As Awkward settles into its fourth season, star Ashley Rickards is sliding into the director’s chair. “It was so much fun getting to the boss lady,” she tells EW exclusively. “I feel like I really lucked out at my first shot at [directing] because I’ve kind of been training — knowing the show like the back of my hand for four years.”
Below, check out an exclusive clip from tonight’s episode, “Listen to This,” as Jenna catches up Tamara (Jillian Rose Reed) on her premiere-ending hook-up up with ex Matty (Beau Mirchoff). We also talked to Rickards about gearing up mentally, going full-speed-ahead physically, and where the season is going (hint: the words “back in the bitchy saddle” will be used).
As you can see, tonight’s episode sees Jenna and Matty getting frisky right from the jump. “We have a nudity rider on the show,” Rickards explains. “It’s pretty well laid-out. We go over it a day ahead of time, and it’s always what I’m ‘comfortable with.’ This time we didn’t go over it, and I was just, like, ‘Oh, let’s just see a bare back, and so I ended up on camera — and,” she continues with a laugh, “hopefully this gets me some Twitter followers — not wearing a bra or pasties or anything.” (You’ll have to tune in to MTV and Twitter at 10 p.m. ET to see whether Rickards backs up her claim…or whether the footage fell, like a discarded shirt, on the cutting room floor.)
Of course, as actors regularly take pains to note, sex scenes aren’t always as sensual as they look. “Probably my favorite part of the dailies,” says Rickards, “is Beau and I cracking up [about how much 'humping' we could do]. There are like five usable seconds from the whole thing — which, I only needed three — and we’re just cracking up. I accidentally snotted on him, which I don’t think he knew. That’s why I started laughing, at least.”
To prepare for her first time behind the camera, Rickards read David Lynch’s Catching the Big Fish, in which the three-time Oscar nominee describes using Transcendental meditation in his creative process. (Though she’s quick to assure Awkward fans, “Obviously we’re not doing Twin Peaks [in this episode].”) Rickards also had another, more visceral, psych-up ritual: “I’m that person who’s all of 110 pounds and full-on rapping to [L.A. morning radio show] ‘Big Boy’s Neighborhood.’ That does pump me up. That’s sort of my thing going to work — getting my hip-hop on and feeling badass.”
Still, Lynch and Lil Wayne went only so far once Rickards hit the set. “It’s interesting [making the transition from acting to directing],” she notes, “because you think you’re going to go up there and give this amazing, actor-oriented direction, but it’s just two completely different headspaces.” She adds, “That was probably the best learning experience as an actor — learning to talk to other actors as a director.”
But more on tonight’s episode: After she’s sidelined by a dental disability, Jenna is physically unable to speak. Still, Rickards promises, there’s plenty of wisecracking (and, no doubt, voiceover). If nothing else, Tamara is sure to deliver another signature monologue as she and boyfriend Jake (Brett Davern ) continue to work through their coital woes. “Jillian has one of the most difficult jobs,” says Rickards. “We only get two or three takes on the show, and Jillian has these huge, long, quirky monologues all the friggin’ time, and they’re intricate and there are made-up words, and it’s just not easy. For the most part, I just make faces, and there’s a lot of voiceover,” she laughs.
But what about Jenna and Matty, the show’s biggest question-mark couple? Though they haven’t DTR-ed as of the few few minutes of “Listen to This,” Rickards can share some scoop on how their relationship will shift as the season continues. “It’s definitely different than it was in the past years,” she admits. “Matty’s got quite a lot going this season in his own life. As much as it is them figuring it out, it’s also not all about Jenna in terms of them not working it out properly.”
Still, the show will return to its season 1 spirit. Since the departure of creator Lauren Iungerich, Mike Chessler and Chris Alberghini have infused new life into the dialogue this year: “Everyone’s a little bitchier, which is awesome. [Sadie's] back in the bitchy saddle again,” says Rickards. “I think it makes for a better show. It’s quippy, it’s sarcastic, it’s everything Awkward was but, in my opinion, a little more fun.”
Awkward airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on MTV.