Those startng-out years -- no money, no work, no problem (sort of)

After a shaky start, Freeform (ABC Family) has had some surprisingly good shows. Despite occasional flaws, "The Bold Type," "Good Trouble" and more are first-rate. They share a common theme -- new places, new jobs, new friends and/or loves. And that's something their actors understand. Here's te story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

One chunk of life keeps fueling TV shows.

That's when kids
nudge into their grown-up years. It's key to many shows ...
especially Freeform ones.

“When you're 18,
you don't realize the challenges you're facing,” Maia Mitchell
said. “You look back at it in hindsight and say, 'That was tough!'”

These days, her life
seems breezy. She's starring in her second series on the Freeform
network (“Good Trouble,” spinning off “The Fosters”) and has
done two “Teen Beach” musicals for Disney.

But things sputtered
for a while. “I ran out of money and moved back home” to
Australia, she said. “That wasn't so good, because my friends had
left for college.”

Her “Good Trouble”
colleagues know the no-money feeling. “If someone ever gave me a
gift card, I would sell it for the minimum value,” Sherry Cola (who
plays Alice) said.

And Josh Pence, who
plays Dennis? “I lived in an RV in the streets” of Venice,
Calif., he said.

He was a Lyft driver
until filming started. Others on the show also flailed at day jobs.

Emma Hunton (who
plays Davia) was a nanny; so was Zuri Adele (Malika), among other
things. “I enjoyed teaching yoga a lot,” Adele said.

Cola was on a
“street team” for a radio station; Katie Stevens – who stars in
Freeform's “The Bold Type” -- had a sweeter job: “I worked at
Sprinkle Cupcakes in the Grove (shopping center).”

Stevens was 16 when
she auditioned for “America Idol,” 17 when she tied for eighth
and went on the “Idol” tour. She moved cross-country (from
Connecticut to Los Angeles) ... “and then nothing for four years,”
before starring in “Faking It” and “The Bold Type.”

Hunton had a similar
gap: At 16, she moved cross-country to take over the role of Ilse in
Broadway's Tony-winning “Spring Awakening.” It was a
life-changing time, in an apartment with a chaperone.

“I didn't know how
to do my laundry,” she said. “I had to learn how to make

It was fun. (“In
California, I didn't have a driver's license, but with New York's
subways, you can go anywhere.”) But the show ended a year later and
little else followed. Hunton lived communally in a converted
warehouse, “with some trailers that we rented as Airbnb.” Then,
ironically, she got the job on “Good Trouble” ... where
characters live communally in a converted movie theater.

Some people were
prepared for lives in transit. Adele alternated between parents on
each coast ... went to Spelman University in Atlanta ... and then to
UCLA for grad school. Pence went from Santa Monica to the Ivy League
(Dartmouth) to backpacking in Germany, then to the vagaries of

He had a big role in
“The Social Network” ... sort of. Pence, who's 6-foot-4, played
one of the towering Winklevoss twins ... aware that Armie Hammer
would later be digitally edited into both roles.

Kevin Costner –
who once was the “Big Chill” corpse -- sympathized. “He said,
'Don't be in a rush.'”

They met when Pence
played the hot-shot quarterback in Costner's “Draft Day.” Four
years later, the unrushed Pence has a regular TV role; others have
also found steadier lives:

-- Hunton, who
wasn't great at macaroni-and-cheese, now has a house and a husband
who's a chef. “At least, I'll never go hungry,” she said.

-- Stevens films
“The Bold Type” in Montreal, but spends much of her time in
Nashville with her fiance, Paul Digiovanni. (He wrote “How Not To,”
which reached No. 1 in country airplay for Dan + Shay.) The former
teen singer is now surrounded by other people's music. “I love
being around it.”

-- After retreating
to Australia, Mitchell was asked to send a “Fosters” audition
tape. Instead, she borrowed money, flew back to California, blew the
first audition (“it was a trainwreck”) and landed the second. For
a time, she shared an apartment with another Aussie actress.

“We called it an
Australian embassy,” she said, because fellow counrymen crashed
there. “I would try to sneak out to work without waking anyone up.”

It was hectic and
fun and sort of like an episode of many Freeform shows.

-- Freeform,
formerly ABC Family; several shows eye early-adult lives of new
places, jobs and friends

-- “Good Trouble,”
8 p.m. Tuesdays; “Grown-ish,” 8 p.m. Wednesdays; coming are a
“Pretty Little Liars” spin-off, a “Party of Five” reboot and
the return of “The Bold Type”

-- Freeform also
does youth-oriented supernatural shows -- “Siren” is 8 p.m.
Thursdays; returning later are “Shadowhunters” and “Cloak and