We Love Soaps: Before we talk about CHICK, I’d like to go back a bit. Where are you from?
Kai Soremekun: I’m originally from Toronto, Canada. I grew up there, and came to the states to go to the American Musical & Dramatic Academy in New York City.
We Love Soaps: What caused you to move to Los Angeles?
Kai Soremekun: I was focused on acting, and they said to come out to L.A. for pilot season. When I got here I realized that as far as work in television the opportunities were ten times more than they were in New York City. In my second year I booked a series regular role on the Fox network show, MEDICINE BALL . It was exactly GREY'S ANATOMY, but unfortunately we did not do as well as GREY'S ANATOMY. We aired for nine episodes, but it was a great experience, and the reason I went back to school to study filmmaking. I had worked so hard to realize the dream of being a regular on a TV show. Then when I got it, it was a little disillusioning. I guess I envisioned a lot more freedom, and it was exactly the opposite. Once you are of value to someone on a TV show they wants to keep the reins on you.
We Love Soaps: How so?
Kai Soremekun: I lost roles and projects I booked because of the schedule of the show and their inability to work around my schedule. We were shooting in Seattle so being outside the loop of Los Angeles was challenging. There were “concerns” about anything you wanted to do to change your appearance. I didn’t think about all that before I booked the show. But I believe that everything that happens to you is for good if you’re willing to find the reason behind it. I think for that it forced me to re-examine how I wanted to express myself as an artist. Which is why when the show got cancelled and I went back to L.A., I went back to school to study filmmaking. I wanted to look at a route for sharing my voice through making films, somewhere I would have a lot more say. Even though acting is great, you don’t have to worry about the inner workings of the show. When you’re doing your own production everything is a concern.
We Love Soaps: I love how you talk about using something that appeared to be a disappointment or a setback to propel you forward.
Kai Soremekun: You could tell me anything and I will find a way to say, “This is why that was great!” For example, I was in a really, really bad relationship, I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, but it became my motivation for CHICK and I embrace that situation. It was horribly painful and challenging, it took a long time to heal from it. But it’s the reason I’m where I’m at today.
We Love Soaps: Did you learn in film school how to do all the technical effects that you are doing in CHICK?
Kai Soremekun: Honey, I’m learning as I go. Even in my Indie Soap Awards acceptance speech, I didn’t know how to do that. You guys sent me an e-mail asking me to send you an acceptance speech. I thought, “What do I do. I want to do something fun, I don’t just want to sit in front of a camera. What if I put on all the roles I play in CHICK and put that on?” I thought, “How would I do that?” I literally went online and asked, “How can I cut four of me into one frame?” I found some awesome tutorials on YouTube and other places and then just did it. Everything you see in CHICK is me asking, “What if we did this...?” And me answering, “How are we going to do that?” Then I find a way to it.
We Love Soaps: How did the idea of CHICK come about?
Kai Soremekun: It started as a healing process. I got out of this horrific relationship. Every character you meet in CHICK is someone in my life. For better or for worse. Hunter is my ex-boyfriend in a fictional way. That’s why he’s called “Hunter,” because my ex-boyfriend in some ways was a hunter. He was a hunter of people who have low self-esteem and took advantage of that. Lisa is definitely me, I’m not even going to try to pretend she isn’t. Cute, not cute, and everything in between. When I got out of that funky relationship I was beat down. I was as close to dead as you can be while being alive as far as my emotional state. He had done such a job on me in terms of telling me I wasn’t great, that anything I did was because of him. He was constantly knocking me down. I spent three years trying to prove to him I’m worthy. He eventually took it to a level that was out of my comfort level as far as abuse. And then even though I got out of it, it still took years of dealing with that and going through the different phases that you go through afterwards. I was hugely angry. I’m driving along one day and I’m like, “What should I do, I’m so angry!” And a little voice said, “Move to New York, live with your brother.”
I went to New York and started writing a screenplay which in hindsight was a healing process. It was called Guerilla Girls, and it was really just about a bunch of girls that go around town beating up men. Thankfully that never went anywhere, but it was the beginning of CHICK. It was really me trying to re-empower myself.
Then I came across this article about a girl who goes around to bars in New York City dressed up as a superhero. She looks out for girls who may have drunk too much, and makes sure that the men in the bar don’t take advantage of them. This is a true story, she is like a real life superhero. I was like, “Dude that is some craziness right there! What would motivate her to dress up like a superhero and go out at night and do all that?” I used that story and incorporated that into the story I was writing. And that’s how Fantastica came to be.
Then the internet came around. I had written a version of the script but it still was more of a therapeutic project than something you’d really want to make. I let it sit for a year or two. I started with where she was at before she became a superhero and that journey. That’s when CHICK really came to be, and her pursuit of exploring that journey in order to realize her dream. It was still dark then, her boyfriend was still abusive. Things that happened to her were still things that had happened in my relationship. Friends told me, “This is great, shoot it!” But I was like, “This is too dark. I don’t even want to watch this.” I wanted it to be funny, and I couldn’t find the funny in it yet. I guess I wasn’t there yet in terms of my own journey. So I had to hold on to it for another two years. About six months before we started shooting the funny appeared, “Oh My God there it is!” I managed to find the lightness in situations that in real life are not funny. When that lightness showed up I did a complete re-write, created seven episodes, and then got the ball running.
It’s been such a journey for this character, but it’s also been such a testament to being patient and really trusting your gut. We are so conditioned to make things fast, fast. I think as an artist if you can take a breath and slow down and really honor the process, a lot of times you will get what is much closer to what you envisioned in your heart and in your mind.
We Love Soaps: There are times as a viewer that I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be laughing or crying at this. Then I realized maybe it’s both, just like my real life problems.
Kai Soremekun: That’s awesome, that’s really the goal. If you think about it you laugh and cry all the time. For some people, triggering those emotions might be uncomfortable. When I did that episode with the two of me in the frame together, that voice talks to me all day long! It was kind of surreal, like that’s my real internal voice saying to me, “This is the stupidest thing you’ve ever done.” I think if you’re brave enough to acknowledge these thoughts in your own life, then that’s how people will connect with it.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Press here for Part Two as we discuss the impact of CHICK. What is Kai's definition of a "superhero"? Is Lisa tapping into her strength or declining into mental illness? Come back to find out!
Damon L. Jacobs is a Marriage Family Therapist practicing in New York City, and the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve". He is re-imagining a world without "shoulds" at www.shouldless.com.