The young cast of My So-Called Life

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My So-Called Life

My So-Called Life was a television teen drama created by Bedford Falls Production Company that aired on ABC from August 25, 1994 to January 26, 1995. The show was created by Winnie Holzman. more...

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It was short-lived, airing only 19 episodes before it was canceled on May 15, 1995 due to low ratings and also to an uncertain degree on the reluctance, expressed behind the scenes, of star Claire Danes to return for its second season. For its original run in the United States, it aired on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. against four hit sitcoms -- top ten hits "Mad About You" and "Friends" on NBC, as well as the popular Martin and Living Single on FOX. However, in the time that it has been off the air, the show has gained a substantial cult following which has led many to wish it had been able to go on for many more seasons, especially given the nature of the cliffhanger in the final episode. This groundbreaking series is often thought to have been "too smart for TV."

My So Called Life is also the name of a song on The Ataris' album Look Forward to Failure. The song refers by name to the TV show's lead actress, Claire Danes.

The show ended in a cliffhanger with the expectation that it would be picked up in an additional season. Catherine Clark, author of a novelization of the series, wrote a book entitled My So-Called Life Goes On taking place after the events of the series. This cannot be considered canon, though, as Winnie Holzman in interviews has refused to speculate on what would have occured in the second season, stating that, while various plot situations had been set up, she never wrote that season and therefore has no way of knowing where it would have gone.

Characters

My So-Called Life had an unusually large and diverse cast of characters for a family-themed series. Most characters presented an expected archetypal aspect and a hidden unexpected side to their personality.

  • Angela Chase, played by Claire Danes, is a fifteen-year-old girl going through several common aspects of puberty and teenage angst including, among many others, the awakening of sexuality, the fall of parental figures from the superego, a propensity for abstract thought and a thirst for independence. Angela also has literary ambitions; this makes her numerous metaphysical considerations believable as coming from a fifteen year old. For example, some of these themes can be seen in one of her voice-over monologues in the pilot episode set during a family dinner: "I cannot bring myself to eat a well-balanced meal in front of my mother. It just means too much to her. I mean, if you start to think about, like, chewing, what it really is, how people just do it, like, in public."
  • Patty Chase and Graham Chase, played by Bess Armstrong and Tom Irwin, are Angela's parents. In a way, they are typical suburban American parents. But in other ways, they are an atypical family since Patty is the main bread-winner and, at the beginning of the series, employs her husband. Patty is the father-like authoritative figure, while Graham is a more mother-like affectionate parent who cooks and is far less strict than his wife.
  • Danielle Chase, played by Lisa Wilhoit, is Angela's younger sister. She rarely influences the major storylines. There is an emphasis on how much she is ignored by her family. She has a crush on Brian and yearns to be more like Angela, whose life and friends fascinate her. Her voice-over narrates the penultimate episode, 'Weekend'.
  • Rayanne Graff, played by A.J. Langer, is Angela's "new best friend" at the beginning of the series. She is wild, unpredictable, sexually active and irresponsible. She is in many ways the opposite of Angela. However, Rayanne's freedom comes along with a negligent single mother (radiographer, tarot enthusiast and hedonist Amber, played by Patti D'Arbanville-Quinn) and teenage alcoholism.
  • Enrique "Rickie" Vasquez, played by Wilson Cruz, is Rayanne Graff's other best friend. He is a gay Hispanic fifteen year old boy raised by his uncle who physically abuses him. In 1994, when most of the show takes place, Rickie is as "out" as a teenager could be in his circumstances. When his uncle kicks him out of home, he is fostered by English teacher Richard Katimski (who is also gay and becomes a mentor to Rickie) and his partner.
  • Sharon Cherski, played by Devon Odessa, was Angela's best friend throughout childhood, until Angela became friends with Rayanne. Their mothers are best friends. From Angela's point of view, Sharon represents a suffocating world of boredom and conventions as opposed to the wild world of Rayanne Graff. Yet most characters are mistaken when they assume that Sharon's life is devoid of passion. Sharon might be as passionate as Rayanne Graff, but is afraid to show it. She is very conventional and academically-minded, as well as active in school activities, including the yearbook committee. During the series, she becomes sexually active with her football-player boyfriend Kyle and develops a grudging friendship with Rayanne by the last episode.
  • Brian Krakow, played by Devon Gummersall, is the geek of the show. He is remarkably intelligent and conformist. Despite his high IQ, he lacks emotional intelligence and is often socially awkward and self- righteous. This, more than anything else alienates him from his peers. Much like Sharon, he is often mistakenly believed by other characters to be devoid of emotion. He is in love with Angela, but he has no hope of her noticing him as he knows he is unattractive. He has known Angela and Sharon since they were all very young. He is the outsider of the show, but makes friends with Rickie towards the end of the series. the other characters usually turn to him only when they have a academic or technological query. His voice-over narrates the episode, 'Life of Brian', in which we learn more about his inner and outer worlds.
  • Jordan Catalano, played by Jared Leto, is one of the best remembered characters of the show, though he was possibly the least seen. He is one of the worst students at the high school, and on the brink of being expelled. He's nearly illiterate, and is mistakenly believed to be stupid because of this. Angela is in love with him and during the series they begin an on-off relationship. Although he appears to belong to a group of rebellious teens, he is tired of the meaningless acts of vandalism that his friends commit for fun, yet he has no reason to believe that his life will change. He reveals his emotional depth in his songwriting ability and occasional -seemingly accidental- profound thoughts.
  • Tino was an oft-mentioned character who was never actually seen. He was allegedly a friend of Jordan and an "acquaintance" of Rayanne. Over the course of the show, each of the main teenage characters referenced Tino at least once and at least one party was attributed to him. For instance, Tino was the lead singer of Jordan Catalano's band, "The Frozen Embryos" .

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