Australian actor Richard Brancatisano has learned three things as one of the stars of the new ABC Family series "Chasing Life": there are a lot of great organizations helping with the fight against cancer; print newspapers still exist; and it's not smart to keep any photos from bad relationships.
The series looks at April, a young woman (Italia Ricci) dealing with a budding journalism career, a widowed mom (Mary Page Keller) who has decided to start dating and a little sister (Haley Ramm) on a path of self-destruction.
All this gets trumped when April learns she has cancer.
Brancatisano plays Dominic, April's co-worker (he is the arts and entertainment writer at a Boston newspaper) and new love.
A big part of the early episodes will be April trying to decide when it would be best to drop such big news on a relationship that is just starting.
As part of the research for the series, which has been adapted from the Spanish-language series "Terminales," the cast worked with cancer organizations. Brancatisano says he was so impressed that he immediately became a bone marrow donor.
Those meetings gave him a sense of how important it is that the show treat the topic of cancer with the right amount of respect.
"I have been lucky and never had anyone in my life who has had cancer. So, meeting with these groups made it all feel very real. It's hard to put into words the work these people are doing, but it's made us focus on doing the best series we can to help bring attention to their fight," Brancatisano says.
"In one way, the fact I haven't had a close encounter with cancer fits because my character is in a similar situation. As far as we know, he's never had to deal with something this heavy before.
"April has this secret and she's unsure how he will react — whether he will stick around or run away."
Cast members will have time to make their points as ABC Family has ordered 21 episodes of the series — more than double the number of shows traditionally ordered for a new cable series.
The first episode was shot entirely in Boston with the Boston Globe serving as the setting. Brancatisano was particularly impressed by the newspaper's massive presses.
Once ABC Family picked up the show, production moved to Los Angeles. Cast and crew will fly back to Boston on a regular basis to shoot scenes on the streets.
An early plot line will have April discovering via the Internet that Dominic has a reputation for being a bit of a playboy. The majority of the photos used to create this player image are real photos from Brancatisano's past.
"I had to find all of these images from my own life and then email the girls to get their permission to use the pictures. Using the real pictures makes sense because people change. And, I look different in these photos," Brancatisano says. He pauses and then adds that he made sure there were no photos used from less-than-perfect past relationships.
Many of the photos he provided are from the 30-year-old actor's days in Australia. His credits there include the TV series "Underbelly," "Reef Doctors" and "Dance Academy."
Brancatisano also is an accomplished guitarist and singer who has performed with Olivia Newton John, John Sebastian, Gin Wigmore, Teddy Geiger and Christine Anu.
"Chasing Life": 9 p.m. Tuesdays on ABC Family