BY OLIVIA ARMSTRONG
Don’t Worry About Legalization, and Other Takeaways for Season 2
At the High Maintenance Season 2 premiere, co-creators Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair, along with executive producer Russell Gregory, offered insight as to how the latest batch of episodes came to fruition. The trio joined moderator (and High Maintenance guest star) Bowen Yang at Brooklyn’s Alamo Drafthouse for a discussion about how their writing process has changed for the better, and why The Guy will survive if marijuana is legalized.
Here, a few highlights of what they shared:
This was the first time the show had a writers’ room.
For the duration of the original web series and Season 1, Blichfeld and Sinclair wrote every episode. “It could get tense,” Blichfeld said with a laugh. Season 2 — which expanded Season 1’s six episodes to a full 10 — brought with it the idea of a writers’ room, which the co-creators welcomed. “Ben and I used to sit across a table from each other being like, ‘You got anything?’” Blichfeld acknowledged, “This was more collaborative.”
Baristas make for great improvisers.
Blichfeld and Sinclair cast a mix of friends, comedians and even a couple of baristas from the cafes they regularly frequent. “We hired a barista from a coffee shop where we were writing, who, unbeknownst to us at the time, has a podcast with one of our other actresses.” In addition to hiring real Brooklynites — and despite having a formal writer’s room this season — the co-creators encourage improvisation. “The script isn’t the finished product,” explained Sinclair. “We like to keep it pretty loose.”
Writing a new episode is like writing a new pilot.
The show’s anthology structure means the writers have to come up with a fresh scenario for each episode — sometimes multiple scenarios, as Sinclair and Blichfeld are reluctant to repeat themselves. “I don’t think Ben and Katja realized they were essentially writing a pilot each time,” explained executive producer Russell Gregory. “It came up in a meeting with HBO and it kind of dawned on us.”
Sinclair knows it’s tough work, but believes their mission remains constant: “Our questions is, ‘Why do I care about this person?’ You care about them because the camera is on them,” he said. “Because of the details we’ve chosen for each character, we don’t have to prove the value of them. They are interesting enough, inherently.”
The customer always comes first.
If pot is legalized in New York State, what’s going to happen to The Guy? The co-creators aren’t concerned. “If we had to remove the weed element entirely, we’d find different connectivity points,” said Blichfeld. After all, it’s not a show about weed, it’s about the people who smoke it.
“Because weed has become so normalized, and a greater variety of people are smoking, it opens the door for us to enter many more lives,” Sinclair offered. “And I hope we get to see more of that.”