Executive producers Bert V. Royal and Karen DiConcetto are turning Blake Nelson’s teen novel “Recovery Road” into a TV series – a Romeo and Juliet in rehab story.
The star-crossed lovers in the tale are Maddie (Jessica Sula) and Wes (Sebastian De Souza). He’s been a resident at a co-ed adult sober living facility for a while. Maddie is strong armed into joining the group by her high school guidance counselor (Alexis Carra) and her mother (Fresno’s Sharon Leal).
Maddie deals with the recovery facility as if she was in the real world, defying authority and beginning a flirtatious affair. Conflict arises immediately when she gets caught breaking the house rules and is told that relationships will not be tolerated.
“That’s the whole arc of the show. Is it going to go terribly wrong? Like what could happen? Because it’s especially all new for Maddie as well. She doesn’t even think she’s an addict. She is still battling between is it drug abuse or is it drug addiction,” Sula says. “I think she really doesn’t want to be there at all.”
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It’s pretty clear from the opening episode there’s nothing casual about Maddie’s use of drugs and alcohol. It’s only when she’s caught at school with a water bottle filled with Vodka that she’s sent on the road to recovery.
As the show goes along, it will reveal how much her mother, Charlotte, was a part of her daughter’s problems.
“I think there’s a lot of enabling going on. Also, when you meet them, they’ve lost their patriarch. The father’s gone, so there’s a lot of pain and things that they’re still working out,” Leal says. “Nobody’s perfect. Charlotte certainly has done things wrong and is sort of trying to navigate her way through everything and not with ease and not with all the answers. All of that will start to evolve and you’ll figure all of that out. I think you’re forced to figure out exactly why this dynamic is happening. Charlotte’s definitely not perfect.”
Maddie’s struggles will be the core of the show, but the stories of the other residents will be told in flashbacks. Royal explains the flashbacks are more interesting than having the residents sit around during their meetings talking about their lives. Those stories may go back as far as when the residents were young children to show what triggered their problems.
The path to recovery shown in the series is not based on any one method, but Alcoholics Anonymous provided many of the building blocks for the stories. Producers promise that if the series is successful, there won’t be six or seven seasons of the same people sitting in the same meetings talking about themselves.
Carra believes the flashbacks will help viewers get to the core of characters and will keep viewers coming back each week.
“They’re not just recovering addicts, they’re people, and you get to really see the humanity of all of it in the scope of especially with the flashbacks and the history of everybody and then the way we all interact in the house. You want to come back because you want to see how we’re going to help each other up,” Carra says.
The actress attended AA meetings and turned to her own mother, who is a psychologist, to get a better understanding of the fight addicts face. The more she researched, the more she began to wonder if she had a problem because she likes having a glass of wine or two.
In the end, she and several other cast members decided not to drink alcohol while working on the series.
- 9 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25, Freeform