First published on 9 Oct 2011. Updated on 9 Nov 2011.
Five years ago, Melbourne-based actors Jess Harris and Josh Schmidt vowed to live on magic beans for a year, and wrote, shot and edited Twentysomething – the comedy series about slacker mates searching for their big break.
The show first aired on Channel 31 in 2007, before being developed with funding under the Film Victoria/ABC TV comedy initiative STITCH and being screened on ABC2 earlier this year. Time Out got Jess Harris to lift the lid on the creative crockpot.
Did you have any experience in script writing and making telly?
I’ve never studied past high school. Because we made a series prior to this one for Channel 31, I learnt by trial and error. But I love, love to eavesdrop and people watch. I have spent the past 10 years working in some form of customer service so I have had a lot of opportunity to character study. But mainly I have just written about what I know.
What kind of sitcoms leave you cold?
To be honest I actually don’t watch that much television, but when I do I avoid anything that I think would we a waste of time or involves Charlie Sheen. But knowing how much work and energy goes into making one it feels so harsh when you hear people say, “Don’t bother, waste of time.”
You spend a lot of time alone looking like an ugly troll talking to the mirror. My rule were to never settle and not to take feedback too personally. I re-drafted and re-drafted and re-drafted.
Have you taken on any of your character’s mannerisms and foibles?
Because Josh is my best friend in real life, we have drawn on a lot of our own characteristics for the show, so there are a lot of times where the lines get a little blurry. I called Josh the other day and said abruptly, “Sorry I know you’re in the middle of Zumba, but I just wanted to check what time we’re meeting for a drink?” After a little banter my boyfriend said, “You two always sound like you’re in a scene from the show. I think I am most like the character when I’m with Josh.”
How much of a back-story does a character have, that only you and Josh will ever know about?
We have been playing and discovering these characters for a long time now. We spent a lot of time in rehearsal, finding out exactly why they are the way that they are, so we would know how they would react in any situation. We also tackled the big stuff, like, would Josh drink lemon grass and ginger tea and does Jess have massive underlying issues about her cankles (fat ankles)? Yeah, we’re real thespians.
What’s your hands-down favourite scene in any sitcom ever?
Yowsa, that’s a big call, but I’m just going with the first one that popped into my head. It’s from Arrested Development, when Tobias poses as an English nanny called Mrs Featherbottom to get closer to his kids while going through a separation from Lindsay. He attempts a dramatic and enchanting entrance by jumping from the top of the staircase holding an umbrella – his crash landing on the glass coffee table is stunning.
What are your hopes for the future of Twentysomething? Will we see a Thirtysomething and Fortysomething?
I personally would love to stay twentysomething forever, so I might just freeze time for a little while and continue to do so throughout the show. I would love to see Jess and Josh in another season. Now that they’re established we can unleash a little more crazy on everyone. Plus I need to live my thirties first then I can write about how amazing it was! I'm always thinking and plotting out Jess and Josh next grand plan, I think there is still so many adventures for them to go on. The response to the show has been amazing, everyone seems to have really related and invested in the friendship, feels like there is still so much fun to be had, fingers crossed we can stay twentysomething for a little bit longer.
Twentysomething is out now on DVD.