Interview: Otessa Ghadar
BYT at large | Jun 27, 2012 | 10:45AM |

Interview by Folashade Oyegbola

Orange Juice in Bishop’s Garden, set in 1990s D.C., follows an ensemble cast during those totally crucial and always entertaining drama-fueled teen years and oh! The costuming! The music! The awkward sexual awakenings! It’s My So-Called Life meets Skins with the bonus of local landmarks so satisfying for District residents with locational inferiority complexes…

Previously on Orange Juice, Gwen dumped Sarah via this new thing called Instant Messenger. Sarah seemed to have rebounded with Chloe. Chloe continued to be an awful person. And Alex was still bummed about getting dumped via letter. Will Sarah and and Gwen get back together? Will Chloe get exposed for cheating on her fiance? Will Davis come out? Will the band ever rehearse or decide on a name? Series creator Otessa Ghadar does promise that viewers will get a conclusion in Orange Juice in Bishop’s Garden’s sixth and sadly final season.

I sat down with her to discuss the series, the final season, Lena Dunham, and what’s next for her.

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Did you plan it to be six seasons?

If you had told me when I first started doing this that I would have six seasons, I probably would have keeled over and died. I definitely didn’t see this or anticipate it having any sort of long term life. I was just a student at the time. I had no idea whatsoever; this was not planned. It is kind of nice though to have the ability to have actually created a final episode. When something isn’t cancelled, or when something doesn’t have to end– you get to see the creator’s vision of the ending. And that’s exciting…It was also a lot of pressure [to create the final season and final episode].

Was the introduction of new characters in Season 3 planned?

Part of it was practical, and part of it was more of a nebulous, creative artist’s desire. But they did meet together. We had previously lost some characters and I also had the sense that there were going to be some people who were not going to be able to come back. In this way it was practical to introduce new characters. But I also loved the idea of having this large cast of people we could follow — characters whose stories interconnect. So I wanted to make sure that, for the people who were leaving, there was new blood. But this way also a creative decision.

I also like the way that freshman will look up to seniors, and simultaneously the way seniors secretly love it but publicly find it irritating. I wanted that sort of feeling in the series too. Actually, [I’ll tell you a secret]. With all of the early episodes featuring the new kids, in the background we have all the old kids hanging out. And if you really look, you’ll see the seniors everywhere the new kids go — but the seniors are ignoring them.

Are any or all of the characters a part of you at all?

I definitely try to give a little bit of myself to every single character. I don’t know, maybe that’s because I’m a bad writer. [laughs] Otherwise I don’t have access [to the characters I create]. The way that I get that access, especially when I’m first creating the characters, I have to give each character something that’s mine. Even if it’s something trivial. Like the new girl Alex, she has a secret love of Sci-fi, and grew up watching Star Trek with her dad. And that was like the thing that I gave her, otherwise I don’t know this girl. So that was the initial jumping-off point and then I go off of that. So every character gets such treatment.

I would say the character I definitely relate to the most is the Sarah character. And it’s not just the character, it’s the actor that plays her. The way she was in high school reminds me of the way I was in high school. Both on screen and off screen, I just kind of related to both Sarah and Ellen.

I was thinking of Lena Dunham, and the whole writer, director, actor thing. Is it that what you write you want to direct?

Honestly, I’m open to whatever. I love every aspect of it. And its great to be involved in the writing, directing and producing. I will say having done all three, I’d rather do two. I love the writing. I LOVE directing. And the producing is a joy as well.

That said, I do love collaborating with people. And that’s why every season I’ve always brought on guest directors too. So then I have the opportunity to collaborate with my friend or colleague. And someone can give their own personal, creative interpretation or stamp on the show. And for me that’s great to be able to step back and watch through someone else’s lens — to get a short vacation from my own head-space. Honestly, any element of being able to do what you love is nice.

Being compared to Lena Dunham or shows like My So Called Life, is that something you welcome?

Are you kidding me? I think the best compliment anyone can ask for is to be compared to something that has that kind of cultural resonance. Lena Dunham, I’m truly impressed. I haven’t seen Tiny Furniture, it’s on my list, so I can only speak to Girls, but I’m addicted. And I think its amazing to see this young female [breaking] into cable television. I think she’s kind of a powerhouse. The same with My So Called Life, that was destination television in my house. I couldn’t be happier to be compared to people I really admire. I think that element (of being able to resonate with anyone) is kind of, as a filmmaker, your goal…or at least my goal is to have someone care.

Girls has the whole backlash about diversity, whereas yours is diverse immediately. Is that something that was actually a part of your life in D.C. or did you actively write that in?

