TEWKSBURY — Justin Darrigo is an active Tewksbury teen; he plays football, lacrosse, participates in student government, and is part of the TMHS theater company.
But last summer, after a lucky phone call on a rainy birthday, Darrigo was informed that he was selected to participate in an adventure that most only dream of. Darrigo was chosen as one of 18 teens to be a part of a new HBO Max series called Karma.
Darrigo credits his Italian grandmother; “she always says ‘rain brings good luck,’” he said.
“I was beyond ecstatic,” added Darrigo, who traveled to California for three weeks last summer for the filming. The adventure competition series, described as part Survivor/part Big Brother, comes from co-creators J.D. Roth and Scooter Braun. The show challenges teens ages 12-15 with a series of obstacles, physical challenges, and strategic alliance building in an off-grid setting in the Sierra National Forest.
The show’s developers sought to create a program based on the belief systems around karma; the force around a person’s actions that are believed to cause good or bad things to happen to them. Hosted by YouTube personality Michelle Khare, the non-scripted show featured teens from all across the country.
Darrigo enjoyed the experience and made many new friends.
“I was able to be in a place that is so different than Tewksbury,” he said, describing the night sky and seeing shooting stars.
Darrigo said that during the taping the participants were competitive, but off camera the teens formed bonds. Darrigo had trained in preparation for the obstacles and challenges.
“I knew there would be some physical aspects so I wanted to be prepared,” but there were also hurt feelings as the teens unraveled how their social actions would impact their success in the game.
“When the cameras were off, the good news is we were all friends,” Darrigo said.
The producers’ intent was to show that focus, giving, humility, growth, connection, change and patience are the path to becoming the “Karma Champion,” according to information provided by the show’s publicist.
Darrigo was thrilled to be chosen for the show, another step toward his goal of being a professional actor. Darrigo, age 14, is already a veteran of several stage productions at TMHS and local community theater. He credits his family and drama teachers with fostering his love of the stage.
“I want to thank Ms. Romanski from the Ryan School, Mr. D from the Wynn, and Ms. Ware and Ms. Scarpa from TMHS for giving me opportunities and guidance. I learned something from each of them and I am grateful,” Darrigo said.
“Karma” premieres Thursday, June 18 on HBO Max. Karma is executive produced by JD Roth, Adam Greener and Sara Hansemenn for GoodStory Entertainment with Fred Pichel serving as showrunner and executive producer.