We are always lucky to bring to you the best in entertainment and today is no exception. Starting THIS Monday @ 7PM EST JOYLAND a new series on YouTube Channel, JOYLAND A New Series. We are excited to bring to you a Q&A with the cast and crew.
We hope you enjoy as much as we did.
GARY MORGENSTEIN AND RUSSELL FRIEDMAN (CO-CREATORS, CO-WRITERS)
1) Why did you create Joyland? Paraphrasing my favorite quote “Those who don’t know history are condemned to repeat it,” we saw so many issues associated with the turbulent sixties reoccurring nearly 60 years later that we decided to reach back and see why the strides and achievements from the sixties have been forgotten or ignored to only come back to bite us again now. .Looming large in our minds were the memories of spending a decade of summers at a legendary Catskill Bungalow Colony. Coupled with growing up in New York City, knowing tons of unforgettable real -ife characters along with our love of the ABA and all of the crazy adventures only seemed natural.
2) What’re the challenges and opportunities acting in a Zoomified version of a scripted television series? We cannot speak from the actors’ perspective, but know and appreciate how much concentration, imagination and intuition it takes to interact and react to a fellow actor in a particular scene who might literally be thousands of miles apart. As writers, we have to focus even more on the impact of each word through this unique medium which is part theater, part film, part audio drama and it’s very own platform. The upside is through the use of technology we have been incredibly lucky to be able to assemble this enormously talented, dedicated, diverse and fun cast to work with in points all across the globe. We have actors in the UK, Brooklyn, New Jersey, Chicago, Los Angeles and places we’ve probably forgotten.
3) What’s the appeal of a television series set in the 1960s? Where do we start? Storylines of depth and universal appeal. Glorious music, cars, locales and destinations, changing fashion and hairstyles, stories featuring legendary people (recognizable cameos will be a frequently recurring theme in the series). And the sheer seismic and historical nature of the decade. We begin the series in 1964, less than a year after the assassination of JFK which, we feel, marked the end of America’s innocence. What we focus on in Joyland are ordinary people caught up in extraordinary times who become flawed heroes.
4) What do you see as the trends in television? Period pieces, more diversity in the stories, casting, production, and management from the executive suite. More content produced by women and more content produced for consumption by women. Continued pushing of the technology envelope. Continued attempts to control content and maximize profitability by the major players.
5) How has the pandemic changed your worldview as an artist? Both as an artist and as a person we’ve learned to be as prepared as possible but accept and deal with the here and now, always look for the silver linings, remember to count our blessings, appreciate family and the inspiration they give us, and more than ever pursue opportunities and look for creative and new ways to tell interesting and entertaining stories.
JAMYL DOBSON (REVEREND JULIAN BASS)
I was honored when Gary asked me to play Rev. Julian Bass as I was looking for a tv/film project that stretched me in the same way that many of my theater projects had. I loved the fact that the series took place in 1964 as it shows how much some things change but many things stay the same in regards to race relations in our country. There are some scenes that if you close your eyes, you wouldn’t know what year we were in which shows just how far we still have to go as a country.
One of the big challenges in working in this new Zoom world is trying to figure out the technical aspect of things. Due to the pandemic and social distancing we as actors have had to learn how to be our own lighting designer, hair designer, costume designer, set designer, dealing with maybe a lag in audio, etc. We’ve had to adapt to a totally new way of working. And you also miss the physical connection of acting opposite your scene partner. But I have been amazed that in some ways we have still been able to find the intimacy and immediacy that is needed in some scenes.
As I’ve mentioned before, having the series set in the 1960s highlights how far we have come in the country but also how far we still have to go, especially when it comes to talking about race. What’s incredible about the Joyland series is that it takes an unflinching look at that time and gives it to you in living color. We often think of the 1960s as being so far in the past but when you think about it, black people in this country didn’t get the right to vote until 1968. That is not that long ago. This series kind of shows a snapshot of life from the perspective of these different communities of this time.
The trends that I am noticing in television are one of two things. Either we are going for full on escapism that takes us away from the current circumstances that we’re all living through or we are leaning into the societal issues that we are living through. When I think of shows like This is Us, Dear White People or even Lovecraft Country, we are seeing more discussions of what it means to be a person of color in this country. Even with the films that were released within this past year, with Minari, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Da 5 Bloods we are seeing more diversity than ever before which is extremely encouraging. I only hope we go even further and see stories from underrepresented communities. I hope that this signals that diversity and inclusion are not trends but mainstays and should represent the new norm!
During this past year and dealing with the pandemic, I have really been in a place of practicing gratitude. So many have experienced so much loss this past year, whether it be a loss of life, loss of income, or even simply a loss of physical connection. I have tried to just be thankful for what I have. Thankful that I still have my health, thankful that I still get to do creative projects, thankful that I get to be a part of thought-provoking new projects like Joyland that give me the opportunity to stay connected to my craft while also examining the world that we live in. I’m just grateful and I’ve learned not to take anything for granted.
ROSLYN SEALE (TYRA BASS)
I liked the idea of playing a Black woman living in the 1960’s who is living a solidly middle-class life while raising a family and working a demanding job. This is the type of role that we don’t often get to see. She has a true partnership in her marriage and the character doesn’t fall into stereotypes or lazy tropes.
This is my second time taking part in a Zoom presentation. The hardest part is having to act directly to the camera. I find myself having to be really reliant on the tone and vocal phrasing of my scene partner since I can’t really look at them. It can be a difficult style of acting to get used to.
The opportunity lies in working with actors from all over the country (and world)! This wouldn’t be possible in a traditional format.
