High Maintenance, the popular web series released between 2012 and 2015 on Vimeo has been transferred to television by HBO. The show was created by the husband and wife of executive producers Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfield. The show provides idiosyncratic portraits into the lives of seemingly disparate New Yorkers who are all connected by the fact that they buy marijuana from a pot delivery man simply called ‘The Guy’ (played by co-creator Sinclair).
The pair recently attended the New York premiere of their TV show at Metrograph along with the following members of their stellar ensemble cast: Justin Vivian Bond, Peter Friedman, KeiLyn Durrel Jones, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Shazi Raja, Yael Stone, Dan Stevens, Jennifer Lim, Miriam Shor, Helene Yorke, Kylie Harris, Michael Cyril Creighton, Max Jenkins, Colby Keller, Ismenia Mendes, Chris Roberti, Cathy Trien, Greta Lee, Marisol Miranda, Ryan Woodle, Kevin Mambo, Ben Thys, Lee Tergesen, Hannah Bos, and Candace Thompson.
We caught up with actors Max Jenkins, Helene York, Justin Vivian Bond, and Greta Lee as well as co-creators Blichfield and Sinclair on the red carpet. Catch the interviews below:
So what’s it like being on this different kind of show, this stoner comedy mixed with an anthology series?
Max Jenkins: I trust Ben at Katja with my life. Their writing is all I ever want to do. It’s something I constantly look forward to in my life, the opportunity to meet up with them again, to say their words, and to tell the stories that they’re writing, because they’re stellar stories.
How well do you think their writing captures the New York City spirit, with all the different types of people there are?
Jenkins: I mean, it’s a story of people who are lonely and stressed and need to chill. The story of my character in particular is one that I think is very particular & very specific to New York, in that it’s about this guy who is obsessed with this girl – his best lady-friend – but he’s afraid of new experiences. Because New York is so jilting, and it’s so strange to live here. I think it’s really super New York, particularly my episode.
Did you find you related to your character in a lot of ways?
Jenkins: Well, I grew up in New York, and I’ve lived here my entire life. I spoke to Ben and Katja briefly as they were writing the episode, and we spoke of my experience being a New Yorker and being a gay guy who’s lived here his whole life. This story turned out to be one I’ve wanted to tell my whole life. It’s like, if I could just tell this story in different ways, I’d be so happy as an actor.
Do they usually let the actors share their experiences to help build the stories?
Jenkins: Ben and Katja just know me so well, that they felt cool asking me a couple questions about what it’s like to be a gay man, because they’re not. I don’t know if they necessarily do that very often. I wouldn’t say it’s writing collaboration, because it’s exclusively their brilliant work, but I love that they felt comfortable enough to shoot me a few questions when they had them. In that sense, I feel really involved, and proud to be.
How does your character link into this crazy world of the show?
Helene Yorke: Me and Max Jenkins play the assholes. We did these characters a couple of years ago [on the web series], and we get to revisit those characters and see where they are now, how their relationship has grown – or disintegrated – depending on how you look at it. How two people sort of meet each other and become to need each other in a way that benefits neither of them… We had this relationship with The Guy (Ben Sinclair) where we were banished by him, and he gets connected to Max by happenstance. We’re the kind of people he would never connect with, doesn’t want to connect with, doesn’t want to be around.
So it’s sort of an accidental situation?
Yorke: No, we called him. He just hates us.
So how rooted are your characters, not just in the series, but to the spirit of New York City as a whole?
Yorke: We’re sort of a prototype you see all over the place, which is people who are just completely obsessed with themselves and being a certain way. Making other people seem and sound and feel lesser than. It’s the classic thing of “I do this, and what YOU do is not as great.” To be able to laugh at them with us is really the joy of it.
Max talked about your characters having a very co-dependent relationship. Do you relate to that in any way?
Yorke: Yeah, I think we’ve all been through a relationship that felt co-dependent, whether you’re in it for a month and realize you need out, or several years. I think that co-dependence is something that dangerous, because then you can’t feel or see your own identities without that person. And being able to think of your life at the other side of it is too great to imagine, so it’s what keeps you in for as long as you do.
