A dark side of celebrity casts its shadow on E!’s The Arrangement.
In E!’s newest original scripted series, Kyle is a charismatic megastar with a dazzling smile and an unsettling fidelity to a spiritual cult.
Megan is a whole-some-looking, struggling actress who thinks she’s reading for a role in his newest film. Turns out she’s secretly being auditioned to be Kyle’s wife. In dizzying speed, they fall head-over-heels, merrily elude the paparazzi on his motorcycle and — possibly — call to mind the courtship of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.
“Were we inspired by rumors? Absolutely,” says Jonathan Abrahams, the creator and an executive producer of The Arrangement, adding that any number of celebrity relationships served as fodder for his script.
“There are comparisons. And it would be silly for me to say, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Abrahams continues. There were reports that Holmes had been handpicked for Cruise by his Church of Scientology advisers, much as Megan (Christine Evangelista) is selected by Kyle’s spiritual guru at the Institute of the Higher Mind.
Abrahams insists, however, that this 10-part series is not the TomKat story.
The drama — which he calls a romantic thriller — exposes the underbelly of A-list Hollywood coupledom while also exploring ways in which people become entwined in self-help movements.
“It’s a big part of the fabric,” he says, referring to the L.A. entertainment industry. “There’s a lot of, like, looking for ways to become more evolved as a human being. And somehow that’s going to lead to more success in your life.”
In the case of Kyle (Josh Henderson), he appears to rely heavily on his inscrutable spiritual advisor, Terence (Michael Vartan), to maintain his aspirational, I’m-living-on-top-of-the-world persona, which doesn’t permit so much as a strand of his gelled hairdo to shift out of place.
“You have a well-known celebrity whose image has been crafted in a certain way for the sake of his career and for the financial well-being of the people around him,” Abrahams says. “And the obvious but compelling question is, how much of that is real and how much of it is manufactured?”
Everyone’s dark secrets, it’s hinted, will be revealed in time. The Arrangement, E!’s second scripted series, debuted in March; viewers can catch up on demand or on E! Now. The first, The Royals, starring Elizabeth Hurley, was recently renewed for a fourth season.
Abrahams, who won an Emmy in 2011 as part of the producing team for AMC’s Mad Men, says that as the season progresses, the story “will become much more complicated.”
And for those who continue to forage for parallels with the Cruise-Holmes relationship? “It won’t be long,” he says, “before they’re on the journey of Kyle and Megan and not looking for comparison points.”
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 3, 2017