The 2017 SXSW Festival premiered the new Stage 13 web series “I Love Bekka & Lucy” in their Episodic category — the first time they’ve ever included a digital series — alongside shows like “American Gods” (Starz), “Dear White People” (Netflix) and Showtime’s “I’m Dying Up Here.”
Rachael Holder created “I Love Bekka & Lucy,” which you may remember from its first web version starring Gina Rodriguez and Kristolyn Lloyd. In the Stage 13 production, “Bekka & Lucy” stars Jessica Parker Kennedy as Bekka and Tanisha Long as Lucy — two best friends living together in Eagle Rock, CA. Bekka is described as “a bit of a horndog” and Lucy “a tad repressed,” but of course they both have a lot to figure out about life.
Holder, a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, spoke with Screener about the important themes of representation, sexuality and growing up in the show.
Were you working on ‘I Love Bekka & Lucy’ this whole time since the web series?
No, I had a break where I was working on some other projects. When the show came out, I had a meeting at Warner Brothers and they were developing Stage 13 which is the digital platform that the show’s going to be on. I at that time had written a half hour spec just to have around with me for anyone who was interested in these characters, in the story, in the show. At WB, I started talking about my half hour spec that I had written and they were talking to me about this new venture that they were doing. A week later, I have a deal to write and create the show based on my web series.
How did Bekka & Lucy change from the first web series?
It was basically just a sliver of the characters. I created that web series just to have a walking resume. In this iteration, I was really able to carve out their personalities and what they do for a living and their lives and their opinions and really add texture to their best friendship.
Bekka says her dream job would be a professional masturbator. How did you come up with that?
Isn’t that the dream job? Bekka is sex positive. I knew early on in the creative process that Lucy was going to be sort of a backseat driver in her sex life. So it was really important to me that Bekka was not and was the driver. Bekka’s point of view with sex is she’s confused why the world isn’t talking about it more in every day conversations. It’s like if everyone saw Moonlight and loved it and then came out of the theater and no one talked about how great it was. I think that’s how she approaches sex. I think that line just came out of that for me.
On Stage 13, do you recommend people watch it in parts or as one unit like SXSW played?
I recommend watching it as one whole unit. We’re in that binge culture now. I think this is the kind of show that will probably be binge watched. Each episode stands alone. If you want to watch one by itself, you will feel like you’ve watched the beginning, middle and end of an episodic story.
Do some relationships, like the neighbor, play better in one 90 minute chunk than one at a time?
Yes, I think so. I think that what we’re doing with the neighbor, I think it could also stand alone. How the story progresses is interesting too. I think people will want to watch what happens next, personally.
Does Bekka and Lucy fit into this genre of uncomfortable humor?
Yes. I love to make my characters feel uncomfortable because I feel like that’s the experience of what it is to be an adult. I think as kids, in those moments of discomfort, children tend to say out loud what they’re feeling so that they can feel better or clarify. Adults tend to try to escape. So my favorite thing as a writer is to put people in the deepest end of that pool and watch them try to get out.
Do you have plans for a second season or other episodes of Bekka & Lucy?
Yes, I do. I have a second season for sure. I don’t want to give too much away but I will say his. I wrote Bekka & Lucy in my 20s initially. I’m now 33 and I think that what’s fun about your early 30s especially is that you start to make more permanent choices. Your 20s are precarious. all of your choices are temporary and you’re still figuring out who you are and what your life’s going to look like. Your early 30s, you’re making more permanent choices. I think that those are gonna be fun and funny and interesting to watch Bekka and Lucy make and do.
Does this generation have some unique challenges in their 20s that lend themselves to comedy?
Yeah, older millennials, people my age, graduated in a recession. I think lots of television and drama was created about how we were sort of flailing and trying to find our way and move back in with our parents. I wanted to do something different with these girls in their late 20s just because I wanted to create a different kind of story about black women specifically. These two girls had their masters degrees. They’ve gone to college. They have jobs. That was important to me.
I hope this is inspiring and makes especially brown and black girls really happy to see black female characters with great jobs and are happy and free and comfortable. When I was younger, I never saw characters that looked like me and thought like me and talked like me. I would’ve been thrilled and would’ve really wanted to see Bekka and Lucy growing up.
Is representation getting better for women and people of color to have shows like yours, Insecure and others?
Yes, Fred, yes! I’m so glad that you asked that question. Yes, Fred. I’m so excited to represent a show about black girls and I’m so excited about the progress that we’ve made. Diversity is a hot topic right now in our industry and I know that it’s like the thing to talk about. I am just so glad that it’s being talked about, that people are actually putting money where their mouths are. That people like Issa Rae and shows like Atlanta that I love, it’s just a really exciting time. As a black female writer and director, I am so thrilled to be a part of it.
But besides representation, it’s also important that all these shows are good too, right?
Absolutely. I think in arts in general, it’s great for it to resonate with an audience for sure but I don’t think that lack of creative ability or good content was ever a problem. I think that it was about representation and the fact that we’re minorities and there aren’t a lot of us. I think a lo of us don’t have access to graduate school and NYU and connections that I had as a privileged who went to private school all my life. I think I’m an anomaly in that way and I think there are a lot of black and brown writers and director don’ have access so we don’t see the good work and we don’t find them. Stage 13 is doing an incredible and brave thing where they’re not promoting or creating any content that isn’t diverse work. I think that is just the boldest thing because everyone talks about it and everyone says how important it is, but they’re doing it across their platform and I am so proud to be a part of that.
Did you always cast Jessica as Bekka and Tanisha as Lucy, or did you ever try the other way?
Jessica actually auditioned for Lucy. She was the first actress that I met on this project. I was in New York and she was on an offer only list actually and she took herself off and asked her reps to et us in contact. I spoke with her and she was just a true artist and cared about character and story and we talked. I fell in love with her but she auditioned for Lucy. When it came to cast Bekka, it was a no brainer that it was Jessica. She didn’t even have to come in. I heard her as Lucy but I knew she was Bekka.
Are you a recent graduate of Tisch?
No, I graduated in 2009.
Back then was their communications program even thinking about web series?
No, not at all. I think when I made my first web series I didn’t think it was something that was going to provide money at all. I entered as a playwright and so I was doing playwriting mostly. It wasn’t until my second year, the Head of the TV department had seen a play of mine. He pulled me aside and was like, “Do you want to make money in your career?” I was like, “Yeah.” “Well, you should get into TV.” So I took his class and I was hooked.
What are some useful things you learned at Tisch?
It was really helpful starting in playwriting. In the playwriting program, we started with 10 minute plays and that really helped me with the series because I wanted it to be episodic. I didn’t want it to feel like a movie cut up into parts. So for a television writer, that was just a really fun exercise and a different way to use my brain. At Tisch, that’s where I learned how to write a beginning, middle and end in such a small timeframe. That was a valuable lesson for sure.
Look for “I Love Bekka & Lucy” on Stage13.com after SXSW. Edited for length and clarity.