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AWAY the Web-Series: A Charming Perspective About Racism, Femininity & What it Means to be a Black Queer in America

January 16, 2018

 

Cast members:  Unique Jenkins (Nilay), Isayah Phillips (as Duran), Cory Washington (as Kyle Flowers) Lindsay Daniels (as Zye Brown) and Briza Covarrubias (as Gabriella Ruiz)

 

AWAY takes place in Los Angeles, California, where photographer and transplant, Nilay Dannon (played by Unique Jenkins) is learning what it means to be a gay woman in frigid America.

 

Dannon is living the carefree life as a "black queer." She enjoys the enticing elements of her euphoric atmosphere. 

 

Not only does she meet new people, but she gets caught up in politics and gains a newfound appreciation for the Black Lives Matter Movement.

 

Dannon learns while on her journey, the different levels of existence in this era, where times have changed but blatant stereotypes and racism still exist.

 

AWAY is a sublimely orchestrated project that ventures into social activism at its finest, but with a colorful sequence.

 

The brains behind the installment, writer and director, Tiffany Patterson studied Film & Media Arts at Temple University. The New Jersey native enrolled in Los Angeles, Study Away: School of Theater. She was a development intern for Di Novi Pictures and Rubicon Entertainment.

 

After graduating Temple University she transplanted to Los Angeles. 

 

Patterson also completed internships with Momentum TV and Aperture Entertainment.

 

With masterly skill, Tiffany Patterson and Cari Smith founded Starter House Productions, the powerful vehicle behind whimsical series, AWAY .

Tiffany Patterson

 

“I like saying ‘queer,’ explained Patterson. 

 

“Because when I think of studs, even though people refer to me as that—There's just so many negative connotations that come with that, [and] that's the part I don't identify with.

 

I just say ‘queer’ because it's more free than saying anything else."

 

The storyline is a mixture of Girlfriends, Friends and Living Single, coiled into a wowing package of spectacular.

 

The dry humor softens the blows of seriousness, adding a complimentary balance to the situational dramady.

 

Patterson stated that the web-series differes from other projects airing now.

 

"I do see a lot more of TV related shows in web-series now, that are available than when I was younger. I definitely see more LGBT content that focuses on queer people of color, but I tend to find that, especially with the web -series and queer women of color, we get a lot of same things [that's] kind of context.  For instance, stud versus female, relationship, sex or drama, that somehow turns violent. I just feel like we’re more than that.

 

There’s nothing wrong with those types of things, but there’s more perspectives. I want a way to show women of color relationships and twenty something struggles trough a different lens. I think AWAY is quirky and dreamlike while still being relatable and honest.”

 

Although the story is told by Nilay, a young woman, Patterson said that teens would be able to take something away from the series too.

 

“I think it shows you what you are going to go into, and what the struggles could look like, and be. I know when I was that age, I just didn’t have any content, or the content I had, it was very dark. I feel like there’s a giant discontent between what women in their twenties actually are versus what we always see in TV right now."

 

The thought process and creativity behind the project is taken from a realistic approach. 

 

"I will say that it was pretty basic. I was having a weird summer, and [I] decided to create a series to examine some of the things that happened. That's the way the show begins in Summer 2016. I know I wanted the characters to be twenty something. I knew I wanted people of color. I knew I wanted the tone to be dreamlike couples, with drama, wrapped around a dry sense of humor, that helps lighten certain issues and topics that we bring up. I think people around my age, nowadays, deal with life events this way. 

 

We have a detached reaction to real drama in our placement, in this current world, and that's how we get through life. While writing the series, I wanted the characters to stay true to that reality, from both the writing and how I directed it. I kept that in mind."

 

Patterson took bits and pieces from her own life to create the characters.

 

“These were some of my internal thoughts brought to life in terms of identity, and where you are in placement, as  well as having the issue of wanting to care about certain hinge, but getting caught up in life— And things that maybe shouldn’t matter that much in comparison to the greater causes of the world. I think the lead character embodies that character. Her roommate is a very blunt and honest person, who gives the dry humor that the show needs. I think it’s a reflection of how humorous they are. 

 

Gabriel’s character just represents the unattainable free spirit that we all want to be in a way.

 

Kyle is definitely the activist who represents the person you want to be, but aren’t sure how to get there. He’s an empathetic character, but he has his own demons.

 

Zye is basically the cool chick. We all have that friend that has that secret struggle that we don’t even know about. We think we know them, but we don’t really know them.”

 

After speaking to lead actress, Unique Jenkins, who plays the character of Nilay, we did learn of few things about her as well.

Unique Jenkins 

 

She researched her character first. She also said that she chooses roles that aren't too far from who she is as a lesbian.

 

"I've dealt with some of these scenario's that she's [Nilay] dealt with, like trying to find herself, and the sarcasm. That's the way I speak. I'm not like everybody else. I don't like being the popular one or the stud, and everybody is a fan of that person. I definitly tapped into myself and researched. I watched a couple of shows like the ‘Office,’ because I like their humor. I like the funny and sarcastic humor."

 

Jenkins seemed to fit snugly into her role. She's actually a native of Los Angeles who attended LACC Theatre Academy. She also featured in many commercials and print adds.

 

Jenkins mentioned that the web-series will shed light on heavy subjects that are muted or downplayed by media. 

 

She remarked that AWAY is a fun resource for all demographics. In fact, the feature is diverse, where even Hispanics have a voice. There's a unique mixture of gays and straights, the overlapping sexuality, which is another pragmatic approach into the real world that viewers will see.

 

Sexuality, race and politics, the subjects are still considered controversial and taboo topics; however, Jenkins believes that it’s gotten easier over time to connect with likeminded people regardless of typecast.

 

Patterson expressed that the show welcomes all audiences, and even black lives matter. It's LGBT content, but it's open to all types of people. 

 

"Also, that's life too. All my friends aren't queer. That’s another thing with TV shows, they are very isolated. The LGBT show, everyone in it, is gay, which is fine. I like that too, but I also have straight friends, who are cool, that we hangout with, and go see things with, that we can relate to. I just wanted to show that expressive as well."

 

According to Jenkins and Patterson, it was fun working with the entire creative team on the project. 

 

Tiffany Patterson and Cari Smith are creating a docu-series called, “For Your Consideration.”

 

Cast Members will interview different people about topics such as sustainability, post college depression, colorism, micro aggression, just those hot butten topics. The discussion will take place with people of all backgrounds, so that’s the next project.

 

We’re currently working on that while we finish up, AWAY.”

 

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