By Diane Wild of TV, eh?
The LA Complex creator Martin Gero might have found early success in Canadian film (Young People Fucking), Vancouver-shot television (the Stargate franchise), and a New York-based HBO series (Bored To Death), but even he knows how it feels to be a displaced Canadian in Los Angeles.
“Whether you’re a writer, dancer or actor, being out of your element is a universal. Everyone in LA is out of their element. Very few people are born and raised in LA. And the ones that are, are kind of weird,” joked the writer/director. “But being out of your element is something people feel as a universal in life.”
A blend of sexy, smart, funny and wildly dramatic, MuchMusic’s The LA Complex features a group of photogenic twenty-somethings, including Degrassi’s Cassie Steele and Firefly’s Jewel Staite, as a group of struggling performers trying to make it in Hollywood.
“It’s the opposite of Entourage,” Gero said. “They’re nowhere near superstar status, they’re just trying to make it work week to week.”
The series follows a comedian, hip-hop artist, dancer, and the inevitable actors through their career and relationship disasters and successes. Produced by Epitome Pictures, makers of Degrassi, The LA Complex has been called a more adult version of its MuchMusic sibling.
Gero isn’t sold on that comparison, though he did say prior to the premiere, “If we had a fraction of their audience it would be delightful.”
“They’ve told really interesting, social redeeming stories in an organic way that don’t feel like an afterschool special,” he added. “Our show is almost subversive in that it’s this big, glossy television show, and when we talk about the morning after pill we don’t have to talk about it.”
With supporting roles filled by Aaron Abrams and Ennis Esmer of Young People Fucking, and, well, containing a lot of young people fucking (off-screen), it probably has at least as much in common with that movie as Degrassi. “It’s long hours, so you might as well do it with your friends,” Gero explained, adding that Abrams and Brendan Gall have written “an amazing movie – so if it all goes to shit that’s what we’ll do next.”
While the Toronto-shot The LA Complex brought Gero back to his Canadian roots after his time on the recently deceased Bored To Death, those gorgeous shots of Los Angeles aren’t all TV trickery: those time-lapse and aerial shots aren’t stock footage. “We have an amazing production designer and production team that seamlessly blended the two cities together,” said Gero, who felt it was important to showcase the setting.
“It’s an alluring and intoxicating city. There’s a reason people are drawn to it,” he pointed out. “The majority of our exterior shots were shot in LA. Our hotel – most of that building is built in Toronto, but when we’re on the roof we shoot that in Los Angeles. You can play the game of ‘is that real LA or fake LA and most people are wrong.”
He’s thrilled The CW recently picked up the show for US broadcast later this year: “Their demographic really fits the show, and when you make a show you want it to air in the biggest market in the world.” But he berates himself for sounding like a “corporate shill” in singing the praises of the Canadian broadcaster, MuchMusic.
“I worked with HBO, which is considered the auteur’s television network where they give you such creative control. I feel like I’ve had more creative control on this show than we ever did on Bored to Death. Not in a hands off way, it’s not like they’re just leaving us to our own devices, but they have a passion for pushing the envelope for the kinds of stories you can tell on television.”
“There’s stuff coming up in later episodes that I’ve never seen on television, broadcast or cable,” he teased, and he’s confident the sometimes-stricter US standards won’t affect The LA Complex, even now that he’s developing for a possible season two.
For one thing, The CW bought the series after seeing season one. For another: “There’s some pretty serious shit going on in Gossip Girl,” Gero laughed, pointing to the transgendered contestant on America’s Next Top Model a few years ago as another example of how “The CW has always been very aggressive about what you can put on television over the years, so I think we’re a great fit.”