Originally published at Ronebreak!
There’s a long history of “urban” and black cartoons in the U.S., most of which I don’t know, so I won’t get into it. Needless to say, the lo-fi web series Orlando’s Joint, about a young man who inherits a second-rate coffee shop, is an interesting contribution to a genre dominated now by Aaron McGruder’s Boondocks. Orlando’s Joint — as in a shop, but also, you know, that other kind of joint — is a comedic series that explores running a local urban business, growing up and being not-so-rich in contemporary Los Angeles. Oh yes, it’s also pretty funny.
Orlando Reed, our protagonist, is a “stoner” (something of a slacker), but he inherits an coffee shop — that isn’t Starbucks — and clearly intends to reinvigorate it with the help of two friends a few kooky characters. The series creator Terence Anthony said in the interview below he wanted to buck stereotypes and be a bit provocative.
I noticed some interesting links between this series and other independents I’ve encountered. One is an interesting coincidence: both Anthony and Chris Wiltz (from yesterday’s post about Semi-Dead) are alums of Bill Cosby’s film fellowships! Another has become predictable: in order to produce a completely no-budget series you need good friends and, most importantly, passion (passion breeds passion). No surprise there. The last thing I hear often is a general disenchantment with the TV industry; that’s from nearly every producer, no matter how successful they were in the biz.
I spoke with Anthony about the show, being independent and what it means to make a black web series today.
TELEVISUAL: From where did the idea for the show and its characters arise? What are its inspirations?
Terence Anthony: I wanted to do an edgy animated show — something politically incorrect like South Park was — that spoke to the hip-hop generation. Since I really dig wasting time in coffee shops — 5th Street Dicks and Lucy Florence were two of my favorite South L.A. spots — I knew a coffee shop in the ‘hood would be a great setting.
What led you to the web?
TA: The web is a great way to get your shit out there for the world to see. I was tired of killing myself to write a script or a pitch and feeling lucky if one or two execs would look at it — and then nothing would happen. With web content blowing up like it has, my series has been seen by people all over the world, and I haven’t had to deal with any kind of censorship, which is great given the content of Orlando’s Joint.
How did you put together a crew for the show (actors, editors, etc.)?
TA: Straight up nepotism! Most of the actors I’d worked with on theatrical projects so I knew they were funny and would be able to really bring the crazy characters to life. I’ve known Boima Tucker, who composed the theme song for years — he’s a great DJ and musician. Everyone else has been recommended through friends. When you’re asking people to work on a project for little or no $$ you need to find people who share your passion that you can trust.
I also love the extra content on the website, the interviews with the characters. What’s the rationale behind this?
TA: Mainly, I’ve got a lot of ideas and have to cut a lot of stuff to keep the episodes short enough for the web. So I use the orlandosjoint.com site to develop things that don’t make it into the episodes, and to give fans a little something else to do between shows.
What are your loftiest dreams for the show? Are you hoping to get picked up by a larger entity (TV, bigger websites, etc.)? Is this an industry calling card (to get other gigs)? Or something else all together?
TA: I would love to see it picked up by a larger entity because I’ve got plenty more stories for Orlando and his crew. I love the freedom of the web, but I could also see the show on cable. But this is a complete grassroots production — I animate it on my home laptop — so even if it stays underground I still plan to put out more episodes.
Does Orlando’s Joint contribute to a broader conversation about race and class in America today? If so, what does it say?
TA: I’ll leave that for smart dudes like you to figure out. I will say that while I dig pushing the envelope and playing with stereotypes and expectations with this series, the heart of Orlando’s Joint is about a young black man trying to run a business in his community. And they’re all crazy.
What’s your professional background?
TA: I was a Fellow at the Guy Hanks and Marvin Miller Screenwriting Program at USC (funded by Bill and Camille Cosby). I am also a playwright, my latest play is currently running at Moving Arts in Los Angeles (www.movingarts.org).