Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Anthony Anderson: The WLS Interview, Part Four

In Parts One , Two and Three
of our revealing interview with Anthony Anderson, the creator and mastermind behind indie soap hit ANACOSTIA discussed his process for putting together a steaming soap on the web, how bullying and taunting fueled his creativity and a child, and the highs and lows of directing himself in sex scenes on the show.  In Part Four below, Anderson reveals the struggles of putting together a season of episodes that are often 20 minutes long, hard lessons learned along the way, and previews the extras that will be coming in the ANACOSTIA box set!

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Your character Sean is still going through a lot in ANACOSTIA.  He lashed out at his good friend Mia.  And now that his long lost partner Julian is back from the dead, he hardly seems happy.
Anthony Anderson: I’m glad you picked that up.  You would think he would be really happy to have him back.  But he seems even more the opposite.  Julian is back, and you will see in some episodes coming up that he is not very pleased.  He is resentful of how the whole situation happened. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Is season two completely finished filming now? 
Anthony Anderson:  Oh yes.  We actually finished filming season two a year to the date that we started filming season one.  We were on the set realizing, “Hey, it’s been a year.” 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: And episodes of ANACOSTIA are long, sometimes 15-20 minutes.  What have been your greatest struggles of putting this two seasons together over this past year?
Anthony Anderson: I think the greatest struggle across the board is money.  The money situation could always be better.  Hopefully by the time we get to season three more sponsors will see what we are doing and say, “We love what you’re doing, we believe in the show, we want to give money.” We would hope that the powers that be in Washington D.C. would bestow a grant of some sort so we can take the show in a different direction.  A lot of people don’t know that we only use one camera.  We have one cameraman, who is also our sound person.  Shawn David did an excellent job with season one and made it even more crisp and clear for season two.  I love cinematically looking at it and that is to Shawn David’s credit.

The other struggle would probably be learning how to accept help from the right people.  When we first started season two, some people came on board who wanted to help, and their help became more of a hindrance.  They didn’t know that it is a lot of hours, it is a lot of work.  I don’t think they understood how much it took.  So we got sidetracked with timing.  I’m a stickler for shooting an episode a day while we are doing it.  We went through four weekends and only had one episode done. That killed me.  I said, “A change has got to come here.”  Fortunately, or unfortunately, I had to let those people go.  And as soon as those people were gone, we jumped right into knocking these shows out one at a time, we got back on schedule, and that train took off like a bullet, and we finished on time. 

Now I’m a very honest person.  Sometimes success changes people.  It changes friendship dynamics.  It creates people who have egos.  Unfortunately we had to let some cast members go before we started filming season two.  It was very painful to do it at the moment it happened.  In retrospect it was the best thing for the show.  I think right now the show is light years better than season one.  I think the storylines are incredible.  I think the intricacies of the relationships are tighter.  I think the ensemble is even better than last year.  All of this had to come out of those struggles.

Darnell [Lamont Walker, who plays Julian] has a tattoo on his chest that says, “Without struggle there can be no progress.” I think that is absolutely right.  We had to struggle to get progress.  I think we have a great team now at ANACOSTIA.  I love each and every one of those actors and actresses.  They sometimes spend sixteen hours on a Saturday or Sunday.  They sometimes have to bring their kids to the set or sometimes have to leave their kids at the babysitter and they never complain.  They never ask, “How much longer? How much time will this take?” I think people find it’s weird to see how we get along as a group.  What you see is what you get from everyone in the cast.  Everyone does get along off-set.  And that is what makes the long hours seem like they are just two or three hours. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: And that is part of what makes ANACOSTIA so enjoyable to watch.  There is an authentic bond amongst these characters, in part because of the bond amongst the actors.  It makes for compelling drama, even when they are upset with each other.
Anthony Anderson: Yes, and I know you were glad that Mia and Sean made up. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: All is okay in the world as long as Mia and Sean are getting along.  Their make-up took place during the "Checks and Balances" episode, which was also cinematically stunning to look at.
Anthony Anderson: I was in the control booth with Shawn when I saw it and just cried, I’m a big wimp. I was listening to music [made for the show], I heard that track and said, “That is my ending track, I know exactly when I want that music to start.  I know how it’s going to look on the show, I know when it will start, and I know I will start crying.” When you have that last scene with Nicole and Andre on the steps, her secret comes out, and then he wants a divorce and she is screaming for him to come back, there was something in her voice that tugged my heart. When she said his name that last time, and the orchestration began, I just welled up with tears.  I said, “This is my episode! I love this episode!” When the cast saw it for the first time they also said they loved it, and it looked gorgeous.

Anacostia - Season 2 - Episode 5 "Checks and Balances" from Anacostia The Web Series on Vimeo.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Every episode of season two has gorgeous music that is played during the end credits, which emotionally relates to what happened during the show.  Will any of that music ever be available on iTunes?
Anthony Anderson: Yes.  We are actually in the process of putting together the DVD box set.  It will come with a CD of some of the artists that have given us music, and some of the instrumental tracks that we do use for the closing credits.  It will have blooper reels, commentaries, and some casting sessions as well.  I think it will be released in late January.  I’ve seen the cover art for it, it is gorgeous.  I think viewers will be happy with everything that will be on it. 

You’ll see that Marianne Akpan, who plays Nancy, actually auditioned for the role of Mia.  You’ll see that during Tameeka Chavis’s audition for Mia she broke in tears because this character was so close to somethings that she unfortunately went through in her own life.  She has been very open, honest, and vocal about how this character is so near and dear to her.  So many people love Mia because they identify with her.  They want to see her happy, they don’t want to see anyone hurt her.  I’m glad people identify with the characters one way of another because it means we are doing something right. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You are doing a lot right! There have been several one-liners that have shocked me.  For instance, after watching the "Checks and Balances" episode I will never think of purchasing a cat the same way again.  Scenes appear to be played for laughs, and then become deadly serious.  There is a scene in early Season One in which Mia confronts her husband’s cheating by putting a condom on his mashed potatoes. You originally think that’s going to be played for laughs, then it becomes quite tragic. You never know which way an episode of ANACOSTIA is going to go.
Anthony Anderson: I think that stands out as one of our pivotal moments.  It caught a lot of women off guard.  It made women sit up and say, “That did not just happen. He did not throw those mashed potatoes in her face and then switch the conversation to how she is not a good wife.” You never really know what you’re going to get with ANACOSTIA, or where the scenes are going to go.  It is completely unpredictable in where it’s going to lead you.  I don’t think anyone would ever imagine that Selena’s dinner guests would steal a pair of her panties and sniff them. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: That sure as hell wasn’t done on KNOTS LANDING!
Anthony Anderson: Right.  You never know where they’re going to go.  I can tell you that Selena is not drinking, and she is starting to have dreams of things from her past.  I think the viewers will see what has led her to drink.  Certain things that have happened that involve people in her present will be an eye catcher.  The secrets and lies will start to spill out.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Come back for the final part in which Anthony sends a special thank you to fans, as well as his thoughts on the WE LOVE SOAPS TV Indie Soap of the Week poll.  How does he feel about the other indie soaps? Find out in Part Five. Until then, catch up on all the latest happenings in ANACOSTIA.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Therapist now accepting new clients in New York City.  He is also the author of the popular book "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." For more information about scheduling an appointment, please email him at [email protected].

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