Get ready for the next generation of The Hills.
Adam DiVello, the creator and executive producer of that MTV reality show, as well as its predecessor, Laguna Beach, returns to TV on Thursday with Music City, another docuseries, one that he describes as the reality version of the drama Nashville.
“I think if Laguna Beach was kind of like a reality Beverly Hills 90210, and The Hills always felt like kind of a Melrose Place-type show … that [Nashville] was the next show to copy — not copy, but the next show to emulate,” DiVello tells Yahoo Entertainment.
He does that by following five young adults — Kerry, Rachyl, Jessica, Jackson, and Alisa — navigating their relationships and careers in the musical town. Each performs his or her own tunes over the course of the show. Not all the music is country, either: A cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill” is featured early on.
“I’ve always been a big fan of music, and we’ve always used music in our shows to help us tell stories, with the lack of confessionals that we don’t have in our [other] series or this series, so we depend a lot on music,” he says.
Hills fans will notice that DiVello has also brought back another device that worked well in the past: The moment when the characters are talking about something and they give that look, like, “We’ll see.” He calls it a “cliffhanger.”
“Again, because we don’t have those confessionals, with those people talking to a camera to give us those great lines, like button up the seam, so you kinda need to leave it on something, and I think that that was something that we just came across, and it worked,” DiVello says. “And especially when Lauren [Conrad] added the black mascara cry tears coming out of her eye always helped!”
DiVello says casting people who are expressive is key in all his shows. Because even though his crew has to clear locations and schedule time with the cast ahead of time, they’re not making up the events or what the people are like or say. (Everyone has always done his or her own wardrobe, including hair and makeup.)
“Everything that you see on screen is really happening. I mean, it’s really what’s going on in their lives,” DiVello says. “Obviously, we’re going to shoot it, and we’re going to tell it in a very dramatic way, and I think we always explain it to the cast, but we’re like, ‘We’re going to take just your normal, everyday life, and it’s going to look very dramatic when you see it in a few months on TV,’ and that’s what we’re here to do. We want to tell a story.”
The Music City cast, he says, approved of the first two episodes of their show at a screening.
“It was hysterical, because they’re all cracking up laughing,” DiVello says. “They don’t remember half the stuff they said. They’re like, ‘When did I say that? And ‘When did that happen?’ They’ll wince when they see the way something is edited, but they all loved it.”
Of course, DiVello hopes audiences enjoy it as much as The Hills, which continues to loom large in pop culture nearly 12 years after it premiered. Lauren Conrad, Kristin Cavallari, Whitney Port, Audrina Patridge, and Speidi (aka Spencer Pratt and wife, Heidi Montag) are still making headlines for launching a clothing line, welcoming a baby, or starting a podcast. Social media helps.
“I thought they were stars from the moment I met all of them, but you never know how the public is going to react,” DiVello explains. “You never know … the longevity of a career, how long it’s going to last. But I think the benefit they got from being on the show is that we did present them all as likeable characters, and at the end of the day, fans thought of that particular cast of The Hills anyway as like their friends, an extension of their social circle. They kind of just grew up with them all, and I think the cast has done a really good job of keeping that alive with their fans.”
DiVello keeps in touch with most of the cast from The Hills, and Port supported him at the premiere of his new show. Conrad had been set to attend, but she had to cancel, he says.
Meet the cast of Music City on the premiere episode Thursday on CMT at 10 p.m. ET.
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment: