Good Life

Penn State student lands series about life of a medium

Penn State student Monica Ten-Kate stars in the ABC Family show “Monica the Medium.”
Penn State student Monica Ten-Kate stars in the ABC Family show “Monica the Medium.” Photo provided

Having your own television show can make doing the simple things hard.

It was Monica Ten-Kate’s first day of production on a new reality series that she was starring in for ABC Family, a 10-episode order that will chronicle her life with family and friends and as a college student at Penn State contending with a very specific set of … extracurricular activities.

Ten-Kate was already anxious. The prospect of exposing her life to a camera — and subsequently anybody out there with an armchair and a television remote — was daunting.

She found herself faced with the contradictory task of having to “act” natural, and having had no formal theatrical training, Ten-Kate couldn’t even rely on the method approach.

Fortunately the first scene she was shooting promised to be fairly low-key.

Ten-Kate was getting her nails done at a salon in State College, a perfectly run-of-the-mill errand that just happened to be captured simultaneously by several different camera operators. And, boy, were they were about to get their money’s worth.

In fact, now seems as good a time as any to revisit Ten-Kate’s extracurricular activities.

After her freshman year at Penn State, Ten-Kate began moonlighting as a medium.

Yes, that kind of medium.

Ten-Kate is called upon by people looking to make contact with or retrieve messages from the deceased. Usually her clientele schedule appointments, but every once in a while … Well, suffice it to say that every business has its fair share of walk-ins.

Back in the salon, the timing was less than ideal. Ten-Kate said that she was still in the middle of getting her nails done when she began channeling a message for the technician.

The feat was complicated by the 20 or so crew members in the room, some of who apparently also had incoming calls from the great beyond on hold and had to be asked to take a couple of steps back.

Welcome to show business.

The mundane and the otherworldly will be deeply entwined on “Monica the Medium,” which will premiere on ABC Family at 9 p.m. on Aug. 17.

Each episode will follow Ten-Kate as she attempts to navigate life as a college student with an unusual after school job. Penn State wouldn’t grant the production permission to film on campus, but that doesn’t mean that textbooks won’t make plenty of cameos.

“I’ll have readings and then I’ll have to pull an all-nighter at the library to pass my classes,” Ten-Kate said.

One of her ambitions for the series is to show people that despite her colorful occupation she’s just a regular 21-year-old… Who happens to channel the deceased… And stars in a television show.

That last part wasn’t always a given. Ten-Kate said that she wasn’t looking to take her gig on the air, but when she was approached by three production companies over the course of a week, it seemed like a sign.

“As a producer, I’m always looking for shows that I know will have a positive impact on people’s lives, and with Monica I was convinced we could make a compelling show that would leave people feeling better about life on a weekly basis,” said Malachi McGlone, who is the executive producer of the show.

After taking 13 different meetings in Los Angeles, Ten-Kate chose to work with Lionsgate TV.

“It just landed in my lap, basically,” Ten-Kate said.

Still, she had her doubts.

Skeptics are an occupational hazard and something that Ten-Kate has dealt with before — but with the television show she would be opening herself up to attacks on a national scale.

“With all that good is still going to come all the bad and the haters,” Ten-Kate said.

She described herself as having been an extremely intuitive and empathetic teenager, traits that steadily transitioned into the full-fledged medium work she does now.

Ten-Kate hopes that “Monica the Medium” can help other young people who have had life experiences similar to her own.

“I think that there’s a lot that the show can do to change the perception of this,” she said.

Her own perception has shifted significantly over the course of the show’s three months of production. Ten-Kate said that she no longer notices the cameras and has become extremely comfortable around the crew.

The first season of the series will wrap at the end of June and Ten-Kate said that she is eagerly awaiting the premiere.

“I’m definitely ready for that next phase. That’s when it starts to get really exciting and fun,” she said.