It’s almost here. You can feel it when you walk down the streets. Heart rates are quickening and tensions are rising, and everyone is wondering the same thing. Who will win? What will it mean for America? A lot of terms and slogans have been throw around during this election. Slogans about what America stands for and what it could be. These slogans make you think about what it means to be an American and what it’s like to live in today’s America.
My America is a six-part web series that tells the story of Lucian, a black artist and Uber-driver, and Carmine, a retired white police officer who is visiting his son in Los Angeles.
“Over the course of a week, each man, seemingly so different, experiences a parallel journey confronting personal and political challenges amidst the contrasting value systems of today’s America.”
The series was written by J.S. Davall and Anna Jones and the first episode was released on November 3rd with one episode being released every day leading up to the November 8th election.
You can watch the trailer here:
Anna and Jamel first met at the Yale School of Drama, and moved to Los Angeles from London last year. During their time in London, they worked predominantly in theatre and ran a production company called NYLon Projects and put on original work at Southwark Playhouse, The Rose Lipman Building and the Roundhouse. They made the decision last year to move to LA in order to pursue TV and film. When asked about their motivation for the series, Anna said:
“Jamel has been driving for Uber out here around his work as an actor, and he would come home each night and tell me stories about the people he had met that day, which increasingly struck us as rich material for stories and character portraits. I don’t drive so when I’m not on public transport or in the car with Jamel, I will also Uber and kept entering into interesting conversations with my drivers.
There’s something very interesting about that sense of being in someone’s car that almost feels like their living room, in a stark contrast to a cab – that can lead to more intimate personal conversations. We kept asking writer friends if they would write something for us to act and direct, but they didn’t have the time around their own projects, and when our brilliant writer friend Miki Johnson (a playwright and writer on Ray Donovan) told us that once you write what you know, it becomes easy, we decided to just give it a go ourselves!”
Once deciding to create a web series, the couple started to think about focusing the web series around politics, and using the election as a framing device for the stories that were told.
The series includes many different characters that you do not usually see on television and brings together a myriad of opinions and perspectives in a very raw and unfiltered manner.
“It’s about stereotypes and breaking them; and about the common anxieties and worries, both personal and societal, that ultimately tie us together.”
“In our wildest dreams, it would reach both a white retired working class voter in Ohio and a young transatlantic tech worker in London’s Silicon Roundabout. The beauty of putting it on YouTube is that it can have that reach – it’s extremely accessible and democratic as a medium. We want audiences to walk away with the sense that we all have more in common with one another than we might immediately assume; and that exposure to people who are different to ourselves can promote a wider tolerance and humanity that leads to increased empathy and a different kind of political awareness.
We’d love for people to see it as something they can share with a family member or friend with whom they might not be able to talk, and as a result, start a new kind of conversation based on mutual respect.”
As previously mentioned, the series has released one episode every day in the five days leading up to the election. This was a very conscious and purposeful decision made by the writers. When asked about the timing of the web series release, Anna explained:
“On my 35th birthday, June 20th, we were coming back from the San Gabriel mountains and a massive forest fire broke out, scorching the single road through the canyon fifteen minutes after we’d left it. 3 days later, the referendum in the UK on Brexit happened and suddenly, Britain was leaving the European Union. It was totally shocking and frightening for us both – that sense of the world moving backwards rather than forwards.
Then day after day across the summer, another account of a horrendous death of an African-American man or boy, occurred, and we both felt out of control and lacking all sense of agency. That coupled with working day jobs that for both of us were about making money and not art spurred us into action. We started to write, and found it flowed surprisingly quickly. All the news and current events surrounding us began to find their way into different characters and voices battling over the election and their personal belief systems; and we kept digging into the motivations and reasons behind each character’s different set of values, which was a very satisfying and somehow cathartic process.
We then decided that it would be interesting to set the series in the week prior to the election; and thus capitalize on the exciting thing about creating material for the web without any kind of gatekeeper is that you can release it exactly when you want to.”
Releasing the series within five days of the elections also has its challenges. Right now everyone is incredibly focused on the election itself and there isn’t much time left for anything else. Nonetheless, each episode is about 6-7 minutes, which makes it really easy to find time for it during our busy schedules.
We’ve been reading about the election for months. For some of us, we’ve been living the election for months. It has dominated all our interactions, our Facebook timelines, and our dinner table conversations. It has made and broken friendships. It has brought to life a new dialogue that previously never really existed.
My America is a series that opens the dialogue further, in a strong, critical and personal way. Watching the series so far, I found myself laughing at some scenes while staring in disbelief at others. But it showed me a side of the election, a personal side of the election, that I had not had the opportunity to see on the news. All the episodes can be found on the site – and trust me, it’s definitely worth your time!