Were you nervous about the show making the move to HBO?
Greta Lee: I was nervous that the food wasn’t going to get better and, you know, I really wanted to get paid, things like that. Just your typical union concerns. Other than that, good vibes. In all seriousness, it’s all about the vibes. That’s important and they did a good job maintaining that.
I’ve heard a lot of people say ‘Heidi’ is the funniest episode. What’re your thoughts on that?
Lee: Well it’s a contest and I’m really happy that I’ve won. That’s weird, I feel like I should have some sort of medal. That won’t be obnoxious at all. Because that’s what acting is, acting is a contest. That’s very nice. I find it scary how much people say that they can relate to this character, considering her qualities and her psychoses. But it really is amazing the number of people who come up to me and say, ‘I find her so relatable’ and ‘I feel like I know her’. So, to all those people, I’m sorry!
Do you think that there’s a reason why that is?
Lee: I guess a lot of people know a lot of real crazy homeless people! No, I don’t know! I genuinely have no idea why that’s the case. It seems unlikely, right?
Maybe it’s just something about New York.
Lee: Yeah, we do have that sense here that anything can happen in New York and we’re constantly rubbing shoulders and in close proximity to people you’d otherwise never come across.
How does it feel to be here watching the show?
Justin Vivian Bond: It’s very exciting because I’m such a big fan of theirs and the fact that they asked me to be in the show is a little overwhelming. You know, it’s one of those things, but I’m very excited. I feel like a Chihuahua, a little shaky, a little over-excited.
Everybody loves a Chihuahua!
Bond: I hope so! I’m a cat person!
So they knew you beforehand and approached you about coming on the show?
Bond: Well I’m just in one show, I’m a guest.
And what’s your role in that episode?
Bond: Well I don’t know if I’m supposed to tell! I think I’m a surprise. But I play a mother, of course. Typecasting.
How do you relate to your character and the premise of the show?
Bond: Well I love the show, and actually I know some drug runners personally! So it’s nice to see them represented in the media.
It’s all about representation!
Bond: Everybody needs their moment in the sun.
So about your beard: I feel like it’s so attached to your character, do you ever feel like you couldn’t shave it off, even if you wanted to?
Ben Sinclair: I think if I wanted to stop being recognized for my beard then I have this wonderful way of fading into obscurity again by shaving it off. So I love the freedom it gives me for down the road when the FBI is chasing me.
What will they be chasing you for?
Sinclair: Hopefully, making too good of a show. Hopefully they’re like, ‘You’re arrested for exceeding our expectations!’
Going way back before the web series was even a thing, what was the sort of brainchild for this project?
Katja Blichfield: I mean really it was born out of a couple of things. I thought this guy was really entertaining and charming and everybody should know it so now they do, mission accomplished. But also, we’re married and we’re very in love and have been for a long time and I think that’s the romantic ideal if you’re a creative that you can partner up with your romantic partner and be creative. And we didn’t know what that would be so once we landed on the idea it was like we just had to try. We had no idea it would end up like this, but that was sort of the impetus. We just wanted to have something together. Not a baby.
Sinclair: Yeah, all of this is gravy. Working together is the goal for us and all of this is just delightful icing.
Blichfield: Yeah, it’s really cool that it all happened. It’s extra on top.
I feel like this is a very New York story. Do you think this story could be told elsewhere?
Sinclair: I think anybody could tell this story if they had an intimate understanding of how their city worked and people smoke pot everywhere so yeah this could take place anywhere in any language.
Blichfield: We hope it does actually.
And where does your intimate understanding of how New York works come from?
Sinclair: I experienced my twenties in a way where I didn’t feel like I had a net I could fall into. And I got real scrappy at times. So you’ll notice in our show there’s a lot of people scheming. And that’s my input for the show.
Blichfield: I mean, same, yeah, I was a mess. I remember throwing away a twenty dollar bill once and having to go out in an alley and dig through a dumpster to find it. So, you know, twenties were rough.
Additional reporting by Jon Barr.
Photo credits: hbobinge.com
High Maintenance premieres Friday, September 16 at 11PM, only on HBO.