I’m a big history buff and I’m convinced I was born in the wrong era. I love the idea of ordinary people caught up in an extraordinary time. Even with all the societal changes and unrest, regular life goes on. The music and clothes are a draw as well!
There seem to be a lot of shows/limited series that at first glance seem “niche” (i.e. The Queen’s Gambit, Unorthodox, etc) but are actually very universal. Limited Series are all the rage (or shows wrapping up their story in 3 seasons or less)! Sometimes short and sweet is the better option.
It’s definitely made me want to stand and live in my truth more. I found that pre-pandemic, I was hiding myself a lot. The events of the past year have forced me to be more assertive and to advocate for my needs more. Life is too short to not stand up for what’s right!
SANDRA BARGMAN (EDNA MORTON)
I love the time in which the series is set. And I support the issues it is tackling. As an activist, that was exciting to me. And I immediately liked the personality of the character I was asked to play. Edna is a tough, colorful woman; she doesn’t take any shit from the men she encounters. She challenges the people with whom she interacts. She, a woman in the 1960’s mind you, owns and runs her own business, the Catskill colony Breezy Meadows. She’s in an inter-racial relationship. She’s brave, a free thinker. I felt a kinship with her.
The obvious challenge is that you’re doing a scene with someone who is not in the room with you, which can feel rather disconcerting. However, one of the unexpected upsides it presents is a sort of manufactured intimacy, of being able to see your scene partner very, VERY up close and personal, while at the same time, experiencing the scene in an “isolated, in-my-own head” kind of way. Like an oddly interesting combination of scene work and mirror work. I don’t know if any of that makes sense, really, but I find it fascinating. Also, the acting level of energy is somewhere between theatre and television/film, a new hybrid style. This virtual medium isn’t going away, so actors will be compelled to learn the nuances.
It’s MADLY relevant, because we are still fighting for racial and gender equality. In our present time, with #BLM, the marches for Equality, LBGTQ, rights, women’s rights, police brutality, we are mirroring the explosive civil rights awareness and movements of the 60’s. The political and social landscape of the last 6 years echoes all of the same patterns and turbulence that we went through moving from the 1950’s into the 60’s. We can see our collective fascination with moving from quietly unaware times – and when I say “unaware” I mean the mistaken belief that we were farther along in our pursuit of equality – to explosive, turbulent and woke times reflected in our television series and cinematic landscape, I think.
The television industry pledged to deal with racism in the late 1960’s and again in the 90’s after the LA riots. I’m no trend expert, but I think the push back for more “traditional” family values was pretty strong in both of those eras. That said, I do think we’re making progress with shows on race and women’s issues. Stories are being told more honestly about racism and sexism, and we hear it from the experience and point of view of a POC or woman.
Period pieces such as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Queen’s Gambit, Self-Made, When They See Us are great examples. I think Orange is The New Black, which evolved to tell the story about racism in our prison institutions is another good example. But the senseless murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, etc, #BLM, the filming of police brutality must push this envelope much farther and much faster than it has in the past.
I wouldn’t say that the pandemic changed my worldview as an artist, I would say it deepened it. It has made me see more clearly the importance and role of art in our cultures. When we were all locked in, what and who were most important in our society? The front-line workers, of course. AND the artists. We may not have been able to go to the theaters or live events, but we were glued to our streaming series and movies, our art, our virtual storytelling. The pandemic has served to highlight the meaningless nonsense that we humans can tend focus on. This connection to what is most important, tells me what kind of stories I want to be a part of moving forward, the kind of stories I want to create.
DOLAN BYRNE (KENNETH LAPIDUS)
While Joyland is set in 1964, I was struck by how much it reflected own times; the fracturing society, the social and racial unrest, the anti-Semtism. I see it as a cautionary tale. I saw the role of Kenneth to be a good challenge and a great journey; a chance to explore the world of a decorated WWII veteran, a Jewish man only twenty years out from the horrors of the Holocaust, a very successful businessman intent on building a corporate empire of department stores, and a man grappling with highly strained family relationships.
Acting remotely on the Zoom platform is difficult because you cannot be physically present with your scene partners. You can’t really even see them when you have to play directly to the camera, so picking up emotional cues and subtleties is much harder. However, the platform makes it possible for actors to perform in these times of lockdown. It provides a vehicle to try out new works, and to keep your acting chops sharp. You don’t have to rent rehearsal space or travel to get to rehearsals.
For me the sixties were my Junior High and High School years. They were extremely exciting, tumultuous times; the music, the changing culture, the politics, the anti-war movement, the demonstrations. Being a part of Joyland has been a nostalgia trip. It’s bringing up a lot of memories that have been dormant for many years.
I see a continuing growth of streaming services and a move away from network TV. There is much more freedom to explore topics that are deemed too “adult” for the networks, more freedom to use and explore language and mature themes. This means we will continue to experience terrific shows like Bridgerton, Call My Agent, The Queen’s Gambit, London Spy and many others.
I think it has broadened my worldview as an artist. Being forced onto Zoom because of the pandemic has provided me the opportunity to engage in conversations with artists from such disparate places as Nairobi, Moscow, London and Ascencion, Paraguay, to name a few. My eyes have been opened to new ways to bring the performing arts to new audiences despite the constricted time in which we live. And I realize that it can and must be done, pandemic be damned!
Thank you to everyone with JOYLAND for allowing the FoF the chance to hear directly regarding this series. Be sure to tune in THIS Monday, March 22nd at 7pm EST on Youtube Channel, JOYLAND A New Series. #JOYLANDTV