Los Angeles is no stranger to visitors from New York who show up in the early spring like shipwrecked lunatics, totally thrashed from the ruthless hell of winter. You usually have to speak to these people slowly and quietly and take small steps as you, like, walk through a park with them, as though you're gently nudging back into humanity slaves you discovered chained up naked inside a shipping container.
But when Brooklyn-based filmmakers Natalia Leite and Alexandra Roxo showed up in LA last year, they were ready to let it rip, having already worked together on Shooting Serrano, a VICE documentary about the legendarily transgressive Cuban artist and a handful of other projects. (Their pilot for Every Woman came later.) More importantly, they had figured out how to outfox NYC's seasonal brutality by shooting scenes, with friends Karley Sciortino and Ry Russo-Young, for a hyper-queer, spiritual, comic webseries called Be Here Nowish, which they were bringing to Los Angeles.
In between their sublets, Natalia and Alexandra stayed with me and decided to rope me into the show. I started writing and developing the story with them. Quickly, they discovered that a hobby that had started as a lark among a few friends—Alexandra and Natalia were also the series's co-stars, because who else was gonna get naked and work for free?—had become a legit project.
One year later, the show emerged. If I described the awesome plot in detail, I would be a real weird braggy A-hole. Instead, Natalia, Alexandra, and I decided to have a discussion about the show with Adam Carpenter, a Los Angeles comedian who plays Alexandra's love interest later in the series.
Be Here Nowish had a soft launch last month and now emerges in its entirety, picking up where the main characters, fuck-ups in their own right, left off, finding themselves in Los Angeles among a group of freaky devotees of a guru played by Kyp Malone from TV on the Radio.
VICE: Adam, how did you get involved in this project?
Adam Carpenter: My friend Sam told Alexandra about me. Then she came to my house, I made her pancakes, and I think we agreed on a 30 percent stake in all future revenue.
Alexandra Roxo: I was scared to eat the breakfast 'cause I was vegan and gluten-free at the time, but he had cooked it, and I ate the bacon and pancakes as a gesture of like, "Please be in our show." It was that moment of Are we going to work together, or are we not going to work together? If I come in after you've already cooked me all this food and I decline it, then that would be not really setting a friendly bar.
Adam: I wouldn't have cared, but I appreciate your fear.
Alexandra: It was a symbolic gesture.
Adam: I mean, I was going to eat breakfast anyway.
Alexandra: Your involvement started right with shooting a tantric sex scene in your apartment, and you were like, Cool, I'll have this awkward sex scene with this girl I just met in my apartment.
Adam: On a break, I called my then girlfriend just like, "Oh, I'm just having simulated sex with a girl I met yesterday." She was like, "All right, talk to you later."
Adam, are you personally involved in any of the kooky spiritual stuff that's going on in Los Angeles?
Adam: Does Pilates count?
Adam: I've gotten into a quiet research into the Eckhart Tolle kind of stuff. That's popular in library audio books, so I listen to those things. I get a little annoyed by the verbiage used, but I'm still on that sort of personal quest towards not identifying myself so much with being funny and to just enjoy being happier more, which is a slow process.
What do you mean about quiet research?
Adam: Well, I don't want to go to something like the boot camp that we parodied—I don't want to have group elation towards self-understanding. It just doesn't resonate with me. I feel like I would personally be out of it because I'm either judging the language being used or I'm trying to get laid by the hot girl in the Lululemon pants.
Natalia, I remember one of the first times you and I hung out as friends, like six or seven years ago, you had a book sticking out of your purse. We were sitting at the bar, and I asked what you were reading. You were super embarrassed, stuffing it back into your bag. You told me people didn't really like to talk about this type of stuff. I believe it was an Eckhart Tolle book.
Natalia: Maybe it was A New Earth? I remember that, because, yeah, it's interesting. At that time I didn't really have a group of friends at all that were interested in exploring these things and different parts of a psyche, and I was doing it on my own. That's when I went through my first peyote ceremony, and I told some people about it, and they just thought it was weird or didn't get it. At that time, I was kind of like, All right, I think I need to keep this to myself. Nobody understands. I'm just going to do it on my own. I was meeting people in those groups, but we had nothing in common other than the fact we were exploring these things together, so I wouldn't ever hang out with them outside of that context. Then I met you and was like, Oh, she's into that too. That's how we became friends.
And cut to last spring, when I'm in a leather bondage dress and you're in your underwear on my roof. Adam, did you know much beforehand about how this show was being put together?
Adam: I kind of had an idea of where my character came in, and what had gone on but in a broad sense. I didn't know about all the interactions.
Natalia: I feel like that first scene that we did with you, Adam, which was the tantric sex scene—it was kind of crazy that we started with that one. There wasn't a lot of work or context for your character. It was just really funny physical comedy, and then I think the second scene we did was the lawn scene, which I love because I feel like your character is borderline creepy, but also very earnest. I love the moment of you guys doing the mantras together.
Adam: I think I did research the night before and just was looking for these catchphrases of sorts. So I watched like two hours of meditation things, some amazing shit. That Kim Eng, do you know her? She does a daily meditation. Her voice is like Delilah on the East Coast—she's got the fourth-biggest radio program in the country. She was talking about how our bodies are just flutes, but the essence of us is the holes in the flute. When we allow ourselves to blow free, that is when the musicality comes out of us and that's our true essence. Then she starts talking about the things that get into your flute hole. I was just like OMG, this is too rich. Then I kind of understood where you guys were coming from, to an extent.
Alexandra: Well, we don't like to think of it as making fun of—we like to think of it as finding the humor in.
You guys know that I was worried the show might seem offensive in certain ways, because I live in Los Angeles and sometimes work in spiritual or magical communities. But the thing is, all of us actually walk this talk. We all practice this, so it's totally fine when you're of it. You can sit there and laugh because it's awesome and also ridiculous, like I did when my girlfriend's mom performed an exorcism on our dog over the weekend. She has her hand over the Chihuahua like, "I now bind the entity of jealousy. I now bind the entity of fear. I now bind the entity of destruction, and I release it into the light." My girlfriend and I were cracking up, but we were also really grateful that the dog was being exorcised because he can't keep pissing in the house like this.
Alexandra: That's the interesting thing. I think Natalia and I sometimes wonder: Is it just the two of us who find so much humor in our own practices? Because we can be really serious, and we meditate together a few times a week—it's a part of our work—but then I'll be filling a corner with salt or putting all of my ex's presents and things away, closing them up, and Natalia will be like, "What are you doing? Where is all the salt in the kitchen? I'm trying to make dinner, and you used up all the salt."
Alexandra: And it's something we can laugh about, but I actually do take it seriously that I got a message from my guides and they told me that in order to move on in my new relationships, I had to get all of the things out of my room from old ones. I feel like the interweaving between how that naturally exists in your daily life can be funny, and how it can also be sacred is also important. Finding that balance is what we're trying to say in the show, too.