In “The Arrangement,” E! Network’s latest scripted, soapy escapade, aspiring actress/frustrated waitress Megan Morrison (Christine Evangelista) must decide what she’s willing to do in exchange for insta-fame after shifty A-lister and relative stranger Kyle West (Josh Henderson) offers her a contract marriage. Unlike her character’s unconventional shortcut to stardom, Evangelista’s path was more of a good, old-fashioned schlep: As an ambitious drama kid growing up in Staten Island, she would take the bus or ferry to theater gigs in the city.
“I would commute to Manhattan every day after school to do off-Broadway plays and [community theater],” she says of her decidedly humble beginnings, especially notable given Evangelista’s own high profile connects (model Linda is a second cousin). “I was 14 and taking the [Staten Island] ferry late at night. If you missed it, you’d be stuck at the terminal with a bunch of undesirables, so I would sprint to the door as it was shutting, throw my bag in and slide underneath, Mission Impossible style.”
Evangelista’s Tom Cruise-like moves aside, “The Arrangement,” contrary to wide speculation, is not an adaptation of the TomKat saga (according to cast and crew). After all, Katie Holmes was hardly a struggling actress when she and Cruise got hitched at an Italian castle in 2004. And though the series shot on location in Italy, it was, as Evangelista revealed, for a plot line at the Venice Film Festival. “It was magical to film in the canal, riding boats through the city. It was incredible,” she says.
And how did Venetian cuisine compare to that of her native isle? “The Italian-American food scene is everything on Staten Island—even Asian restaurants serve it—but nothing compares to authentic Italian food,” she admits.
What it may lack in authenticity, Staten Island makes up for in kitschy charm (see: Goodfella’s Pizzeria) and pristine nature preserves (Greenbelt Park). Herein, Evangelista’s complete guide to its particular breed of “island” life.
Cup of Joe: I’d get my morning coffee at Colonnade Diner before getting on the express bus to Manhattan.
Power Lunch: Goodfellas has awesome pizza. Awesome. I worked there for a bit, mainly for the employee discount. I think I still have my apron!
Cocktail Hour: Angelina’s is a great place to get a drink. Good music, beautiful views of the water, and a great vibe.
Retail Therapy: The eco-friendly Secret Garden salon and spa sells great products like Aveda and Davines. Yasmin Gaffar is a must-see for hair color!
Field Trip: The Snug Harbor botanical gardens are beautiful. As a teen I was involved with the theater program there and as a child, my mother and I spent countless days at their museum. It’s given me a lot of great memories.
Don’t Miss: During winter nights, my family and I head to Historic Richmond Town, a park and museum dating back to 1896.
Hidden Gem: Greenbelt Park is a nature preserve that no one really goes to and I wish they would. The trails are great. My brother and I would take our dogs there on runs.