When I interviewed Kerr Smith about the debut of his new CW show Life Unexpected, he told me that he believed his character of Ryan Thomas-- radio disc jockey, boyfriend-turned-fiance of the reluctant Cate Cassidy, and overnight stepfather to be-- was who Cate quote-unquote "should" be with. In his eyes, Ryan is the sensible choice because he has a good job, a stable personal life, and is mature enough in mindset to take on the patriarchal role in the family into which they have been thrust.
Perhaps not surprisingly, though, his co-star Kristoffer Polaha (Nathaniel "Baze" Bazile) did not agree. However, Polaha admitted that there were cases for both men, and that inevitable push-and-pull on the female lead was going to make not only for a tough choice for her but also for the fans.
"In one episode you'll be like "Go Ryan!" And in the next, you'll say "Go Baze!"" Polaha cheered on both characters with the enthusiasm of someone watching the show at home with a big bowl of popcorn.
But as much as I like and respect Polaha's way of thinking about his craft, this show, and these characters, I am going to have to respectfully disagree with this specific point. For me, there is only one choice for Cate, and I mean no disrespect to Smith, but I am Team Baze, all the way!
For the record, I have come to this conclusion by setting aside everything and anything personal about the actors and their previous work and strictly analyzing their characters (who they are as men but also how they interact with and relate to both Cate and Lux) in what I have seen from the show so far. I am willing to "give it" to Smith that Ryan is the sensible choice. Smart and sensible are exactly how I would describe Ryan. He is a sweet guy who means well and truly does seem to love Cate and therefore be willing to put up with her inability to truly open up and let someone else in. On paper, he has all of the right things. In person, he says and does most of the right things. He is comfortable, easy, and conservative. But there's no spark.
Ryan and Cate have a great rapport. They banter with each other like an old married couple and can make each other smile and laugh. But for as long as they've known, worked, and dated each other, Cate has kept secrets from him-- secrets other (though probably not bigger) than the fact that she got pregnant in high school and gave the baby up for adoption. Therefore it can be deduced that she hasn't trusted him enough (through no apparent fault of his), or perhaps even that she hasn't loved him enough.
Ryan is safe, but no risk, no reward, right??
Baze on the other hand is a bit of a wild card. He's a free spirit. If he owned an easel and some oils or a piano or guitar he'd be called an artist because he certainly embodies that "live in the moment" attitude. He is smart, too, but he has not made the "expected" choices for his life. But the thing is, he has all of the right tools and chances to be a huge success, he just hasn't had the fire under his ass to do so. Yet.
Baze is passionate, and when he sets out to do something he truly wants to do (like being Lux' dad sixteen years later), he jumps in with both feet, clothes on, all emotion, and not caring if he lands in water or murky sludge. He is a good and sweet guy, too; he just does things his own way. And he has enough of an edge to keep things interesting.
Cate is a character who embodies the traits of both of these guys. On the one hand, she has a part of herself that just wants to get lost in the moment, but on the other, dueling with that first hand, she has the logical part of her brain telling her to straighten up, stay on track, and keep giving off an image of someone who has it all together. With Ryan she can keep that image going...but with Ryan she is also terribly afraid of cracking the image and allowing a little more of her "true" self to slip out.
Meanwhile, with Baze, she can throw away some of her inhibitions and indulge herself in more free fun. When she's with Baze, she often reverts to the ways of a sixteen year-old kid-- the girl who first knew and loved him-- and she never seems to self-consciously reel herself back in. She doesn't get caught up in her own head, and she seems lighter somehow, more peaceful, freer. Even when she and Baze butt heads as passionate couples tend to do, they fight over innane nonsense, and a part of her seems to be smirking at him and enjoying the opportunity to be a real person instead of having to feign perfection.
There is nothing wrong with Ryan-- or guys in general like Ryan-- and he deserves to find happiness with a (new) female character who can love him for who he is and who he, in turn, will love equally. And that is not to say that Ryan should be written out of the show by any means! The character adds a dimension to the story-- and the family-- that uniquely enhances the stakes. However, if it were up to me, he'd slowly but surely move into a more platonic role and be there as everyone's friend and fake "Uncle" Ryan rather than the man Cate is going to marry and for whom Cate could potentially ask Baze to sign away his rights so Lux can be legally adopted by her two new parents.
In fact, I am thinking of getting "TEAM BAZE" tee-shirts made up. If I do, y'all will be the first to know. And the proceeds will go to charity.