With a cult following from its web roots, comedy series "High Maintenance" has been given one of the most coveted platforms in the entertainment industry: a spot on HBO. The anthology provides a glimpse into the private lives of eccentric New Yorkers through one common thread: their Brooklyn weed dealer (known simply as "The Guy").
Co-creators Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld -- who are married -- said they're keeping things rolling (pun intended) in a way that is sure to keep both seasoned fans and new fans satisfied.
“What was so awesome about HBO picking us up is that they were celebrating what came before as a web series, and they really asked for a continuation of what we were doing, and fans should expect that continuation,” Sinclair told NBC OUT.
“We’ve taken at least half a dozen of the characters from the web series and brought them into this iteration and pick up where we left off with them," Blichfeld added. "There is also a number of people you’ve never met before."
Sinclair, who stars in the series as “The Guy,” delivered an emotional opening statement before the show’s premiere event Tuesday night. “We wanted to create a community to feel comfortable enough to create art with,” he said.
It's a comfort that clearly resonates on screen with the show's strong ensemble cast. The characters range from a group of swingers to a dog attempting to find his best life, and the vignettes teeter between gasp-worthy comedy bits and tender moments in a setting that only New York City can provide.
The new season opens with the notorious best friend duo from the web series: Max, who is gay, and Lainey.
“Max and his best girl friend are desperately clinging to each other, holding on for dear life, because they are so insecure,” Max Jenkins, who plays Max, told NBC OUT. “I think everyone in New York can relate to feeling insecure at one point or another, but this is a story about how Max momentarily escapes the crazy hold they have on each other.”
When asked about creating LGBTQ characters, Blichfeld and Sinclair, who are straight, took a pause as if they had never considered the question before but responded in a refreshing way.
“We have so many gay friends, so I feel like we just wrote to inhabit their world,” Blitchfeld said.
“In terms of writing the characters, we’ve said it before -- the Max and Lainey story is, kind of, based on our relationship.” Sinclair added.
“Or the issues of codependency that we experienced,” Blichfeld said.
“We just put that in a different relationship organization -- between a gay friend and his straight female friend.” Sinclair said.
Sinclair, Blichfeld and third Executive Producer, Russell Gregory, have created a universe stacked high (yes, pun intended again) with LGBTQ characters and storylines that will challenge viewers to see gender roles, sexuality, self-expression and humanity differently.
Justin Vivian Bond, an iconic entertainer, activist and self-described "trans-genre artist" is featured later on in the season as a never-before-seen character.
“I am not interested in playing a stereotype. It’s great that roles for trans actors are expanding, but in this particular show I’m playing a mother. So it’s nontraditional, non-gender-specific casting, and that’s what made it interesting for me,” Bond told NBC OUT. “[Sinclair, Blichfeld and Gregory] are so thoughtful and smart and funny that I was really thrilled.”
The fly-on-the-wall style story telling sets a unique and authentic tone that pulls hard throughout the whole series.
“'High Maintenance' is a show about people who need to chill out and relax and figure some sh*t out. Everyone can understand that," Jenkins said. "I think the weed element is just a way into these people’s brains and lives."
The new, six-episode season debuts Friday, Sept 16, exclusively on HBO.