Trapped in Martha's Vineyard triangle
Gabby LaPointe is caught between two lovers. Neither of them hers.
It's complicated. It usually is with young-love reality shows like the one Gabby's on, The Vineyard (10 p.m. Tuesday on ABC Family).
Gabby, 24, a Chester County native who grew up in Phoenixville, is bestest friends with two other members of the show: Jackie Lyons and Katie Tardif.
And both of those ladies have fallen hard for castmate Luis D'Agostino, the sensitive stud from Marmora, N.J., who looks as if he just stepped off the cover of a romance novel.
At this point, three episodes into the soapy saga of summer romance on the island of Martha's Vineyard (President Obama's favorite and current vacation spot), judging from online reaction to the show, just about every female with a television is deep in love with Luis.
But Gabby has to hear it from both sides, listening and giving counsel to friends who are also looming as rivals.
Her intermediary position became really tricky last week when a) Katie spent the night on the beach with Luis just after b) Jackie planted a big kiss on him that had her hearing bluebirds.
What's the girl in the middle to do? Be as honest and supportive as possible.
"Jackie can exaggerate and be dramatic," Gabby says on the phone from her Boston home. "So when she tells me stories, I take it with a grain of salt. 'OK, Jackie if that's what happened.' But that's why she's so great: She goes after what she wants."
But there are more plot lines on The Vineyard than there are ferries steaming in and out of Vineyard Haven, the island's primary port of entry.
"The love story with Lou pining for Katie goes through three or four more twists," says Dave Broome, The Vineyard's co-creator and executive producer. "We have a major story where somebody leaves the island to go home. And at one point, one of the female cast members breaks the news to me that while she's been meeting guys [in the episodes], lo and behold, she meets a girl and decides to go for it. She's freaking out a bit because off-camera, the family doesn't know she's been having these kind of feelings."
Cue the steamships!
The Vineyard has an unusually lush and cinematic look for the genre, especially considering how quickly it was done. The cast of 11 gathered in late May and completed shooting by the Fourth of July.
"We wanted to be in the season but not the heart of the season," Broome says. "We couldn't be there in August because we wouldn't be able to move past our hotel."
The locals were initially wary of the concept. Who could blame them? A reality show with young adults looking for hookups in a summer resort? Nobody wanted another Snooki on their hands.
But it soon became clear that this was not a Jersey Shore bacchanal.
Many of the cast held jobs at the island landmark, The Black Dog Tavern (or in its clothing store or gift shop). Over the course of the show, the cast wears so much Black Dog regalia that The Vineyard resembles a clothing catalog.
For Gabby, that didn't necessitate much change in her wardrobe.
"My aunt and uncle - technically they're my great aunt and uncle - own the Black Dog," she says. She's spent part of each summer on the island since she was a child. "My aunt and uncle have a beautiful horse farm and big boats," she says. "I lived in luxury. I felt like a princess."
She learned how to ride at age 5 on her aunt's farm, a passion that would follow her through her teens.
"I worked at a tack shop all through high school," she says. "The Horse Connection on Route 100 right in Pottstown. I think it's a yoga studio now."
Gabby attended Owen J. Roberts High School, the alma mater of singer Daryl Hall. "I ran for student council president," she recalls. "I said, 'If I win, I will have Hall & Oates do a reunion concert at the school!' I did win, but I couldn't get Hall & Oates to play. I didn't have any idea how to even try to contact them."
Gabby's mother, Mary Friel, works for the videoconferencing company Glowpoint. Her step-dad, Paul, was the longtime CEO of Swiss Farms, the Broomall-based drive-up chain.
After graduating from Northeastern University, Gabby works for a non-profit in Boston.
It was her aunt who encouraged Gabby to audition for The Vineyard. "She saw a casting notice for it online and passed it on to me," she says. " 'Oh, it's Martha's Vineyard. You should try out for it'."
Even though she's a fan of reality programming, "there's trainwreck reality TV, and then the more toned-down variety," she says. "I watch both," but participating was a whole different bundle of awkward.
"You have these cameras all around you, and you're trying to act as natural as possible," she says. "After a couple of days, it becomes more comfortable, but in the beginning you question everything you do. 'Ahhhh, which way should I be looking?' "
Watching the finished product is no picnic either. "You pick out all the mannerisms," she says. " 'Do I always smile like that? Is that really the way I talk?' Some are cringe-worthy. 'Why am I eating so much?' "
Being the designated sounding board is an important role. "Gabby is one of my all-time favorite people," Jackie says. "She's like the best friend everyone wished they had."
But it plays rather passively on TV. And the squeakiest wheels get most of the camera time.
"Yeah, I wish I was featured a little more," Gabby concedes. "If there's a Season 2, maybe I'll come out of my shell a little more. I'm just glad I didn't fall in love with Lou like everyone else did."