Witty and challenging, ‘Seeds’ is a comedy by four black women

April 13, 2018 GMT

“Seeds” is a slice-of-life comedy about four, young black women — Jade (Deja Harrell), Beth (Dionne Addai), Danielle (Adia Alli) and Mya (Kyra Jones).

It follows their adventures and friendship as they deal with sexism, racism and other issues black women face every day. Described as a mix between “Insecure,” “Chewing Gum” and “Broad City,” this series is as witty as it is serious. “Seeds” premiered on weareo.tv with five episodes on March 14.

The Daily Journal recently caught up with Caitlyn Johnson, 21, of Chicago, (series creator, director and executive producer), and Harrell, 22, of Chicago (series creator, writer and actress), about how the idea for “Seeds” came about, filming in Flossmoor in just three days and the limitations and relevance of the series. Answers have been edited for clarity.

What are some of the social topics you’re taking on with this show?

Johnson: “Seeds” discuss topics within black feminism and black womanist theory. The web series critiques taxes on feminine products, fetishizing of black women and the very daily nuances that comes from being within the intersection of being black and being a woman.

What are the limitations to taking on some of these issues (race, gender, work, etc.) in a short comedy show?

Johnson: One of the limitations that we faced in making a web series that is not only contemporary but critical of the world in which it exists, is trying to balance the real gravity of these issues in scenarios [of] situational comedy. We do not want it to seem like we are glossing over issues, nor do we want “Seeds” to be a drama. I think with the writing and acting being so excellent for this first season, we ended up with a product that bypasses many of those limitations.

What’s the response been like so far to the series?

Harrell: People of all kinds of backgrounds have told us how much they related to the show and felt these characters on a personal level. It’s really been amazing, more that I could have imagined.

Johnson: The response for the first season has been overwhelmingly positive. There have been so many people have reached out to us through the “Seeds” Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to express how much they’ve enjoyed the show and how powerful it is that we chose to feature a diverse group of black women to tell this story.

As the producer, creator and director, what are some of the key elements that go into developing a series?

Johnson: For my role as director, I did a lot of research focused on television and film that featured black women and friendships. That meant dedicating hours to watch classic shows like “A Different World,” “Living Single” and “Girlfriends” that offer a look into the dynamic between black women. My research also went into how “Seeds” would be stylized and focusing a lot of my attention on making sure the visuals were just as compelling as the writing done by Deja.

As series writer, what are the first steps you take when creating a plot?

Harrell: I try to take a lot of time and just think. Marinate on who my characters are, where I want to take them, their relationships and I slowly begin building. I start writing little things here and there about the story or my characters and then, after a while, I put all the pieces together. Typically, I find that my story takes me in a completely different direction than I initially thought it would.

How did the idea for this series come about?

Johnson: I met Deja in October of 2016. She pitched me her idea about a web series that followed college-aged black girls like her and myself that same day. She sent over the treatment, and I was immediately attracted to the project. I told Deja I would help her with whatever she needed to make this series real. At first, it was just going to be a guerrilla project, sort of like how I have been doing many of my film projects throughout my secondary education. But soon, Deja, myself, as well as our partners, Tyler Myles and Jeremy Marder, realized that this project was very special. By January 2017, we had pitched “Seeds” to our production studio, Shatterglass, and they hopped on board.

Why was it decided to film in Flossmoor?

Johnson: Though we did use Chicago as the setting for the series, and we feature a Chicago bar in one of the episodes, the show is shot primarily in Flossmoor. It ended up being much more accessible than shooting in a very busy city during one of the craziest seasons in Chicago. Furthermore, Deja’s family is located out there, so their home served as a great base camp for our shooting days.

What are the limitations that come with creating a web series?

Johnson: Time becomes a great limitation when creating a web series. Though much of its preproduction and production are conducted like a small independent film, there is a timeliness and urgency to get these web series out. There’s not a year turnover like there is for a film. Much of the content is current, so you also should get the series out before the writing seems old and dated by the time of its release.

How does the audience differ in a web show than traditional TV: Are there more restrictions? Is there more freedom?

Johnson: From our experience with finding a platform and an audience for “Seeds,” there has been a lot of freedom. With our forthcoming release, we will still have the freedom to do what we want with the first season of “Seeds.” Whether it’s submitting it to festivals or doing our own private screenings, “Seeds” will remain first and foremost our own. Which is rare, in general, for licensing but especially rare for students and their first big project.

Why will people finds this show relevant?

Harrell: “Seeds” touches on things we’re going through right now. Socially, politically, in pop culture. Also, we’re seeing this huge shift in TV/film right now. “Black Panther” is the highest-grossing superhero film of all time. Shows like “Insecure,” “Atlanta,” “SMILF,” “Chewing Gum” have and are continuing to shift the narrative. People are craving content they can relate to and present a different perspective. We’ve seen the same kind of people and same kind of stories on TV for so long, and people don’t want that anymore.

Any chance for a second season?

Harrell: Absolutely. I’ve been crafting the second season for some time now. I’m excited to expand the show and allow the audience to truly get to know the characters.