Your new favorite soapy drama is coming to E! in the form of The Arrangement, a series starring Josh Henderson as a mega movie star who enters into an arranged relationship with aspiring actress Megan (Christine Evangelista).
Complicating matters for Kyle West — as if a contract girlfriend/wife weren’t complicated enough — is the fact that Kyle’s mentors at the Institute for the Higher Mind, Terence (Michael Vartan) and Deann (Lexa Doig), have differing opinions on whether Megan is good for Kyle.
If the idea of a self-help organization arranging a marriage between a global superstar actor and a lesser-known actress calls to mind Scientology and various relationship rumors surrounding that organization, you’re not alone. Henderson told Rotten Tomatoes he welcomes the comparison.
“I think when people hear the premise of our show, more times than not the first thing they’ll think of is Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. But I know more about the show than they do, considering we’ve shot the whole first season, so I know that it’s really not at all based on them,” Henderson said. “We’re telling our own story with unique characters. But I’m fine with people making that comparison, because at the end of the day, everyone is familiar with that story and if it gets them to watch the show, I’m all about it.”
But Vartan told Rotten Tomatoes that although it’s an “understandable” comparison, it really isn’t what The Arrangement is about.
“Throughout the course of Hollywood, there have been documented cases of contract marriages, like back when the studios first started. So to me, the show is really about a contract marriage. It’s obviously about all these characters, but that has happened in Hollywood [before],” Vartan said.
“If it was about Scientology, I really did not do my homework, because I didn’t do any research on Scientology whatsoever,” he added with a laugh. “There are so many self-help groups in our country today. Because of the size of the Institute and the power and the heavy element of the Hollywood experience, I think [Scientology is] a natural assumption, but as far as the writers and the cast were concerned, we never really even thought of that.”
Whether The Arrangement calls to mind real-life situations or not, Henderson did say that in the case of Kyle and Megan, the feelings in their relationship are genuine.
“They have an instant connection at [an] audition in the first episode. Something about her shakes him and really affects him, and he has to pursue it and figure out why,” Henderson said. “As they’re getting to know each other, he totally falls in love with her. They’re obviously going to have some issues, as you would if you’re getting to know someone, because it all happens so fast. Kyle’s world is different. He can’t just walk into a bar and meet someone, so that’s where this contract comes in. and he kind of accepts that that’s his life and he has to do what the Institute tells him to. But he loves her. He really does love her.”
Unfortunately, Terence does not share Kyle’s instant affection for Megan, remaining suspicious of the up-and-coming actress even though he had a hand in setting her up with Kyle. For Terence, Vartan says it’s all about protecting Kyle’s brand and, by extension, the Institute.
“He loves Kyle, he really does. Terence found him, he discovered him, he helped him change his life, but … nothing is more important to me than the Institute,” the actor said. “The Institute has gotten big enough now that maybe without Kyle it would survive, but Terence isn’t interested in finding out. He still needs Kyle — he’s the biggest movie star in the world, so he’s a great poster boy.”
Vartan added that Terence had essentially become a victim of his own monster.
“When Terence founded the Institute, he truly did want to help people access their better selves. But along the way money started pouring in, and collateral fame for Kyle, and I think he sort of lost his way. He’s a victim of his own machine that he’s created. He definitely is a cutthroat character who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.”
For Vartan, that cutthroat nature was a big draw.
“My character is a departure for me,” he said. “I’ve always played the nice guy and that’s so damn boring, so to get to play someone that’s so fundamentally flawed and manipulative and, for lack of a better word, creepy, is really fun for me. It was a really fun experience.”
Henderson also said he had great fun while filming season 1 of The Arrangement, but for him, it wasn’t about playing someone villainous. In fact, he said Kyle is as good a person as he seems.
“Kyle is really a good guy, he really is. Like everyone, he has a past. You’re going to find out that he’s a little off. … It’s more than a flaw. It’s a trait to him that is maybe a little darker than you would expect, but he is a good person,” Henderson said. “But you put anyone in a situation where they show up in L.A. and have nothing, and then suddenly they have everything and everyone in the world knows who he is, that’s going to affect anyone no matter what kind of person he is. There’s a reason why Kyle credits the Institute for all of his success. When Terence first met Kyle, he was somewhat of a mess. And he still needs to work on himself.”
But who will now exert more influence over Kyle, his old friend Terence or new love Megan?
“Kyle trusts Terence 100 percent, or at least he always has,” Henderson said. “But he knows that Terence isn’t fully sold on Megan yet, and that’s going to become an issue.”
Vartan added, “Terence is just a very, very tightly wound person, with, as you’ll find out as the season progresses, a lot of skeletons in his closet. Some are a little darker than others … but very few things that happen with the Institute or Kyle’s career or life are not run by Terence at some point.”
The Arrangement premieres Sunday, March 5 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on E!