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'The Lying Game,' filmed in Austin, scores for ABC Family network

Gary Dinges
gdinges@statesman.com

Nothing but lies.

Tune to Austin-filmed "The Lying Game" and, as you might expect, there are lies aplenty. Big ones. Little ones. Just try to keep up with the twists and turns.

The addictive, fast-paced ABC Family drama focuses on separated-at-birth twins Emma Becker and Sutton Mercer, both played by Alexandra Chando, who are reunited and, in true "Patty Duke Show" style, repeatedly trade places. Sometimes it works; sometimes not so much. Their goal is to locate their birth mother, but there are plenty of side adventures, as well.

"Alex works her tail off," Tyler Christopher, a "General Hospital" alum who plays police officer Dan Whitehorse, said during a recent interview at Austin Studios, where the show does much of its shooting. "She's a big part of why we've made it this far."

"My schedule is intense," said Chando. "I eat, sleep and breathe my job. I'm extremely grateful to be as busy as I am."

The show, based on a series of books by Sara Shepard, has seen increases in viewership pretty much every week since its August debut. It's particularly popular, according to Nielsen ratings, with teens and young women. Some guys — this one included — like it, too.

For its first season, 20 episodes were ordered.

"After we watch the show Mondays, there's a swarm of activity on Twitter," Chando said. "They'll be honest with you, too."

"I'm just as surprised as the audience members are each week," said Blair Redford, who stars as Ethan Whitehorse, Emma's love interest. "I've been really happy with a lot of the stuff that's come to fruition so far."

A diverse cast bonds

Though Chando gets a great deal of the credit — "There ain't no show without Alex," said fellow cast member Andy Buckley — "The Lying Game" is a true ensemble effort where a number of stars — actors who typically wouldn't get the opportunity to work together — are allowed to shine in complex roles.

"The show caught my eye because it was different," said Christian Alexander, an up-and-comer cast as Thayer Rybak, Emma and Sutton's friend. "It was just so different."

"We've jelled better than I expected," Christopher said. "We're all friends here even though our ages range from the 20s to the 40s."

Each person brings something different to the show, cast members say. Buckley does his part by keeping everyone laughing, according to Helen Slater, his on-air wife and Sutton's adopted mom. She lovingly, of course, describes his sense of humor as "low-grade and sophomoric."

"At some point, if Andy Buckley's in the room, Helen Slater is going to have a laughing jag," she said. "It's not even like he's trying to make you laugh."

On the show, though, you won't see Buckley crack many jokes. Especially lately. (Sorry, guys ... no spoilers.)

"There's a little trouble in paradise," he teased.

Adrian Pasdar, who has Austin roots, credits everyone — writers, set designers and camera crews, among others — for helping "The Lying Game" gain traction with audiences so quickly.

One of the show's best-known actors, Pasdar has appeared in several films, including "Top Gun," "Streets of Gold" and cult classic "Near Dark." On TV, he's had roles in "Judging Amy" and "Heroes."

His wife is Natalie Maines, lead singer for the Dixie Chicks, who has strong Texas ties.

"Part of the reason a hit show is a hit show is because of the people — good, solid, decent people," said Pasdar, TV dad to Thayer and his on-screen sister Madeline, played by Alice Greczyn. "That's what we have."

Loving Austin, of course

Seemingly everyone who sets foot in Austin falls in love in with the city. That's definitely true for "The Lying Game's" cast.

Filming here, they say, has been a treat.

"It's been great," Pasdar said. "Austin is home in a lot of ways. Both my kids were born here, and my wife's side of the family lives here.

"Anytime I get a chance to come here, it sweetens the deal."

Christopher, a foodie, has been impressed with the city's dining scene.

"Austin is famous for good food," he said. "I've sampled the local fare, and I've been impressed with that."

Chando and Redford have been eating their way across the city, too, popping into Peche, Truluck's, Uchi and Moonshine, among other popular spots. And Slater says she has been checking out local yoga studios.

There are some sacrifices, though. Most of the actors are far from Los Angeles, their home. Christopher has to spend a significant amount of time away from his 2-year-old son.

"I'm gone weeks at a time," he said. "He's starting to look around and recognize who his caretakers are, and I'm not there."

Some have even pondered a move here to make things less complicated.

"You're paying double rent, and you don't know what to do with your car, for starters," said Greczyn, whose character is one of Sutton's closest friends. "There's so much on your mind."

So, should they pack their bags for Austin? It depends on whether "The Lying Game" is picked up for a second season. A decision is expected any day now. Will it be good news?

"We sure hope," Buckley said.

gdinges@statesman.com; 912-5987

'The Lying Game'