It’s so hard to pick one thing because I love Lacey so much. Like when we’re on our hiatus, I yearn to be back in her skin and in her clothes. I’m so different as a person: I’m a country girl, I don’t like to wear shoes, I like to drink beer, and I’m not a mom. Lacey is so different than me that I feel like I get to transform into this other person. I think what I love most about her is the fact that everything she does is so well-intentioned. It really comes from a good place. She’s got a great heart. However, she’s flawed and she’s so nuanced. They built this character in such a way that she falls down and she makes mistakes. A lot of people don’t show mothers in that way. People are really scared of showing a mom who really makes mistakes and hurts her daughter, even though it’s not intentioned. A lot of shows are scared to go there and Lauren is not. She’s not scared to go there and to see what is funny in that — and also what is heart-breaking in that. So I love that about Lacey: she’s not perfect and she’s flawed and she makes mistakes, but at the end of the day everything she does comes from such a good place. Finding the balance; finding a way to ground Lacey’s choices, it’s really challenging. But at the same time, I’ve never had so much fun with a character in my career. That’s a testament to our writers and our creator Lauren. They really every single week try to top themselves. Lauren, in the very beginning when she created the entire show, she went into with the idea that, “I’m not just going to make characters that can deliver funny lines, I want to give them a life.” I especially feel that with Lacey. I think that’s why that character holds such a dear place in Lauren’s heart and in mine.
Lacey has a lot to live up to right now because her daughter is in high school with stressors of all the different boys and the pressures of all that; then in her own life, she’s having her own pressures and stressors and relationship issues. In fact, it’s a crazy time for the both of them.
NIKKI: It is, but I think that’s what it feels to be like a teenager sometimes. Like the world is spinning around you and you don’t really know how to move forward and how to get a grasp on it. Not that it gets any better as you get older, it doesn’t. But it does in some ways. You learn a better skill set in which to handle things. But I think in high school it just kind of feels like nothing is going right for you. Not at school, not at home, and it can be very isolating. I think the show really highlights the kids who are possibly going through the same things.
Looking towards this week’s episode, “Homewrecker Hamilton,” what can you tease that fans should be looking forward to?
NIKKI: Moving into the next couple of episodes, it’s really about both Jenna and Lacey having to make amends; how to right “wrongs” and how to go about doing that. Now that Jake found out about Jenna and the whole love triangle with Matty and their secret love affair, then Lacey trying to redeem herself from the letter and fix her marriage and become that person she’s always wanted to be. So the next couple of episodes are really going to be about these two characters trying to figure out: how do I right what is wrong? As usual, it’s funny while heart-warming and heart-breaking. Episode 9 and 10 are just two really beautiful episodes. I feel so grateful that the writers wrote for Lacey this season. I really hope it continues and I think it will because we’ve seen that the audience is liking the expansion of all the characters, not just Lacey but all the characters — digging into the stories of everyone. Because I think there’s somebody out there who can relate to each and everyone one of the characters.
To see how Lacey and Jenna’s romantic troubles sort themselves out and if they can find a way to relate and learn from each other, be sure to tune in for an all new episode of AWKWARD. on Thursday, August 23rd at 10:30 p.m. on MTV. Love may be elusive, but it is life’s ultimate reward – though it may be laughing at us along the way, or maybe it just feels that way!
Where to find this article: