For most actors, delving into the world of addiction and recovery comes with the great responsibility of telling the story in an accurate and respectful way and the desire to immerse one's self in a real-world recovery environment for research. But as Jessica Sula learned while prepping for her new Freeform (formerly ABC Family) series Recovery Road, there are some places that are off-limits.
In the new series, Sula stars as Maddie, a teenage party girl struggling to come to terms with her addiction. Initially unconvinced she has a problem, she's faced with an ultimatum: rehab or expulsion. She makes the difficult decision to move into a sober living facility, where she's forced to live with other addicts. Hoping to glean some insight on the rehab process, Sula tells E! News she tried to volunteer at one such facility—with no such luck.
"I actually tried to volunteer at a rehab but I was not allowed. They would never do that," she revealed while previewing the show alongside co-star Sebastian De Souza. "I tried to write a couple of emails, but understandably, you can't work with the people because they're going through rehab and I'm not a professional. So, I went to one Al-Anon meeting, which is a different perspective, it's of the family not the addict. And then, Maddie doesn't think she's an addict, so she wouldn't go into it with any knowledge."
De Souza, who plays Maddie's love interest Wes, went about his research a bit differently because, as he describes it, his character is much further along in his recovery. "Wes is a young man who's been in and out of rehab three times and has to be necessarily really committed to his recovery," he says. "And then Maddie comes in to the sober living facility and throws a big curve ball into that agenda." (Do we see sparks in their future?)
He continues: "I went to a couple of AA and NA meetings and then I actually decided I didn't really feel comfortable being in those meetings because it's such a safe space, which was helpful bit of research in that it gave me this sense that actually these places and these spaces, such as Springtime Meadows, the facility, are like havens for those people who suffer from addiction."
Based on the Blake Nelson novel by the same name, Recovery Road also stars Sharon Leal, Alexis Carra, Kyla Pratt, Daniel Franzese, and David Witts.
For more from the pair, including how they'd describe the show in three perfect emojis, be sure to press play on the video above!
Recovery Road premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on Freeform.