It’s something that I definitely knew I wanted to portray. But it’s also how I remembered growing up. It is also something I thought is interesting about D.C., that I was able to grow up with all different kinds of people. So it is a little of both. Also in terms of the web series and the types of stories that I want to tell, the web is the best outlet for them. Where else are these being shown? I think of the stuff that I’m watching and enjoying, for the most part,and maybe it’s occupational hazard, but those stories aren’t getting the air time [that they deserve] on television. They’re not getting the funding they would need to be a feature film. So the web is where you’re going to see them. In terms of the Lena Dunham thing, I wonder also about the backlash, because not only are they all white but they are also all quite rich. That’s the funny thing, I can’t tell quite if she is simultaneously making a critique about that same phenomenon of (homogenous) girls in New York. Is Lena in on it and critiquing it? Or is it more of a: “Oh no what have I done, Girls is a story about rich white girls.” (I’d like to think it’s the former)

What is next for you?

A new project. It’s sort of weirdly like a spin-off of Orange Juice in Bishop’s Garden. But it’s more of like a video series that spotlights events, artists, and everything thats going on in D.C. culturally/artistically. I feel like New york and L.A get a lot of airtime even in D.C. I’ll be hanging out with a friend, and they’ll say, “Ugh, I need to move back to New York: I miss New York.” And I’ll wonder: “what are you talking about, D.C.’s great!” And it can feel a though I’m sitting around, listening to people hate on my city. So a lot of this comes out of focusing on everything that’s happening here; a little bit of life style and a little event-based, but really spotlighting, in short snippets, what’s happening around town. Trying to give D.C. the credit that it’s due.

Thank you! [laughs]

I also have two other narrative shows that I have written and am developing. But since the whole scope of them is larger, that will definitely take another kickstarter. Those are definitely on the horizon though. I have a whole season written, for both of them. One of them is kind of a sketch comedy series. And the other is a dystopian, dark fiction, which I’m excited for: I love those type of stories a lot. I want to do a weird 1970s version of the future for the web, in short format. It’s kind of weird, it’s like completely different from Orange Juice.

Do you want to pursue regular television programming or stay with web series? I would love to stay with the web. I want to see where this is going to go. If a television gig dropped in my lap, I would want to pursue it and I would be amazed and that would be wonderful, but my first love is the web. I’m unbelievably excited to see where this is going to go. Like I said, it’s the wild Wild West of film because there are no real rules and there aren’t even any ratings. You can just put stuff up! It’s incredibly liberating as a filmmaker to be able to do that. If you asked most people under the age of 30, “Do you want a televison or computer?” they’re going to say computer because your computer can do all your computing, but it can also function as a television. I want to see this through. I’m a new media person and I really don’t see myself jumping ship.

For season six, are you going to bring them to present day?

No, sadly not. There was a part of me that thought if I could do it right, then it would be great. But, when I think of some of the most epic failures in shows with characters in that age group, it just always goes awry like “Saved By the Bell The College Years” [laughs]. Even at the end of the Harry Potter books, it felt a little bit like that element of wanting to give people everything was seeping through and I don’t think you should do that. It just felt slightly disingenuous and it’s a dangerous thing to pander to one’s audience. They deserve better.

When I think about being a teenager, one of the quintessential things is the fact that you kind of have no control over your life. You might think you know what’s going to happen tomorrow, or you might you know what your future is going to be, but you absolutely don’t. At the end of Orange Juice, there is a definite ending, and you get a resolution to the story and all of that. But in a lot of other ways there’s definitely that lack of control, and that sense of wonder about what the future will be. And I wanted to leave that tenuous sense that lets people wonder about the future, and that lets the characters have that wonder & trepidation. You’ll definitely, hopefully come away feeling that this has fallen into place.

Are all of the characters coming back?

Almost everyone. Everyone you saw in Season Five you will continue to see. Some of the people who had been around in earlier seasons and then sort of fell by the wayside come back. I would say almost everyone makes a reappearance.

Goth Laura?

I wish we could have had everyone come back.

Is there anything about Season Six that we should know?

I know some people were really alarmed when Sarah hooks up with Chloe. We definitely got some Youtube comments. You’ll definitely see a heartbroken rebound, trying to find your way and making mistakes and finding what you’re looking for by the end. That resolution happens. There’s an accidental PCP bender. That was kind of funny. [Editor’s Note:She wrote this before The Crackcident episode of Girls, mind you.]

Does Chloe get herself together?

[laughs] It’s one of those situations that gets worse before it gets better, but it does get better. There is definitely a positive resolution for everyone involved, but before that, there’s a lot of lying, a lot of bad news bears, and a lot of “why did you do that?” It ends up with everyone kind of finding their way though. Two of my favorite characters start to come in, Ryan, played by George Ross, and Drew (played by DeAndre Baker), and they transform the final part of this whole “bad news bears” situation into a positive resolution. I like the way they play off each other. I’m excited to air that scene.

Season six premieres at the end of August-early September, but you can catch all of seasons one through five, including new bonus content and mini episodes, now on www.OJinBG.com.

You can watch the Season 5 & Season 6 trailer HERE.