If you’re talking to anyone in the film/television world, it’s hard not to ask the inevitable Lena Dunham question. Hell, if you’re talking to any other twenty-something, it’s hard not to ask that question. When I sat on the phone with actor and writer Sam B of the upcoming web series “You’re So Talented” and asked her opinion about Lena Dunham’s “Girls”, she sighed.
“Lena Dunham is doing her thing and she should be telling her story,” Sam said. “I just don’t watch her show because I’m sick of not seeing representations of color on the screen. It’s hard to see a show called ‘Girls’ and not see that [color] reflected.”
Where Sam B does see that color reflected is in her upcoming web series, “You’re So Talented.”
“You’re So Talented” (premiering January 2015) follows Bea, an out-of-work Chicago actress as she navigates her twenties and the drama (no pun intended) that ensues. In this Q&A, Sam reflects on her inspiration for the series, the close-knit Chicago theatre community and why it’s not enough to just be “so talented.” Meet Sam B.
Age: (optional) 25
Current Project: You’re So Talented: a new web series
Current Location: Chicago, IL
Tell us a little more about “You’re So Talented.” How did you come up with the concept and what message do you hope viewers receive from the series?
You’re So Talented is a series I wrote following Bea, an out-of-work Chicago actor, as she navigates her twenties and all its inevitable dramas. I had been toying with the idea of writing a web series for the past year and a half but finally decided to start generating some material this past February. I was only certain about a few things: I knew I wanted to highlight young artists in an urban setting. I knew I wanted Ashleigh Lathrop(Devin), Gabe Franken(Jesse) and I to play best friends. I knew I wanted to showcase the Chicago that I know and love. Those were my only launching points and from there I just started writing.
You were born and raised in Chicago and have been heavily involved in the theater community there for years. How is the Chicago theater community? How does it differ from New York or Los Angeles?
I love the Chicago theatre community. I only lived in New York for a bit but I know I didn’t feel that same sense of camaraderie that I do here. I have absolutely no idea whatsoever what the theatre scene is like in Los Angeles. Chicago’s scene is very much the foundation of who I am as an artist. I think what differentiates the Chicago community from the coasts is that everyone is super committed to making the work-for close to nothing. The amount of work that gets done in this city and the caliber of art and talents that’s been cultivated here-I think is unparalleled. Having said that, because I love it so much I can also be hyper critical of the community: I know we have huge strides to make when it comes to representation of different lives and stories on stage. We’re just not where we need to be in that aspect.
How have you infused your own life and stories into “You’re So Talented”?
Obviously, the character of Bea is loosely based on some of my own experiences. What it’s like to be a young woman in the art scene in Chicago is part of my story so it was easy to write some of that into the series. But as far as the way Bea behaves-she’s a lot more reactive then I am. Which was fun to write. Here’s a girl who will say things or do things that I normally would be way too ashamed to say or do.
A fraction of “You’re So Talented” deals with twenty-somethings who are, well, talented, but may not have the drive or means to really pursue that talent. How do you make sense of talent vs. drive vs. life’s realities?
I think that talent is only a small factor when it comes to dreams coming into fruition. At some point you’re actually going to have to do the thing you set out to do if it’s going to become real.
What is the best advice you’ve received as an actor? A twenty-something? A woman?
I’ll give the same advice one of my mentors, Sheldon Patinkin, gave me in college (and a host of other artists in Chicago): “Better an asshole than a chickenshit.”
What advice would you offer to other up-and-coming actors?
Find your voice, don’t expect anyone else to want to tell your story, and it’s totally ok to say ‘no’ to projects you aren’t passionate about.
How did you build a community around “You’re So Talented”?
The team behind You’re So Talented is, by far, the best group of people I’ve ever had the pleasure to create with. Chris (director/editor), Mateo (DP), Morgan(Sound), and Dakota(AD/Shawn) came on at a time when I really needed a production team and they were immediately jazzed about the project. The same goes for Samantha Lee, Alistair Slaughter and Vince Martell. Getting a group of people together that believe in the project is the foundation to building a community. Their excitement is infectious and I think people on the outside feed off of that and want to be a part of it.
Sam Bailey is an actor and writer from Chicago. She attended Columbia College and is a graduate of The School at Steppenwolf. She has worked with many theater companies around the city including The Gift, ATC, and Strawdog Theatre. Her written work has been seen on live lit stages like The Paper Machete, 2nd Story and Guts & Glory.