Diaspora

'Send Help' creator Jean Elie shares how the series is a perfect blend of LA and immigrant culture, and advice Issa Rae gave him – Mashable

If you loved Insecure, we’re certain that you’ll love AllBlk’s new freshman dramedy Send Help. The series stars Jean Elie who plays Fritz Jean-Baptiste, a first-generation Haitian American actor who feels unstoppable since landing a starring role on fictional hit TV show, This Can’t Be Us. While basking in his newfound success, Baptiste must also balance a demanding Haitian family, an unfortunate loss from his past, and an unexpected change that shakes up his career. 
The show also stars Catfish Jean, Amin Joseph, and fellow Insecure alum Courtney Taylor who serves as a support system for Elie’s character. Elie not only stars in the series, he also serves as the showrunner and is the co-creator alongside Mike Gauyo, who also serves as the executive producer on the show and was a writer on Insecure
Mashable caught up with Gauyo and Elie, who spoke about the series, the significance of Haitian representation onscreen, and an embarrassing moment they can laugh at now. 
Mashable: Let’s chat about your character [Jean Elie] and how he’s dealing with a terrible crisis… how do you handle sudden changes and did you apply any real life experiences to the character for development? 
Elie: I’ve applied some, but my character is an older version of me — a beta version. We draw real life experiences in some ways, but we also lean on the writers room in order to elevate it to get it to where it’s at right now.It’s, it’s a mixture of who I once was and who I am. [Fritz] is a very flawed character, but he’s also trying to do right by everybody else and even if he’s not doing it the right way or how people will typically go about things. Fritz is just trying to be a better person, but not knowing exactly how to be a better person because that guidance he usually had is no longer there.
Mashable: The show has a feel like Insecure in terms of cinematography and wittiness…. For the formula for Send Help, what do you think makes the show stand out with its own flare and recipes for success? Any similarities in the story you see similar like Insecure? 
Gauyo: Oh that’s really good — I like that question. What we tried to pay attention to is how many shows have been centered around an actor or behind the scenes of the entertainment world type of show — what makes this story different is it follows a Haitian-American actor and we’re able to dive into his culture in a way we’ve never been able to dive in before. It’s being told through [Fritz] lens and you’re able to gain a new, fresh perspective. I will say there are similarities between our show and [Insecure] in terms of both shows being based in LA and showing LA’s culture. Something Insecure did that was brilliant is it showed Black culture in LA and all the things that exist there. For [Send Help], we wanted to express was immigrant Black culture in LA and what that looks like. It was very important for us to have a different way of expressing different facets of LA and Black culture, particularly Haitian culture that you don’t see often on television. So, I will say there’s definitely a formula but with our own twist to it to give it a little bit of Caribbean flavor. 
Mashable: Is there any advice Issa Rae shared with you both during the development of the series? 
Elie: Take your time and keep in mind that this series is ours so do it the way you want to do it and be unapologetic about it. 
Mashable: Let our readers know the importance of telling the story of a first-generation Haitian American and his family? 
Elie: It was super important for me to tell this story because there’s a slew of Haitian-American children that aren’t privy on how to break into an industry like entertainment or do something out of the scope of what their family has envisioned for them — and then what it looks like when on that side. A lot of people assume you’re being supported due to your success and don’t even realize your family doesn’t have a clue what you’re doing because it’s not something they are used to or working comprehend. One of the greatest things I was able to do and loved while creating this show was being able to bring my mom to set and for her to get the experience of what it’s like which also changed the narrative for her. This allows her to show the other children in our family to let them know her son does this and this is what it looks like and how it may look if their children decided to pursue the same passion. It’s also very important for me to see myself represented onscreen or see other characters I can relate to that are not necessarily shown. You usually see Haitian-American characters in smaller roles or caricatures on what it means to be Haitian. In this show, you’re able to see a young Haitian man coming into his own in a relatable way. The only difference between [Fritz] and a viewer is they may speak different languages which one can learn. You’ll see how beautiful it is. 
Experience LA and Haitian culture in this new, exciting dramedy Send Help which premieres on AllBlk on August 11th. 
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